TPG’s Chris Dong: Here are my top 10 story picks from 2020 — and why they matter

Dec 28, 2020

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The effects of the pandemic reshaped nearly every aspect of life — including in the world of travel, credit cards and points and miles.

This week, members of the TPG team are taking a look back at some of the most important stories of the last 12 months. Today, I’m sharing my 10 most memorable articles from the year.

I started on the TPG team at the onset of the pandemic in March, reporting on credit card benefits, news and product launches and personal takes on points, miles and loyalty. However, I also contribute to other areas of the site, providing a breadth of travel expertise and intel for our readers, including becoming the pandemic credit card benefits expert.

As 2020 comes to a close (with a sigh of relief from many), here are my top 10 TPG stories — and what they signal as we look ahead to 2021.

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When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Machu Picchu
(Photo by mailanmaik / Pixabay)

As countries begin reopening their borders to travelers after months of lockdowns due to COVID-19, our continuously-updated guide provides valuable information to stay informed. While the key to international travel in 2021 will largely be predicated on vaccinations, ever-changing regulations are top-of-mind for any person eager to travel again.

Related: A country-by-country guide to travel in the Caribbean during the pandemic

A monthly roundup of the latest credit card benefit changes you need to know about

(Photo by The Points Guy)

If you’re traveling less — and unsure how to make the most of your card benefits — you’re not alone. Credit card issuers are adjusting to a new normal reality where spending habits are vastly different than even earlier this year.

If it seems like there is a new card update or refreshed bonus category weekly, you’re not too far off. That’s why each month, we compiled a list of some of the major card benefit updates that were announced in the previous months — and what specific card benefits and bonuses will be ending soon.

This guide ensures that you’re making the most of your card’s benefits, even in 2021.

Related: Which card should I use during the pandemic for a specific spending category? 

You are entitled to a refund for your canceled flight — even if the airline says you aren’t

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

The pandemic not only put a pause on travel, but it also created mayhem for those with reservations that ended up being canceled.

Our TPG guide walks you through how you may be entitled to a full refund for a canceled flight (not just a credit) and the strategies to get one. Airlines are continuously adjusting schedules as demand for travel ebbs and flows over the course of the next year.

Remember, although many airlines have announced “no change fees,” that is not the same as a fully refundable ticket.

Review: What’s it like to fly Delta One across the country during the pandemic?

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

If you have to travel now, it’s helpful to know what to expect on your flight. Are airlines following the cleanliness protocols they’re touting? How strict are mask protocols at the airport and onboard? Will a meal be served on my flight?

One of my first flight reviews for TPG was onboard Delta One between New York and Los Angeles during the pandemic. Most importantly, it may give you insight into how to prepare for your next Delta flight.

Related: Review: Is American Flagship First still the most exclusive domestic flight during the pandemic?

How points and miles helped me see the world in 2020 (before the pandemic shut it down)


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A post shared by Chris Dong (@thechrisflyer)

Coronavirus may have put a pause to international travel, but I don’t take for granted how lucky I was to be able to travel extensively in early 2020 before the pandemic took hold.

In this story, I briefly rewind to the weeks before stay-at-home orders and social distancing were even a thing. In January, February and early March, I was able to make the most of a world free to roam — thanks to a healthy balance of points and miles.

My best redemption? 73,150 LifeMiles to fly ANA first class onboard the new “Suite” product (pictured above).

Related: A guide to earning transferable points and why they’re so valuable

How card issuers can drive long-term loyalty from card members

(Photo by mixetto/Getty Images)

During the pandemic, the frequent changes to credit card benefits are an issuer’s tactic to incentivize loyalty to a particular card.

However, this is just one part of the equation. In this story, we took a look at what else card companies needed to do to get us, as cardholders, loyal to a card. These are long-term ways to make sure we’ll come back to a card time and time again, in 2021 and beyond.

Related: Is your premium travel card offering enough perks during the pandemic? A card-by-card guide

Why my American elite status just became much more valuable — and yours may have, too

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

With a new partner in JetBlue and the earlier announced Alaska tie-up, American appears to be doubling down on a new-found 2021 strategy: Relying on other airlines for its domestic network and connecting that to its own international flights. As an American frequent flyer in New York, that plan will work in my favor.

This story goes through five reasons why I’m excited about the future of American with these two announcements.

Related: Why Alaska frequent flyers also have so much to look forward to in 2021

5 ways to be an ally for social justice while using and earning points

(Photo by Richard T. Nowitz/Getty Images)

2020 was a flashpoint for social justice and TPG got involved in a number of ways.

For individuals, there are also opportunities to be an ally for social justice — including actively practicing anti-racism — while immersed in the points, miles and cards world. This guide walks through five ways to do just that and it’s relevant now as well as throughout the years to come.

The 5 best new or refreshed credit cards of 2020

(Photo courtesy of Venmo)

2020 even saw the launch of several significant new or significantly refreshed credit cards.

One of the most important elements of any card its earning structure. The Venmo credit card was arguably one of the most intriguing launches of the year. Why? Flexibility.

The card is offering an incredible amount of flexibility with no set bonus categories. Instead, it offers 3% back on your highest spending category each month, 2% back on your second highest spending category and 1% back on everything else. That’s the kind of versatility we hope to see from other cards in 2021.

Related: Best cash-back cards of the year

From Fiji to LAX during a pandemic: Here’s what I experienced


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A post shared by Chris Dong (@thechrisflyer)

 This story made the cut for my top 10 since it was the first article I wrote for TPG in mid-March.

Earlier that month, I left my home in New York for an international trip before the height of the pandemic took hold. However, in a matter of days, things took a drastic turn. I chronicled my experience coming back to the U.S. flying from Fiji.

Related: Flight review: Fiji Airways economy class from Nadi to Los Angeles on the A350

Featured photo by Chris Dong / The Points Guy.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.