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US tightens pre-travel testing windows, extends mask mandates for travelers to fight omicron variant

Dec. 02, 2021
2 min read
US tightens pre-travel testing windows, extends mask mandates for travelers to fight omicron variant
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Editor's Note

This story has been updated with the confirmed start date of the new testing policy.

The Biden Administration has announced a plan of action to ward off the omicron variant of the coronavirus — including several steps that will impact travelers.

The new protocols, which the White House unveiled Thursday, include shoring up pre-departure testing requirements for international travel. Starting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2022, all travelers coming to the U.S., whether they are vaccinated or not, must produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within one calendar day of their departure. The policy applies to all international flights that depart for the U.S. at (or after) 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Dec. 6.

This includes international visitors as well as U.S. citizens and residents returning home. The current policy allows a three-day window for fully vaccinated individuals — but that will be shortened for all travelers as of Monday.

The move is designed to minimize the spread of the omicron variant in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already labeled omicron a "variant of concern." The Biden Administration last week already implemented a temporary ban restricting travel from eight Southern African countries.

The federal mask mandate for airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation has also been extended until March 18. Travelers must continue to mask up during international or other public travel as well as in transportation hubs such as airports and indoor bus terminals. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to enforce mask-wearing, with violators facing fines that start at $500 and potentially reaching as high as $3,000 for repeat offenders.

President Biden is expected to discuss the U.S. strategy for fighting a possible COVID-19 resurgence over the winter on Thursday, as well as the extension of the mask mandate. Other aspects of the new COVID strategy includes expanding free at-home COVID tests for Americans through testing sites, community centers and clinics for rural areas.

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There have been two confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID variant discovered in the U.S. — the first in California and the most recent a Minnesota man who had traveled to New York City.

Featured image by Bloomberg via 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.

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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
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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