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Why I’m applying for travel credit cards during a pandemic

Aug. 21, 2020
9 min read
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It’s a strange time to be thinking about travel when we’re all stuck at home, making banana bread and trying not to think about everything we’re missing out on during quarantine. But that’s exactly what keeps me going: The idea that one day in the future, I’ll not only get to check some destinations off my bucket list, but appreciate the experience that much more because it hasn’t been possible for so long.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up on points and miles so that when that day comes, I can take off without any delays. Aside from maximizing credit card category bonuses, I’m applying for several travel credit cards. While the sign-up bonuses are a definite incentive, some of these cards are offering temporary perks that make them incredibly valuable.

Some of these credit cards let you spend your way to elite states, often at an accelerated rate, because of the pandemic. Now is as great a time as ever to take advantage of these perks, especially since I have a few opportunities to ramp up my credit card spending.

Here are the five travel credit cards I’m applying for during the pandemic.

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The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

With all the time I spend at Hyatt hotels, it’s odd that I don’t have The World Of Hyatt Credit Card. After all, the card comes with Discoverist status and a sign-up bonus of 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months, plus another 25,000 after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first six months of account opening.

But the real value I see in this card is the ability to earn 10 elite night credits when you apply by Aug. 31, 2020. Beyond this, I’ll earn two elite nights for every $5,000 spent. I really should have gotten in on this card earlier, when the elite night credit was bumped to three per $5,000, but better late than never.

At the time, I didn’t want a hotel card in my wallet since I’m pretty happy with just my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. I also didn’t want to apply for new credit cards and take a temporary credit score hit, since I was considering buying a home. But now that things are as uncertain as ever, those plans are no longer in motion and I’m free to pursue these card welcome offers. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Related: 5 reasons why I went all-in on this hotel credit card

Citi Prestige® Card

I’ve had the Citi Prestige® Card for years and love it for all the travel perks it’s provided me. But the fact is, I haven’t made much use of the 4th-night free benefit (even pre-pandemic) and the Premier’s category bonuses are a much better fit for me. I’m also looking forward to earning the 80,000-point bonus after $4,000 spent in the first three months of account opening. My ThankYou points have been incredibly valuable to me and I look forward to having a stash of them readily available.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

JetBlue Plus Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Between my Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou rewards, I have plenty of ways to get ahold of JetBlue TrueBlue points. So why bother with a cobranded credit card? Because the JetBlue Plus Card offers Mosaic status after spending $50,000 within a calendar year. It may sound like I’m cutting it close, but I do have a few big expenses coming up that I can channel on this card.

Once things go back to normal, I’ll be flying JetBlue a lot for work. While JetBlue is a fantastic airline to fly with, regardless of whether you have status or not, the extra perks will be an added bonus.

The card currently offers 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months and paying the annual fee. It also comes with an annual $100 statement credit toward JetBlue vacations. I plan on putting it to use every year and it will help offset the $99 annual fee. Overall, this is a solid card and meeting the $50,000 spending requirement will give me something to do in quarantine.

The information for the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Radisson Rewards is the best hotel rewards program for earning free nights. The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card happens to be one of the best hotel cards out there. It earns 5 points per dollar spent on everything, which is a lot, considering a free night ranges from 9,000-70,000 points. That means you need to spend just $1,800-$14,000 on your card to earn a free night.

While that sounds like a lot, it’s significantly less than the $2,500-$50,000 you’d need to spend on a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.

Now I’ll confess that I downgraded and then got rid of my Radisson Rewards Visa Card last year because my Radisson balance was piling up and I just wasn’t finding a use for my points.

I had been saving my points for years while the opening date for the Radisson Blu Maldives kept getting pushed back and I eventually lost interest. But the bottom line is that Radisson has more than 1,100 hotels worldwide and some of them will give brands like the Park Hyatt a run for its money.

Once the floodgates open, I’m going to travel as much as I possibly can and I know I’ll get great use out of my Radisson points. So the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa is going back in my wallet in anticipation of the day when I’m able to travel again.

The information for the Radisson Rewards Visa and Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

I’ll admit, it’s a weird time to get an Amex Platinum card. I canceled my Business Platinum Card® from American Express last year because the $595 annual fee ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (see rates and fees) was too high and I was already getting travel perks from other cards. But I’ve decided to add the personal Platinum card back into my wallet if a good welcome offer comes around. Once travel resumes, I know I’ll get good use out of the Centurion lounge benefit alone.

Getting Marriott Gold status from the card will be a nice bonus, since I’ve got a few Marriott stays planned post-pandemic and don’t see a need for another cobranded hotel card in my wallet. I already have the Hilton Aspire with Diamond status, so the Hilton Gold that comes with this card isn’t needed. The Amex Platinum has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

The caveat is that the card currently offers a welcome offer of 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first six months of card membership. Since Amex restricts bonuses to one per lifetime, I’m holding out for a 100,000-point offer. I’ll check the CardMatch tool on occasion and will keep my eye out for a targeted offer (subject to change at anytime). Hopefully, Amex will consider me a worthy customer and send a higher bonus my way at some point.

Related: 6 Amex Platinum benefits you can use from home

Bottom line

The last few months of quarantine have made me appreciate the value of points and miles even more. While it sometimes feels like we’re lightyears away from things returning to normal, this is all temporary. One day we’ll take to the skies and travel freely again. When that day comes, I’ll be well prepared with a stash of valuable points, elite status and travel perks.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

(Photo courtesy of Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.