How to Track Your Spending on the Chase Freedom Flex 5% Cap

One of the key benefits of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card is a rotating 5% earning category. Every quarter, cardholders will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in select categories. That’s up to $300 cash back each year.

The catch? Once you pass the $1,500 spending threshold, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on further purchases in these categories. So, it’s important to know how much you’ve spent toward the limit. That way you can switch to using a credit card that provides a higher return on spending once you hit the cap.

Here’s how to track your spending on the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ 5% earning categories

Between January and March 2021, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders earn 5% on:

  • Wholesale club purchases.

  • Internet, cable and phone services.

  • Select streaming services.

However, the rest of the 2021 bonus categories won’t be announced until less than three weeks before the start of the quarter.

This makes it hard to plan your credit card strategy for the year. However, it allows Chase to remain flexible and offer categories that are especially relevant for the time — from department stores around the holidays to select streaming services during the pandemic.

For reference, recent bonus categories have included:

  • Q4 2020: Walmart and purchases through PayPal.

  • Q3 2020: Amazon and Whole Foods.

  • Q2 2020: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships, and select streaming services.

  • Q1 2020: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; and select streaming services.

3 steps to monitoring your category spending

1. First, check if you’ve activated cash-back earnings for the quarter

LOG IN AND HEAD TO CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS®

First, log in to your Chase account and navigate to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® landing page. If you have multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning Chase cards, you’ll need to select your Chase Freedom Flex℠ from the list.

NAVIGATE TO THE 5% CATEGORIES SECTION

Once logged in, click the menu button (represented by three lines) at the top left corner of the page. Then select “5% Categories” from the menu list.

CONFIRM ACTIVATION

On this page, Chase shows whether or not you’ve activated your 5% cash back for the quarter and the following quarter if registration is open. Do so if you haven’t already. Right below the activation button for the current quarter, you’ll find that quarter’s spending tracker.

This bar will give you a visual approximation of how close you are to the spending cap for the quarter. However, it doesn’t give details on your exact progress. Instead, you’ll need to check another page.

There’s only one place we’ve found that Chase provides an exact figure of how much you’ve spent toward the quarterly $1,500 spending cap.

2. Find the Rewards Activity page

Navigate to the Rewards Activity page. Then, click the “5% cash back” tab on the top menu to scroll down to the tracker.

Here, you’ll find details on how much cash back you’ve earned toward the $75 cap. However, the figures can be a bit confusing. The values listed for each merchant represent the 4% cash-back bonus for the quarter, and the 1% base earning is listed separately.

You don’t have to add up these values to see your bonus category cash-back earnings, though. In the example above, the cardholder has earned $58.48 of their $75 maximum cash back for the quarter.

3. Figure out how much you can still spend toward the cap

It takes a few calculations to determine how much you can still spend before hitting the spending cap.

Nerd tip: Subtract the amount of cash-back earnings so far from $75; you’ll need to divide this amount by 5% (0.05) to find out how much more you can spend before hitting the cap.

In the example above, we need to subtract $58.48 from $75. Then, we divide the $16.52 result by 5%, which gets us $330.40. This is the amount the cardholder can spend in bonus categories this quarter to maximize their cash-back return.

Other bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex℠

While the two cards share similar names, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a substantial improvement over the Chase Freedom®.

The Chase Freedom® also earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in select categories, but only 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex℠, however, improves on this by offering the following earning categories:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

  • 3% on drugstore purchases.

Even if you opt to swap this card for one with a higher return after you reach the $1,500 spending cap in a quarter, it is wise to keep it handy for any of the above purchases.

The bottom line

To get the most out of your Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll want to max out your 5% cash-back earnings each quarter. But, there are plenty of cards that earn better than 1% cash back on spending. So, you’ll want to switch to using another card once you hit the $1,500 limit.

To improve your chances of maximizing your cash-back earnings, continually monitor your progress toward hitting the spending cap each quarter from your Chase account.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Reach Southwest Airlines Customer Service

No matter which airline brands you choose to support and do business with, it’s essential to be able to get a hold of the company’s customer service team during a time of need. Even if the brand provides excellent customer service, there may come a time when something goes wrong — whether you need to make contact for help with reservations, baggage issues or have a question that needs to be answered.

If you fly with Southwest Airlines, you’ll be happy to know that they have several customer service options. This makes it more convenient for you to get help when you need it. Here’s what you need to know about how to utilize Southwest Airlines customer service.

Ways to contact Southwest Airlines customer service

Phone

You can call the Southwest Airlines customer service phone line 24/7. To reach a representative, call this telephone number: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA or 1-800-435-9792. Since help is available 24 hours a day, you can call when it’s most convenient for you. For customers who need to call while outside of the United States, additional customer service phone numbers are available.

