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Five Things To Know About Your Travel Reward Credit Card

by / 0 Comments / Mar 15, 2015

A shiny new travel reward credit card can offer a lot of great benefits. Things like sign-up bonuses, lounge passes and free upgrades are just some of the perks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you need to watch out for.

Just like with anything in life, when something is being given away for free there’s always going to be some type of catch. In this case, there are a few terms and conditions you’ll need to meet in order to qualify for these amazing offers and to hold onto your miles once you get them.

Airline credit cards love to entice consumers with big sign-up bonus offers and free this and complimentary that. But it’s up to you to read the fine print and make sure that you uphold your end of the bargain so that you can get everything you deserve.

Keep the Miles You Earn on Your Travel Reward Credit Card

The first thing to remember is that any miles you earn through a co-branded airline travel reward credit card won’t be transferred into your account until a few days after your statement posts. This is important because you’ll want to ensure that your points post to your account before the terms of your sign-up bonus expires.

Sign-Up Bonus Miles

With most cards, the countdown usually starts as soon as your application is approved. In order to receive the sign-up bonus miles you were promised, you will need to spend a certain amount of money within a few months. The spend amount is always different but most credit card companies give you three months (90 days) to hit the spend. Generally, the better the benefits offered by that card, the more money you’ll have to spend. Three months may seem like a long time but remember that you won’t see the bonus points until the actual statement posts.

Hit Your Spend Requirements ASAP

If I have three months, I like to try and hit the spend requirement by the second statement. That way, I can make sure that the points on my travel reward credit card transfer without a hitch. If you wait until the third statement, you’ll be outside of your three month window and you’ll be out of luck. There’s nothing a credit card company or airline will be able to do if you don’t meet these terms.

The easiest way to check if you’ve met the required spending amount is to call or secure message your card issuer and ask them. Your other option would be to just add up the transactions yourself. But if you go this route, make sure you watch out for the following:

  • Don’t include the annual fee as part of your spend amount since that doesn’t count towards spending.
  • Error on the side of caution and spend a couple hundred over the requirement in case you need to return any items down the road. Technically, the airlines could come back after their points if you return an item months later and that could take you under the spend requirement. Returns definitely won’t count as spending before the three months are up so don’t include them in your calculations.
  • Any type of cash advance will not count towards your spend so make sure none of your bank transactions are categorized in this manner. Citibank is notorious for categorizing any transaction with a bank as a cash advance.

In addition, considering using credit card organizer software to track your spending. Actually, the simplest way to do this is every month when your statement comes to go over the statement and then track the totals in an Excel spreadsheet. You can create a column for money spent that earns you the basic points and money spent in categories (such as travel) which may earn you additional points. Excel’s auto sum feature can help you add up your total spending easily.

Miles That You Earn From Purchases

There are lots of ways that you can earn miles but what you should worry about is how to hold onto them. Most airline miles will expire after one year of inactivity so if you aren’t earning points from flights, an airline credit card is a great way to ensure that your account stays active.

All you have to do to keep your points from expiring is make one transaction every 12 months. Since you get points for every purchase, those points will effectively reset your expiration date.

What Happens After You Cancel a Card?

This is one of the important credit card questions to ask of your card company or airline before you cancel a credit card. The nice thing about most airline credit cards is that the miles you earn won’t ever be taken away if you cancel your card. But, since some of these cards come with big annual fees, you might not want to keep every airline card that you sign up for. Try to do a quick assessment of your accounts every year and decide which annual fees are worth it and which ones aren’t. But check with your company before you cancel to see if you need to do anything with the points before you lose account access.

Most companies will give you up to two months to cancel your card and get the annual fee refunded if you decide you no longer need the card. And some issuers like Amex, will even pro-rate the annual fee no matter what month you cancel in. Either way, you can rest assured that your miles will be safe if you decide to ditch your airline credit card.

About the Author

Harry Campbell is a professional finance blogger and credit card enthusiast. Over the years, he has racked up close to two million points and miles from credit card sign-up bonuses and has used those points to fly all over the world for next to nothing.

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