Ted S. Warren, AP Photo, File

Gephardt: Travel credit card perks evolving with fewer folks flying

By Matt Gephardt, KSL TV | Posted - Aug. 5, 2020 at 10:04 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Think back to the last time you traveled by plane. You hit 10,000 feet and, boom, somebody jumps on the intercom and reminds you to check out their credit card to earn some bonus miles or discounts on hotels or checked bags.

But with travel down around 90%, the KSL Investigators found these travel credit cards are having to evolve.

“As the airlines are struggling, the card companies are feeling some of that as well,” said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

He said most travel-rewards cards come with an annual fee, which consumers may be un-inclined to pay if they can’t reap said rewards.

“With people not traveling, the card companies have had to reimagine this whole thing,” Rossman said. “They don’t want people to cancel, so they’re trying to find ways to make the annual fee worth it.”

Some credit card companies have temporarily expanded their rewards programs to allow people to cash out miles for things like gift cards or to settle debts that the rewards would not normally cover.

Logging into a CapitalOne Visa Venture card, KSL-TV found all sorts of new options. A debt from a recent trip to the Cafe Rio Mexican restaurant for $10.12 could be settled from 1,012 miles and a $16.15 debt with Amazon could be erased for 1,615 miles.

Rossman also said it could pay off for credit cardholders to pick up the phone and ask that the annual fee be waived.

“You know, that’s something that even before the pandemic, that worked about 70% of the time,” he said.

Or maybe you’re thinking that you can’t wait for this pandemic to be over so you can use all those miles and see something — ANYTHING — besides the same four walls in which you’ve been trapped since March. Good for you! But Rossman said it’s a good idea to check the terms of your credit card and make sure those miles don’t have expiration dates.

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