Nerd tip: Southwest Airlines has a flexible cancellation policy. As long as you call at least 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure, you can cancel your flight and get travel credits for a new flight. In this kind of situation, calling customer service is probably best if you don’t have immediate access to your Southwest app or online account.

Email

Southwest also offers an email customer service option. Customers can go to the email section and choose whether they have a complaint, a question or a compliment. They will then be able to type up a message and include any relevant attachments. Requests may take up to 48 hours to be answered.

Twitter or Facebook

If you prefer to contact Southwest Airlines customer service through social media channels, you have options. Customers can contact the airline through Twitter by sending a direct message to @SouthwestAir.

Southwest Airlines also has a Facebook page. You can reach out to the customer service team via Facebook messenger.

Send a letter

For anyone who prefers a more old-school approach to contacting the Southwest Airlines customer service team, letters can be mailed to the following address:

P.O. Box 36647-1CR,

Dallas, Texas 75235.

Visit the Southwest Airlines Community

Finally, Southwest has an excellent online community. Within this web portal, customers can check the knowledge base for answers to common customer service questions. This is a great place to check before sending a message or making a call, especially if the problem isn’t specific to a reservation. If you’re unable to find an answer, you might try calling or sending a direct message on social media.

The Southwest Airlines Community also provides a discussion board and blog. This is a good place to learn more about the brand and see what other travelers are saying about it. You can communicate with other travelers and read about important brand news and updates.

Southwest credit card customer service

Southwest customer service won’t be able to assist with questions or issues related to a Southwest credit card. Instead, you’ll want to contact Chase, the bank that issues the co-branded Southwest credit cards.

Here’s a list of Southwest credit cards that you can call 1-800-792-0001 for customer support:

The bottom line

There are many ways to contact the Southwest Airlines customer service team. Whether you’re social media savvy, prefer to call or like to send mail the old-fashioned way, there is no shortage of ways to reach a customer service representative when you need assistance.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card Worth It?

For individuals comparing no-fee travel rewards credit cards, some may be wondering, “Is the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card worth it?” There are many cards out there without annual fees, but they’re not created equally, and they don’t all carry a lot of value or the same perks. The Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card can be a worthwhile option as long as the cardmember fully understands its benefits.

Here’s what you need to know about the card to decide if it’s the right fit for your needs.

Valuable perks of the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card

Compared to other no-fee travel credit cards, the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card offers potentially more value, especially for individuals who frequently book hotel stays through Orbitz.

Here are some of the top perks of this card:

  • A $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

  • Earn Orbucks on all purchases made through Orbitz.

  • As an Orbitz Rewards Program member, earn up to 9% on hotel stays booked through the Orbitz mobile app.

  • Included $3,000 lost and stolen baggage coverage when booking with this card.

  • Included accident coverage for death and dismemberment.

  • Get a replacement card or emergency cash advance if your card is lost or stolen.

  • Complimentary Orbitz Rewards Gold status.

The more you use your card to book Orbitz hotel stays, the more Orbucks you’ll earn, and the more you can redeem your collected Orbucks. The redeeming ratio is 1 Orbuck = $1 off a future hotel stay.

A note on the welcome bonus

It’s important to highlight that this card doesn’t offer an impressive sign-up bonus: Receive a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 with your Orbitz Rewards® Visa® in the first 90 days of account opening. That low bonus amount is normal for a no-fee card with such a low minimum spend requirement.

Take these steps to get even more value

Using your Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card strategically by taking steps like these will allow you to maximize its value.

Join the Orbitz Rewards program

If you’re not already a member, join the Orbitz Rewards Program. As you spend and earn Orbucks, you’ll simultaneously be pursuing the next level of elite status, Platinum. It only takes stays for 12 nights in a year to reach this tier. At the Platinum level, you’ll have access to perks like $50 Orbucks reimbursement on expenses like seat upgrades or bag fees, the ability to apply for TSA Precheck for free, and free room upgrades and early check-in (when available) at VIP Access properties.

Use the app

Always book your stays through the Orbitz app instead of the website to get a higher rate back. As an Orbitz Rewards Program member, you’ll earn 9% back in Orbucks by booking through the app, versus 8% when booked on orbitz.com. That difference can add up, especially on expensive stays.

Spend primarily on hotel stays and activities

Focus on using your card for hotel stays and activities booked through the Orbitz app to get the 9% back. While you will earn Orbucks for flight bookings and travel packages, you’ll earn only 7% on these purchases.

You can also use the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card for everyday spending. Using your card to pay for daily expenses rather than using cash or a debit card can earn you 2% back in Orbucks. Spending categories include restaurants, groceries, services and more.

Nerd tip: Consider using other cards in your wallet to cover everyday expenses if they get more points per dollar spent in certain spending categories.

Don’t let your Orbucks expire

Make sure that you use your card for a purchase at least once every 12 months. If you do this, your Orbucks will never expire.

