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When planning ahead for major travel plans, most people turn to their credit card’s trusty points systems to find the best deals on bookings and airfare prices.

The Points Guy Director of Content Eric Rosen joins Yahoo Finance for its Travel Guide 2024: Industry Insights special to share advice on how to best utilize credit card perks for travel bookings.

“For now, you have to rack up enough points to actually use those to redeem them for the flights. That said, you can also go for a variety of different credit cards, like a Chase Sapphire Preferred or an Amex Gold Card as part of your wallet, so that you can use actually those points towards the cost of your airfare without having to be loyal to one airline program or another,” Rosen says.

Catch more of Yahoo Finance’s special Travel Guide 2024: Industry Insights coverage this week, or watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live here.

Editor’s note: This article was written by Luke Carberry Mogan.

Video Transcript

MADISON MILLS: All right. Well, as folks look to save on their spring and summer vacations, as Carrie mentioned, credit card points can be a smart way to keep your costs down when traveling. So joining us now with the best tips and tricks for putting those points to work as part of our 2024 travel guide, we’ve got Eric Rosen, The Points Guy’s director of content.

Eric, I’m going to jump right in with a personal question from a viewer named my mother. You’re booking a flight. You don’t have enough points to cover the flight. I told her to wait until she had enough points to buy it. Tell me if I’m right or wrong.

ERIC ROSEN: Well, you’re right and wrong, I would say. There are certain airline programs that let you use points towards part of your flight, of course. But for now, you obviously have to rack up enough points to actually use those to redeem them for the flights.

That said, you can also go for a variety of different credit cards, like a Chase Sapphire Preferred or an Amex Gold card, as part of your wallet so that you can actually use those points towards the cost of your airfare, without having to be loyal to one airline program or another. So there are lots of ways to play the game to save some money.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, and also, you just heard our Kerry Hannon talking about the importance of being flexible and booking early, which I suspect is also helpful when you’re using points.

ERIC ROSEN: Absolutely. Those are great pieces of advice. Airlines open up their award availability about 331 days in advance. It seems to be typical among US airlines. Some don’t schedule quite that far out. So if you know your plans well in advance, that’s when you’ll find that award availability.

But also, to her point, if you’re flexible, you can find some last-minute deals. As airlines find they have unsold seats, they’ll open those up for award availability. You can put those miles to use. You might just end up flying, you know, on a Wednesday night instead of a Friday night, things like that. So, the more you can be flexible, the more likely you’re going to be able to put your points in miles to use.

MADISON MILLS: And I know part of the advice is to utilize price alerts and to, you know, again, be flexible. To your point, Eric, is there a moment though where you advise people to go ahead and pull the trigger and not continue to hold and wait?

ERIC ROSEN: If you’ve been tracking prices and they’re within your budget, I would say just book the flight then. As you get closer and closer to the departure time, chances are those prices aren’t going to drop. You won’t see a precipitous $500 to $200 drop on the airfare that you’re going for.

So if it fits within your budget, you’ve got a limited amount of vacation days, the kids are off of school, don’t wait too long to book your trip. That said, if things really aren’t in your budget, you might want to save it for a later vacation sort of like she had mentioned, where instead of going on your spring break now, think about an early summer trip before everyone’s out of school, or towards the end of summer right before school starts again, where you might have a better chance of locking in a good price that fits your budget.

JULIE HYMAN: So, Eric, Maddie asked a question on behalf of her mom. I’m going to ask you a question on behalf of myself. I am not a points girl. And I’m just wondering what– and I have what is probably a mistaken perception in my mind that it’s complicated, right? That navigating, accruing the points, you know, and then using them, that it’s somehow difficult to do. Disabuse me of that notion, if it’s incorrect. And tell me like, who are these– who is best served by getting these points situations and cards and using them?

ERIC ROSEN: Absolutely. You know, airline programs, hotel programs do a really good job at making it seem very complicated to use their miles or saying that like, you just need to rack up some miles and you’ll get a free flight. And then you go to look and you’re not able to find the thing that you actually need. If you want to keep things simple, there are a lot of ways you can do it, right? Get a solid cashback card like the Chase Freedom, right, so you can earn points on every purchase and then use those points for cashback, whether it’s on travel expenses or on something else.

We also suggest going for transferable points, something like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, where you can redeem them at a set rate for things like flights and hotels so you don’t really have to do a ton of mental calculations in order to get some value. Or you can transfer them to a variety of different airline and hotel partners that suit your need at a particular time, rather than having to stick to one program that might change its rules on a dime and leave you without enough miles for that trip you’ve been having your eye on for the last couple of months.

MADISON MILLS: All right. Eric, one final question here for the users out there who have been utilizing credit card points, I’m wondering about the kind of transfer deals that come up from time to time. What is the best way for folks to stay on top of those potential opportunities, and capitalize on them at the right times?

ERIC ROSEN: Definitely. So when you’re talking about are transfer bonuses, where instead of like one Amex point to one British Airways miles or one delta mile, for instance, you might get a 25% bonus. So if you transfer 1,000 of them, you’ll get 1,250 miles instead of the usual 1,000. The best way to stay on top of those is to follow sites like ours, The Points Guy, because we have regular updates of what transfer bonuses are currently out there.

And I would say don’t go speculatively transferring all of your points from those programs all at once because you should have a specific imminent redemption in mind where you can really take advantage of that extra value, rather than counting on something coming down the pike in a few months time. Because like I said, programs can change, or that hotel that’s in one category of award redemption today could go up the next day and then you’ve transferred all these points and you’re not quite able to use them because you can’t transfer them back to your other original account.

MADISON MILLS: All right, Eric. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much for that advice and have a great weekend. Thank you.

ERIC ROSEN: Thank you.

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