Maximizing points and miles on summer road trips
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Summer is upon us and every state has at least partially reopened. While travel is slowly picking up again, it’s fair to say that many people will choose to stick closer to home this summer and embark on road trips instead of taking the skies.
It probably goes without saying that points and miles are best for first-class flight redemptions and high-end hotel stays. However, with a little bit of research and planning, you can still get terrific use from them with road trips. Your road trip can also be a great opportunity to quickly rack up a significant amount of points and miles for when you are ready for that more exotic vacation.
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Saving money on your rental
Unless you’re using your own car, the first step of the road trip planning process is booking your car or recreational vehicle (RV) rental. You can save on rental car bookings by using AutoSlash, which notifies you when your car rental price drops. You can also save on your RV by booking a relocation rental, which can cost as little as $1.
By going through a shopping portal and including your frequent flyer number in your booking, you may even be able to earn airline miles on your rentals
Maximizing rewards with the right credit card
Using the right credit card is also important when booking your rental. You’ll want to use a card that provides primary car rental insurance and earns bonus points on travel spending. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card both offer primary rental coverage, meaning you can decline the rental car company’s collision insurance and be covered by the card in case anything goes wrong.
Regardless of whether you’re using your own car or renting, you’ll want to maximize the points you’ll earn on gas. There are a number of consumer credit cards that can get you returns of 3% or more on gas spending. Your options include the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, but you can see this post for an extensive list of the best cards for gas spending.
The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred 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.
If you’re redeeming points and booking through a hotel program that uses dynamic award pricing or peak and off-peak pricing, your stay will likely cost less than usual, given the drop in demand. World of Hyatt recently postponed its mostly negative award chart changes until 2021, so now is a good time to redeem any points you’ve been saving up.
Plus, unlike typical vacations, you’ll likely be staying at many different hotels during a road trip. This is great if your points are spread across different hotel programs and you only have enough for one to two nights with each chain.
It may also be a great time to use your free night certificate that you earn each card anniversary with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. American Express recently announced that all Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card weekend night awards issued through Dec. 31, 2020 will be valid for 24 months and on any night of the week. 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.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
If you’re paying out of pocket, be sure to use a credit card that offers extra points on hotel spending. Or if you’re booking an Airbnb, you’ll need a card that offers bonus points on general travel purchases. Depending on how low the cash rates are, it might make more sense to book your stays through your credit card’s travel portal than transferring them to the hotel program so make sure to do the math to see which option makes the most sense for your situation.
Believe it or not, you can get great value by using your points to book activities. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal allows you to redeem points for all types of travel, including car rentals and activities. If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, each point is worth 1.25 cents (so a $100 activity would only cost 8,000 points).
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece (so a $100 activity would only cost about 6,700 points). That’s a lot more generous than most other credit card travel portals. Expedia operates the Chase Travel Portal so, if an activity is available on Expedia, it should be bookable through Chase and at the same price.
Most credit card issuers typically do not count sightseeing activities and tourist attractions as travel. So, if you’re not redeeming points and are planning to pay cash, be sure to use a card the offers a good return on everyday spending, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, to maximize your return.
Points and miles are not just about first-class flights and fancy hotel stays. At the end of the day, they are a means to an end. That end can be a road trip, and as you can see, there are still many ways you can get use from them if you take this route. Just be sure to research the status of any places you plan on visiting and be ready to comply with any PPE or social distancing requirements in place.
Featured image by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.
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