The bottom line: Who is a good candidate for this card?

This card’s earning potential is significant if you’re already used to booking through Orbitz — especially when booking hotels through the app.

It’s a good option for individuals who want a card with earning potential, but don’t want to commit to one with an expensive annual fee. Further, if you’re not loyal to a particular hotel brand/chain and prefer staying in hotels to home rentals, having the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card can make sense. Use it to book your hotel stays through the mobile app to get rewarded even more for your hotel purchases.

If you’re looking for a travel rewards card with more perks or value or one that doesn’t require you to book through Orbitz, this may not be the card for you.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Rebook and Save When Southwest Flight Prices Drop

Southwest Airlines is known and loved for its lack of fees. As part of the airline’s “Transfarency” policy, all Southwest passengers can check up to two bags for free and can change or cancel their flight with no fee.

But, there’s one aspect of Southwest’s super-flexible change policies that’s not as well known: Southwest will credit you the fare difference if the price of your flight drops. This means you can book Southwest flights without worrying about the flight getting cheaper. Book a flight now, then claim any price difference if the fare drops in the future.

However, this refund isn’t automatic. You’ll need to keep an eye out for price changes and actively request the fare difference when the price reduces. The good news is that process is relatively easy.

Here’s how to rebook and save when Southwest flight prices drop.

Which Southwest fares can be changed?

All Southwest flight bookings can be changed or canceled without fees. Unlike other U.S. airlines — which are just loosening up change fee restrictions — Southwest doesn’t exclude the cheapest fares or require that your flight originates in a certain country.

Though Southwest doesn’t sell basic economy tickets, even their lowest fare (Wanna Get Away) doesn’t require you to pay more to be able to change or cancel your flights later. This isn’t the case when flying American, Delta or United.

Simply put: You can always modify any Southwest flights, no matter the ticket level.

Nerd tip: You can even change or cancel flights booked with Rapid Rewards points without fees.

Which Southwest fares can be refunded?

There’s a key difference between Southwest fare types that’s important to keep in mind. Only Anytime (mid-tier) and Business Select (top-tier) fares are fully refundable. Wanna Get Away fares (lower-tier) aren’t technically refundable.

While you can change or cancel Wanna Get Away fares, you won’t receive a refund to your credit card. Instead, Southwest will issue you Travel Funds that can be used to book future flights. These Travel Funds must be used by the original traveler and expire one year after the original purchase date. Note that Southwest extended some Travel Funds’ expiration dates until Sept. 7, 2022, as part of their policy changes during the height of the pandemic.

When you can change your Southwest flights

Southwest flight bookings can be changed or canceled almost anytime without fees, up until 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure time. You can similarly score a price drop credit until 10 minutes before your flight — even if you’ve already checked in.

Though Southwest flights typically get more expensive the closer time ticks toward departure, if you keep your eye on the airfare price, you might get a deal.

How to rebook your Southwest flight at a lower fare

Say you checked the price on your Southwest flight and found that the fare dropped. Congratulations! But what’s the process to claim the fare difference? Let’s show you.

Log into your Southwest account

There are a few places where you can start, but it’s probably easiest to log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and scroll down to “My upcoming trips.” To get started with the process, click the “Change flight” link on the reservation you’d like to change.

Select your flight

On the next page, select the flight that you want to modify. If you booked a round trip, you’ll have the option to change just one way and leave the other.

Search for a new flight (or new ticket on the same flight)

Next, enter the departure and arrival airports, date and time of day to search for new flights. Southwest will display the flight options available; the search results will be in a format familiar to frequent Southwest travelers, including the same sort and filter options.

However, instead of showing the price of a flight, Southwest will list the price or point difference. If you’re traveling with multiple passengers, note that this price difference is per person.

If you want to travel on a different date, you can navigate via the dates at the top of the search results. Once you find the flight and date you want, click the flight option and then click “continue” at the bottom to move forward with the change.

Book your ticket and pay/get credited the difference

Southwest will then confirm the flight option, and at the bottom of this page, you’ll see the total price difference for all passengers that can be credited to your account as Travel Funds. If you’re changing to a lower cost award flight, you’ll see the amount of points that will be added back to your Rapid Rewards account.

View the reconcile summary

On the final page, Southwest will show a “Reconcile summary.” This will show the amount of points or cash that will be refunded to you, plus how much will be held as Travel Funds (if applicable).

Pro tip: How to figure out the new ticket cost

Interestingly, Southwest doesn’t show the price of the new flight at any point in this rebooking process. But, if you’re changing an award ticket, there’s an easy way to find these prices.

Southwest technically refunds the award price of the old ticket and then pulls the award price of the new ticket from your account. So, you can review the Points Activity page of your Rapid Rewards account to see the old and new prices for this booking.

