Gephardt: Are travel credit cards offering high sign-up bonuses worth it?

Aug 23, 2021, 7:22 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 10:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year’s abrupt nosedive in travel caused America’s travel sector to lose a whopping $492 billion, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Fast forward to today, airport terminals are packed with vacationers again, and travel credit cards are jumping on that rebound, with a huge spike in sign-up bonuses and rewards. But are they worth it?

Data shared with the KSL Investigators by CreditCards.com shows many major travel brands — Hilton, Marriott, Delta, United — are offering really high incentives, right now.

Incentives include: 100,000 bonus points when you sign up that you can use toward travel or hotel stays; unlimited matching miles; or free checked bags, travel insurance and TSA-precheck access to get you through security faster.

“They know that people just have all this pent-up demand,” said CreditCard.com’s senior industry analyst, Ted Rossman. “And they want to get out and travel and go to events and buy things, and they (credit card companies) want you to use their card.”

Rossman said that it signals to him that now is the time to look into a getting a travel credit card. But, it may not be all high-flying for everyone.

First, many cards carry annual fees of $100 or more, some as high as $695.

If you don’t use the perks regularly, it may not be worth the cost, and you could face blackout dates or limited travel options.

Also, to get those bonus points when you sign-up, you might have to spend thousands of dollars on purchases first.

“There can be a lag here – that spending may take a few months to accumulate and then get the bonus processed,” said Rossman.

And you should know, rewards points are not exactly stable. The points you’re saving up now may end costing more months down the road when you’re ready to book your trip.

Rossman said he’s worried about point devaluations.

“I think it’s at risk of getting worse because we know travel providers have suffered financially and they really want paying customers right now,” he explained.

So, whether travel credit cards rewards are worth it boils down to what type of traveler you are.

Rossman said people should look closely at all the options available and choose a card with rewards that are attainable for them.

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Gephardt: Are travel credit cards offering high sign-up bonuses worth it?