How credit card issuers are dipping back into travel with targeted hotel offers

Aug 14, 2020

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Before the pandemic, if you had a premium or mid-tier credit card, you could snag some amazing Amex or Chase Offers for hotel stays. In regular times, cash-back or bonus point offers could save you hundreds of dollars on a vacation or get you enough points to plan your next one.

New targeted travel offers through Amex and Chase seemingly vanished in the early months of the pandemic. Instead of cash back at luxury hotels, credit card users started seeing more offers for essentials such as gas, takeout or groceries.

(Photo by CasarsaGuru/Getty Images)
(Photo by CasarsaGuru/Getty Images)

Now that positive cases have begun to drop in certain hotspots and some economies start to reopen, we are beginning to see more targeted travel offers. Most of the offers are restricted to U.S. properties, Canada or the Caribbean, with parts of that region welcoming U.S. travelers.

What’s going into the decision to start pushing out targeted travel offers again? Are issuers testing the waters to see if cardholders are interested in traveling? And if you are targeted, how can you maximize your Chase or Amex Offers, even if you aren’t traveling right now?

Chase told TPG that its Chase Offers portal was launched to provide cardholders with ways to save on across multiple categories, like travel. We also reached out to American Express and will update this post when we hear back.

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The industry wants travelers back

From issuers tightening their approval standards to airlines issuing WARN notices to pilots, to hotels offering full refunds for canceled stays, it’s no secret that the travel industry has been devastated by the coronavirus. 

On March 26, just two weeks after parts of the U.S. began to shut down, TSA screenings dropped nearly 90% compared to the same date in 2019. 

But as we reported earlier this summer, nearly a third of Americans are ready to travel again. We’re seeing an increase in travelers taking to the skies, as TSA screened more than 800,000 passengers for the first time since March on Aug. 9. And it seems that the issuers are taking notice. These offers could be an easy way for issuers to see who’s interested in traveling again soon. 

A passenger removes his mask as he has his ID checked by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. - The airline industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of people flying having decreased by more than 90 percent since the beginning of March. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

We’ve seen the industry do this before, as I reported back in May. In the years after the Great Recession, the travel industry needed to find ways to woo travelers back into their hotel rooms and onto airplanes. That meant they needed to get creative in how they marketed travel — from hotel deals to credit card offers.

According to a report from the Federal Reserve, credit card balances declined by $82 billion in the second quarter of 2020, most likely due to the pandemic. The offers could also be an incentive for cardholders to spend on their cards as they begin to travel again.

And now as travel begins to tick upward, hotel offers start to follow. 

Who’s getting targeted?

I have four Amex cards: The American Express® Green Card, The American Express® Gold Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Before the pandemic, most of the targeted hotel offers I got were on my Platinum card, which offers 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on hotels pre-booked directly through amextravel.com. 

The information for the Amex Green 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.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

I now see several cash-back offers from Kimpton and IHG on my Amex Green Card, a change from before the pandemic. Previously, the bulk of Amex offers on that card have been for points or cash back at luxury retailers (think Coach and Rimowa), but rarely have they been travel-related. While it doesn’t offer 5x on hotel stays like the Platinum, 3x on travel (which includes hotels) is pretty decent.

Other TPG staffers are starting to see an uptick in travel offers on their cards. For instance, some staffers see offers like 10% back at IHG and Marriott hotels on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and $50 back after spending $200 or more at Marriott on the Amex Platinum. 

And while they aren’t Chase or Amex Offers, both issuers are running transfer bonuses. Chase is currently offering a 60% bonus on IHG Rewards Club transfers, its second transfer bonus ever (the first was British Airways). Amex is offering a 40% bonus to Hilton.

I haven’t seen many points travel offers on any of my cards. That could signal that the issuers aren’t ready just yet to offer points for travel purchases versus cashback. 

How to maximize targeted offers

If you plan to hit the road or take to the skies in the coming months, you might be wondering how to maximize these targeted offers. Whether you managed to snag a Hyatt, Marriott, Kimpton or Intercontinental offer, you can stack those with offers the hotels are running on their sites. Here are some current hotel offers:

IHG

  • 4X Bonus Points: Earn 2X bonus points on your second stay, 3X bonus points on your third stay and 4X points on your fourth stay, up to a maximum of 100,000 points. You will also earn 2X points on your first stay. Ends Sept. 8, 2020.
  • Stay Longer And Save: Save at least 10% when you book by Sept. 30. Ends Dec. 31, 2020.

Marriott

  • 2K Every Day: Earn 2,000 Bonvoy points per night on Courtyard Marriott stays in the U.S., Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean when you use promo code 53M. Ends Dec. 31, 2020.

World of Hyatt

Bottom line

It’s clear that the industry wants people to travel again, whether it’s now or in the future. It appears that credit card issuers are testing the waters with deals to see who’s interested. If enough travelers take advantage of the deals, I’d expect we’ll see even more lucrative deals in the future.

Correction: An earlier edition of this story mentioned a 30% Marriott transfer bonus. It was incorrect, so it was removed.

Featured photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach

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