The bottom line

Over the past few years, fee-free flight change and cancellation policies were unique to Southwest. However, other U.S.-based airlines have recently removed change fees on most flights. Plus, American and Delta travelers can also now request a travel credit when the price of a flight drops.

Southwest travelers can change or cancel any fare at any time up to 10 minutes before departure, and there’s no limit to the number of changes that you can make. Depending on your fare type, you’ll get a refund or Travel Funds of the price difference if the cost decreased.

But you need to know how the process works in order to take full advantage of this policy. Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to change a Southwest flight when the fare drops, you can feel even more comfortable booking a Southwest flight for the future.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is IHG Ambassador Status Worth It?

IHG Ambassador status is a niche elite status tier that many travelers have never heard of. It provides exclusive benefits at InterContinental Hotels, plus automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status for perks at other IHG brands.

Though there aren’t many hotel loyalty programs that offer elite status that you can buy, you still need to ask yourself: Is IHG Ambassador status worth it?

What does IHG Ambassador status include?

Benefits at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

When you sign-up for IHG Ambassador status, you’ll receive a suite of benefits that are good at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts locations around the world.

These benefits include:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary mineral water and internet.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

In China, there are additional benefits for Ambassador members. Mainland China hotels provide complimentary breakfast for one person each night that you stay, while Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) properties include a welcome fruit platter.

These benefits are exclusive to stays at InterContinental hotels, so they do not apply for reservations at other IHG brands. Through Dec. 31, 2021, Ambassador benefits will also apply at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

Free weekend night extended to Kimpton and Regent

In 2020, IHG extended the complimentary weekend night so that it could be redeemed at Kimpton and Regent properties as well. In fact, the free weekend night is actually more flexible at these other brands because it can be used any night of the week. At Kimpton and Regent, you are not restricted just to the weekends.

When you book your Ambassador free night, do not be alarmed if the full price is listed on your reservation. The second night will be manually adjusted and credited to your bill so that you’re not charged for it.

Perks at other IHG brands

When staying at other IHG brands, Ambassador members receive the benefits included in the complimentary IHG Platinum Elite status that comes with your membership. Many of these benefits are similar to what you’ll receive as an Ambassador at InterContinental properties.

Platinum Elite status includes:

  • Complimentary room upgrades.

  • Guaranteed room availability.

  • Extended checkout, when available.

  • Elite rollover nights.

  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points.

  • Free internet.

How to get Ambassador status in IHG

Unlike most other hotel loyalty programs, IHG Ambassador status is not earned by points, hotel nights stayed or how much you spend on the hotel’s credit card. So, here’s how to get Ambassador Status in IHG.

Buy it

IHG Rewards Club members can buy Ambassador status by paying $200 or redeeming 40,000 IHG points per year. You can purchase it online on the IHG Ambassador page or at any IHG hotel property, and your membership is good for 12 months from the date you sign up.

Use credit card perks, maybe

Some data points suggest that the $200 fee codes as travel, so you may be able to use your credit card’s travel credits to cover the fee. Otherwise, you can earn 10x points per dollar when you use the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Exclusive Invitation: IHG Royal Ambassador Status

Although you can buy IHG Ambassador status, IHG Royal Ambassador Status is by invitation only. IHG rewards their most loyal guests with this top-tier elite status based on an undisclosed formula that factors in qualified activities at Kimpton, InterContinental, Regent and participating Six Senses locations.

IHG Royal Ambassador status is based on a calendar year and includes the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade.

  • Free night at any IHG property up to 70,000 points.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out and 10 a.m. check-in.

  • Club InterContinental lounge access.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Spire Elite status.

  • Complimentary minibar up to $50 per day.

  • Premium internet.

  • Choice of snack or fruit.

  • 24-hour room guarantee.

  • Waived destination and amenity fees.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

  • Invitation to Kimpton Inner Circle.

The complimentary weekend night is good for 12 months from the date of issue, and is valid on the second night of a minimum two-night stay over a weekend. The weekend night can be redeemed at any InterContinental hotel around the world, except InterContinental Alliance Resorts.

Benefits of IHG Royal Ambassador status are only available at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. However, the benefits you receive as part of your automatic IHG Spire Elite will apply to your stays at all other IHG brand properties. Through Dec. 31, 2021, IHG Ambassador benefits are also available at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

The bottom line

Is IHG Ambassador status worth it? Travelers who frequent InterContinental Hotels & Resorts should invest in IHG Ambassador status. It provides exclusive perks when staying at InterContinental hotels, plus automatic IHG Platinum Elite to receive benefits at other IHG brands.

Although Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 points per year, the benefits outweigh the cost. Simply redeeming the complimentary weekend night should cover that upfront investment, and that’s even before factoring in other perks like room upgrades, $20 in dining credits per stay and guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out.

