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Travelers may now be breaking the law by refusing to wear a face mask

Feb. 01, 2021
3 min read
Travelers may now be breaking the law by refusing to wear a face mask
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For much of the pandemic, the CDC has recommended that you cover your face whenever you're around people outside your household. It's always been the most effective measure when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but now you have no choice but to comply — as of this week, in many cases, face masks are required by federal law.

A new federal mandate kicks in tomorrow, Feb. 2 — as TPG's Victoria Walker reported over the weekend, face masks must be worn on all public transportation in the United States, including airplanes, trains, buses, taxis and rideshare services.

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For months, all U.S. airlines have required that their customers wear masks onboard flights and in many areas within the airport — now, you'll be legally obligated to wear them onboard all flights that touch the United States, and within all U.S. airports, including at TSA checkpoints.

The TSA — one of the agencies tasked with enforcing the mandate — is clear on what constitutes an appropriate face covering:

"According to the CDC Order, face masks should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides without gaps. Masks can be either manufactured or homemade and should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves, or punctures. While medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill CDC and TSA’s requirements, face shields and/or goggles are not an acceptable substitute for the use of a mask; however, they may be used in addition to an acceptable mask."

While you will be permitted to remove your mask to eat and drink, the TSA's security directive is specific about how quickly it needs to be replaced, stating that masks "must be worn between bites and sips."

Similarly, you may be required to briefly lower your mask so a TSA officer can confirm your identity at a screening checkpoint, though it should be promptly replaced. Customers with Clear memberships may be able to avoid lowering their masks by beginning the screening process at a Clear kiosk.

There are very limited exceptions for travelers with specific conditions, as well. Namely, you may be able to avoid wearing a mask if you are:

  • Actively vomiting
  • Under the age of two
  • Short of breath (you can remove the mask to catch your breath)
  • Unable to breathe without supplemental oxygen, and are wearing an oxygen mask
  • Have a very specific disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act

Additionally, you can remove your mask if you are actively communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, and won't be able to understand what you're saying if they're unable to see your mouth.

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Related: Traveling during the pandemic? It might be time to upgrade your mask

What penalties might you face if you don't comply? It's likely to depend on how you respond when confronted. In you replace your mask right away, you might get off with a verbal warning. If you don't, you may be removed from the airport and banned from the airline. If the situation escalates, you might be looking at steep fines, or criminal penalties, if law enforcement becomes involved.

Ultimately, it's in everyone's best interest for you to comply. This law is intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, and masks are an effective measure — by wearing one around people outside your household, you may even help save lives.

Featured image by Courtesy of TSA
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.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more