Don’t Make These 5 Reward Travel Mistakes When Redeeming Credit Card Rewards for Flights

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You can avoid reward trip nightmares by taking the right steps.


Key points

  • Using credit card points and miles to book flights is a great way to make your next trip more affordable.
  • But if you’re not careful, you could make mistakes that will cost you dearly.
  • Be sure to check your flight options, review fees and taxes, and don’t wait until the last minute to book your flight.

As a frequent traveler, I’m a big fan of travel rewards cards. Using credit cards to earn rewards and redeeming them for free or nearly free trips makes me and my bank account happy. But it’s all too easy to make redemption mistakes when redeeming rewards for flights.

The good news is that if you know what to watch out for, you can avoid making costly mistakes. Are you planning to book an award flight for an upcoming vacation? Find out what you need to know to avoid making a big mistake that will negatively impact your personal finances.

1. Not checking flight availability

Transferring your points or miles to a travel partner is a great way to maximize the value you receive. But you don’t want to rush through the process. If you rush to transfer your points or miles before checking flight availability, you may find that there are no flight options for your preferred travel dates. Always check availability first so you don’t get stuck.

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2. Forgetting to review taxes and fees

You are responsible for paying taxes and fees when redeeming credit card rewards for flights. For some carriers and routes, the fees are affordable. But it’s not always the case.

Some airlines are notorious for charging high fees, which could cost you dearly. Best practice is to check the fees before booking an award flight. This way you don’t accidentally go over your vacation budget.

3. Travel during high season

While you can find an affordable award flight during busy travel months or during vacations, that’s not always the case. Why? Because more travelers are flying at that time.

If flights are available, you will likely need to use more points or miles for your flight. If you are flexible with your dates, traveling during the off-season may be more valuable.

4. Wait until the last minute to book

As with regular travel bookings, it can be beneficial to book award flights well in advance of your travel dates. This way you can get a better deal. If you only wait a few weeks or months before planning your trip, you may have to pay more than expected.

5. Using the Card Issuer’s Rewards Portal to Book a Flight

Many travel rewards cards have branded travel booking portals available. While this may be a convenient way to plan and book your next trip, it may not be the best decision to make.

Why? You may be blocked if you need to make changes or if problems arise later. It’s best to book directly with the airline of your choice for the best possible customer service experience. You can do this by transferring your points or miles and booking directly with travel transfer partners.

Travel credit cards are valuable and can unlock economical travel opportunities.

Be sure to think ahead before redeeming credit card rewards for your next flight. With the right planning, you can get a great deal and maximize the value of your award flight.

Are you interested in earning travel rewards with a credit card? Check out our list of the best travel credit cards to learn more about your options.

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