For IHG members who don’t typically stay at InterContinental properties, you can receive the same Platinum Elite status automatically by having the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. With an annual fee of $89 and an annual free night, it is the better deal for you.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Use Chase Offers to Save More Money

If you have a Chase card and you’re not taking advantage of Chase Offers, you’re missing out on a chance to save money. This service is available for most Chase cardmembers and is simple to use — it’s a great way to get discounts on purchases you’re already planning to make.

Here’s what you need to know about Chase Offers so that you can save more money the next time you pull out your card to make a purchase.

How does Chase Offers work?

Figuring out how to use Chase Offers isn’t challenging: All you have to do is take a look at current Chase promos, then activate those offers that most interest you. Once you activate a deal and make a purchase that meets the requirements, you’ll be eligible for those savings. You’ll receive a statement credit automatically in 7-14 days.

Typically, the offers are presented as a dollar amount or a percentage of your purchase price back. Offer details will state if there are exclusions or a maximum amount of savings available. You can activate as many — or as few — offers as you’d like.

Where can I find the current Chase offers?

You can browse the current offers on your mobile device or from a web browser. To do this, open the Chase mobile app or log in to your Chase online account. Then look for the Chase Offers section (usually on the right for desktop and near the bottom on the app), click, and all of the available offers will display.

Click the plus sign in the upper right corner on any offer to activate it and add it to your account. In addition to checking these offers on your own, Chase can also send you periodic reminders via email to take advantage of your offers.

What kinds of offers are available?

The nice thing about Chase Offers is that offers are always changing. So, an offer you may see this month may not be available next month; instead, you may see different savings opportunities. You’ll see offers for restaurants, fast food, meal delivery services, clothing stores, shopping services and much more.

Nerd tip: The offers that you see are tailored to you based on your spending. You likely won’t see the same available promos as someone else you know who also uses Chase Offers.

What merchants are featured on Chase Offers?

There are a nice variety of retailers featured on Chase Offers. Some of these brands include ADT, Home Chef, Starbucks, Walmart Grocery, Five Guys, Panera, TurboTax, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Supercuts, Dominos, Sun Basket and Kindle.

There is something for everyone, and at some point, you will likely see an offer that makes sense for you.

When do offers expire?

Each offer has a deadline attached to it. You’ll need to activate the offer and make the purchase before the offer expiration date to take advantage of the promotion. If the purchase takes a few days to post to your account, you’ll still be eligible for the savings if you made the purchase before the offer expiration date.

It’s a good idea to check in on your offers every couple of weeks to see what offers are expiring and which new offers have been added. This way, you don’t miss out on a great one.

Do Chase Offers differ from Chase Ultimate Rewards® ?

You may be familiar with Chase Ultimate Rewards® and its portal. In this dashboard, you can see all of the points that you’ve earned, as well as shop online, redeem points and potentially earn bonus points by spending at popular merchants.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal differs from Chase Offers in two key ways. With Chase Ultimate Rewards®:

  • You shop online by clicking through the portal to retailers rather than spending directly with retailers.

  • You earn bonus points on qualifying purchases instead of statement credits.

Both of these programs are great, but yes, they’re different.

The bottom line

Why should you use Chase Offers? Consider activating Chase offers because it’s so easy to do and is a convenient way to save money, especially since it doesn’t require you to change your spending habits at all. Many Chase business and personal credit cards provide cardmembers with Chase Offers opportunities. Log in to your Chase account on the website or in the app to explore your offers.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Points Collector’s Guide to Air France-KLM

Flying Blue is a joint loyalty program of two European airlines: Air France (headquartered at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France) and KLM (headquartered in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands).

In 2004, the two airlines merged and created a combined Air France-KLM Group. Both of the airlines are part of the SkyTeam alliance, which consists of 19 carriers.

Here’s what a strategic points collector needs to know and understand about Air France-KLM and its loyalty program, Flying Blue. We’ll cover how earning and redeeming works, how to get the maximum value from your miles, plus other facets that make this rewards program worth a second glance.

About Air France-KLM

Here’s a quick overview of a few key features of Air France-KLM.

  • Fare types: Air France operates aircraft with economy, premium economy, business class and first, or La Première, class. KLM operates service in economy and either World Business Class (on international routes) or Europe Business Class (on international or domestic routes within Europe) cabins.

  • Main U.S. routes: Both Air France and KLM cover quite a bit of the world with their routes. In the U.S., Air France flies to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (seasonally), Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis (seasonally), New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. KLM operates service to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami (seasonally), Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, Salt Lake City (seasonally) and Washington, D.C.

  • Points currency and loyalty program: The two airlines’ joint loyalty program is called Flying Blue and it’s free to join. As a member, you’ll earn Flying Blue miles redeemable for award flights.

How to earn Flying Blue miles

Earn by flying

You can earn Flying Blue miles by flying on the following airlines and crediting the flights to Flying Blue. Note that the list includes non-SkyTeam partners of Air France-KLM.

When you fly partner airlines, the miles earned are credited based on the percentage of distance flown, which is calculated based on the fare code of a flight you purchase and vary by which partner airline you are on. You can click through the individual partner pages on the Flying Blue website to get specifics.

When you fly Air France or KLM, the miles you earn are determined by how much you spend on each ticket — minus taxes — and your elite status with the airline. Keep in mind, Flying Blue works in euros. In terms of an exchange rate, 1 euro has typically been worth $1.10 to $1.25 over the past five years.

Elite status

Earning rate

4 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

6 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

7 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

8 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

Flying Blue is an example of a revenue-based rewards program, at least on the earning side for Air France- and KLM-operated flights. The more money you spend, the more rewards you earn.

Earn by spending on credit cards

With the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®, Air France-KLM flyers will earn extra bonus miles and a statement credit after spending a set amount on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

After this initial welcome bonus, you’ll continue earning 3 miles per dollar spent with Air France, KLM and other SkyTeam airlines, and 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Each membership year you spend $50 on the airline credit card, you’ll earn 5,000 anniversary miles that are automatically added to your Flying Blue account.

Earn by transferring points between programs

Perhaps the easiest way to get your hands on Flying Blue miles is by transferring flexible currency from one of the bank rewards programs. Luckily, Air France-KLM partners with all of the major transferrable point programs.

You can transfer the following points to Flying Blue:

Of all the flexible point programs listed above, we recommend using American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards® or Citi ThankYou Points as they provide the highest conversion rates.

Nerd tip: Occasionally, AmEx and Citi add bonus miles to point conversions. During these promotional transfer periods, the bonus can be as high as 30% more miles in your Flying Blue account, which can make certain mileage bookings really attractive.

Other ways to earn

  • Hotels: Earn Flying Blue miles on hotel stays at brands like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt, among others.

  • Car rentals: Earn Flying Blue miles on car rentals made with car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis and Budget.

  • Shopping: Collect more miles when you shop with Batavia Stad Amsterdam Fashion, the Bicester Village Shopping Collection and Voyageurs du Monde.

  • Buy miles: In a pinch, you can buy Flying Blue miles starting at around $66 for 2,000 miles. Purchasing as many as 75,000 miles will set you back upward of $2,500. The program sometimes runs bonuses on mileage purchases.

Nerd tip: Since miles are always at risk of being devalued, we don’t recommend making speculative points purchases without a redemption in mind.

How to redeem Flying Blue miles for maximum value

Book award seats early

Flying Blue uses a dynamic-style chart for its award flights. In other words, redemption rates start at a certain point and can increase based on when and where you fly.

Flying Blue sells a certain number of award seats at the lowest redemption level before it hikes the rates based on demand. To find out what that level is, enter a city pair into the Miles Price Estimator and watch what comes up on your preferred route.

For example, say you want to fly from Salt Lake City to Budapest, Hungary. According to the Miles Price Estimator, the lowest redemption level is set at 24,000 Flying Blue miles for a one-way ticket in economy and 53,000 miles for a one-way ticket in business class.

So if you’re flexible with your travel plans, look for dates when tickets are available at the low-level rates for mileage redemption.

Use Promo Rewards

One of the sweet spots of the Flying Blue program is its Promo Rewards. Every month, the airline releases discount routes for certain city pairs, and you can get up to 50% off standard award rates in economy, premium economy and business classes of service.

The promo page is updated the first day of the month, and you have the whole month to book a discounted flight for travel during a specific time period. Keep in mind that some trips sell out quickly — we don’t recommend waiting too long to snag one of these promotional fares if you see one you like.

Delta partner flights

Because Air France-KLM is an alliance partner of Delta Air Lines, use Flying Blue for the following mileage redemptions on Delta-operated flights.

  • U.S. to Hawaii: This redemption will set you back 35,000 miles on a round-trip ticket from the continental U.S. to the Aloha State.

  • U.S. to Mexico: Another great redemption that will cost you 29,000 on round-trip flights from the U.S. to Mexico.

Flying Blue’s elite status program

Think of reaching Flying Blue elite status like playing a game. The more experience points, or XP, you earn by flying Air France-KLM or their partners, the quicker you level up. The number of XP earned per flight depends on travel class and flight type.

Tiers

Flying Blue flyers are divided into four elite levels: Explorer, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Everyone starts at the Explorer level when they join the loyalty program, then members can make their way up as they fly.

Once you reach a status level within 12 months of being a member, you get the benefits associated with it for 15 months (unless you qualify for a higher tier in that time — then the clock resets). On the flip side, if you fail to re-qualify for the same status tier within 12 months, you’ll drop to the previous tier.

What status holders get

Here are the perks associated with each elite status level. As mentioned previously, Flying Blue works in euros. We’ve listed a typical range in dollars for comparison.

It’s worth mentioning that one of the desirable benefits of holding either Gold or Platinum elite status with Flying Blue is the ability to redeem miles for La Première awards — Air France’s first-class cabin. The redemption option isn’t available to Silver elites or Explorer members of the program.

What makes Air France-KLM unique?

Passengers flying in KLM’s World Business Class cabin receive a unique gift: a miniature Delft Blue house filled with jenever, a juniper-flavored drink of the Netherlands. The airline designs a new Dutch house every year and has presented these souvenirs to KLM premium-cabin flyers since the 1950s.

To add a porcelain Delft house to your collection, simply book an intercontinental flight in World Business Class.

The bottom line

Flying Blue may be a foreign loyalty program, but U.S.-based travelers shouldn’t overlook it.

Its miles are easily accessible via multiple transferrable programs, which means that pooling rewards into a single account when you’re ready to redeem miles for an award isn’t difficult.

Although the program uses dynamic pricing for its redemption rates, it still makes low-level awards available to those whose schedule is flexible. On top of that, transfer bonuses from certain bank programs can drop redemption rates even lower.

If you’re looking to fly a SkyTeam partner on an award ticket, consider Flying Blue and its redemption options.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Maximize the AmEx EveryDay Credit Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is a great option for those who want to maximize benefits with a card they use fairly regularly or — as the name suggests — every day.

While the card itself has many perks, it sets itself apart in some unique ways. Learn how to get the most out of your Amex EveryDay® Credit Card.

Ways to maximize the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Earn 2X points at U.S. supermarkets

The card offers 2x points on U.S. supermarket purchases up to $6,000 a year. After you reach that threshold, you’ll earn 1x points at U.S. supermarkets, making this card a solid choice for those with hefty food bills. You’ll also earn 1x points on all other purchases. Terms apply.

Get the welcome bonus

While most cards offer enticing welcome bonuses, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers something a bit different — a decent welcome bonus that’s easily attainable. Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Here’s why that’s important: Most cards offer welcome bonuses, but they can sometimes require spending upward of $3,000 within the first three months of opening a card. For some, that may be out of budget.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers an avenue for earning a welcome bonus without overspending. Sure, 10,000 points may not be as high as some other cards’ welcome bonuses, but they’re also easy to earn. Terms apply.

Earn extra Membership Rewards points on AmExTravel.com

Be sure to sign up for Membership Rewards, the travel loyalty program for American Express. Cardholders will get at least 1 additional bonus point — on top of the regular 1x point rate — for each dollar spent on eligible travel purchases with the credit card on AmExTravel.com. Qualifying purchases include airfare, prepaid hotels, prepaid car rentals, vacation packages (flight and hotel packages) and cruise reservations. Terms apply.

Lowest hotel rate guarantee

If you book your hotel stay on AmExTravel.com and later find a lower price anywhere online (before taxes and fees) for the same room at the hotel for the same dates and number of children and adults, you can be refunded the difference. Terms apply.

Enjoy a 20% points bonus with frequent spending

Another perk of this card? Frequent users are rewarded. Earn a 20% bonus when you use your card 20 or more times in a single billing period. Terms apply.

The bottom line

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is a great choice for those who use credit cards for their everyday spending or, more specifically, at U.S. supermarkets. Its welcome bonus, while minimal, is also more easily earned — a major perk for lower spenders. Use the card regularly, at least 20 times a month, to really maximize its value. Plus, you get all of this for no annual fee. Terms apply.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Should I Pursue Elite Status at Hilton in 2021?

With travel still in flux in 2021, hotel chains are eager to gain back loyal customers by slashing the requirements for earning elite status in their loyalty programs.

Hilton Honors has reduced its elite status qualifications this year by half. But does this mean you should chase status with the program?

Here’s a look at all the things you should consider before pursuing Hilton Honors elite status in 2021.

Hilton Honors elite status requirements in 2021

For 2021, Hilton Honors is reducing status qualification requirements for all tiers in the program by 50%. These Hilton rewards levels make it a lot easier to earn elite status in the program. Here’s what’s required to earn status:

Hilton status level

Base points

Comparing elite status across hotel brands

To decide whether you should pursue Hilton Honors status in 2021, first compare Hilton’s offer with some other major hotel loyalty programs.

How elite status requirement reductions stack up

Here’s how much some programs are reducing the requirement to earn elite status:

Loyalty program

Requirement reduction

Hilton Honors

Marriott Bonvoy

World of Hyatt

IHG Rewards Club

25% to 30% depending on tier

World of Hyatt status requirements

With World of Hyatt’s 50% reduction in elite status requirements, here’s what it will take to earn status with Hyatt in 2021.

Hyatt status levels

Base points

Discoverist

Marriott Bonvoy status requirements

Marriott Bonvoy is gifting its members 50% of their 2019 tier earned elite night credits. As you can see, unlike other hotel programs, this reduction is not as generous, as it targets only existing elite members.

Marriott status level

Elite night credits

Ambassador

IHG Rewards Club status requirements

IHG’s reduced requirements for 2021 are:

IHG status level

Base points

So … what’s the best hotel elite status program to chase in 2021?

The best hotel elite status to pursue this year is a toss-up between Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt. Globalist status with World of Hyatt offers exceptional perks, like priority access to rooms, free parking on award nights and breakfast. While the total night requirement is the same compared to Hilton Honors’ top status tier, 30 nights, Hyatt came in at first place in our analysis of the best elite status programs.

On the flip side, Hyatt doesn’t have as many properties as Hilton, so if you go with Hilton you’ll have more choices in terms of hotels, resorts and destinations around the world.

Will you get value from elite benefits at Hilton?

Before chasing Hilton Honors status, compare the benefits of each Hilton status tier to see which ones will provide the most return for your investment.

Consider each perk’s individual value

For many travelers, benefits like free breakfast and lounge access will likely give the highest return. Suite upgrades are also a drool-worthy perk. However, do they really make your stay that much more enjoyable or help keep more money in your pocket?

Determine how much money can be saved

When comparing benefits, calculate how much money they can save you. Suite upgrades are nice, but if you don’t normally book suites, you’re not actually saving any money.

However, if you frequently pay for hotel breakfast, you’re saving a good amount every time you get free breakfast. Likewise, lounge access can save you money during your stay, especially if you’re traveling with family, because it usually includes snacks and drinks for free.

An even easier way to earn Hilton Honors status

If you are looking to attain Hilton Honors top-tier Diamond status, there may be a more practical way to get it. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card gives you automatic Diamond status. The $450 annual fee is steep, but this fee can pay for itself if you put the card perks to good use. Terms apply.

The bottom line

Hilton Honors reduced elite status requirements in 2021 offer an excellent opportunity to reach a higher status tier. If Hilton is your go-to brand when traveling, a higher elite status level means you’ll enjoy more perks when you stay. But if you are not loyal to Hilton, it may make sense to chase status with World of Hyatt, which is also offering a 50% reduction in elite status requirements.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Maximize the Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard

Not all co-branded hotel credit cards come with the most attractive features — such as travel credits or lounge perks — but that doesn’t mean they offer no value at all.

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® is particularly useful in conjunction with the Best Western Rewards program, but it’s no secret that this program’s points aren’t worth the most among the available choices (0.7 cent a piece). The program doesn’t offer the most innovative perks, but its rewards earning rate on stays is quite high.

Overall, the card gets the job done for guests who often stay at Best Western properties, whether it’s for work, for leisure or both. Here’s how to get the most from the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®.

Ways to maximize the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®

Use your card at Best Western locations

As a Best Western Rewards member, you can choose a lodging option from more than 4,200 properties in over 100 countries and territories. Using the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® to book your stay allows you to maximize your rewards earning capability.

As a card member, you’ll earn 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western locations when you book directly with the chain: 10 base points for being a Best Western Rewards program member, and another 10 points for using your Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®. Earning double rewards helps you get to free nights faster.

Book rooms online

If the bonus points aren’t enough to entice you to book directly with Best Western, your stay will also be cheaper if you book it at a special rate available to cardholders.

Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® members receive a 10% discount on flexible-rate rooms booked online at Best Western’s site. Every bit of savings adds up, and the discount is worthwhile for brand loyalists who regularly spend money on nights with the chain.

Book free nights using the welcome bonus

The card also comes with a nice welcome bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened, plus 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.

Free award nights within the Best Western Rewards program start at 5,000 points, which means that you can book several free nights with no blackout dates using your welcome offer.

Nerd tip: The more expensive your award nights are, the fewer free nights you’ll be able to book. It all depends on the property you wish to visit.

Take advantage of Platinum Rewards status

Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® customers earn automatic Platinum Rewards status. This membership tier comes with a few extra perks, such as 15% bonus points on an eligible stay and complimentary water on arrival.

Although it’s not a huge rewards boost, it’ll help you earn free nights a little quicker than you would without any elite status.

Meet the annual spending threshold to earn bonus points

To earn even more bonus Best Western Rewards points, make sure to keep using your Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® on everyday purchases. Once you spend $5,000 on the card during each membership year, you’ll earn another trove of bonus points to pad your point balance.

Whether you visit family in another city or go on a long weekend road trip, the extra points could come in handy.

The bottom line

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® comes with a $89 annual fee, which means you have to consider its benefits and whether they outweigh the fee in your situation.

One easy calculation to determine its potential value is to multiply the annual fee by 10. If you spend this amount on stays at a flexible rate every year, and get the 10% discount back on every stay, your out-of-pocket cost will be $0. Everything you save beyond that will be an added bonus.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com