The Chase Sapphire and Amex Gold get a lot of press for travel spending, but it’s possible to do better. The product to be aware of is the Travelocity Amex, issued by Barclaycard. There are two versions of this card: the no-fee version and the $39 annual fee version. The no-fee card earns three points per dollar on Travelocity purchases and 1 point on everything else, while the annual fee card gets 5 points on Travelocity, 2 points on gas, grocery, OR restaurant purchases (you can pick one of the three categories), and 1 point on everything else.
To understand how to get to 12%, you first have to understand the redemption scheme. Here’s how it works as per the card’s Terms and Conditions:
Cardmembers may redeem Travelocity Points for the following Account statement credits when they purchase travel, services, and products on Travelocity.com:
Redeem 5,000 Travelocity Points for a $50.00 statement credit, or
Redeem 7,500 Travelocity Points for a $75.00 statement credit, or
Redeem 20,000 Travelocity Points for the cost of an airline ticket or Flight + Hotel Package up to a maximum credit of $400.00.
In other words, the points are worth one cent each unless you redeem 20,000 points at once, in which case they’re worth 2 cents. That means that the five points per dollar spent on Travelocity purchases is actually worth ten cents per dollar if you’re willing to spend points in increments of 20,000. (That also means the gas/grocery/restaurant category bonus–again, you can only pick one of the three–is worth a sneaky-good 4 cents per dollar, which may be of interest to the manufactured spending crowd).
Be aware of the T&C verbiage for what qualifies for the 5 points per dollar bonus:
Flights, Good Buy & Top Secret Hotels, Flight and Hotel Packages, Car Rentals, Last Minute Deals and Activities on Travelocity.com
So it does not seem as though cruises, for example, are covered. The same goes for hotels which do not fall into Travelocity’s Good Buy and Top Secret categories.
As for how you get from 10% to 12%: Travelocity is a partner in Barclaycard’s Rewards Boost online mall, which gets you an additional 1 point (2%) per dollar. (Thanks to the relevant Flyertalk thread for bringing this part of the deal to our attention)
If you’re in the habit of buying lots of flights, this could represent a great value for you. In fact, this could be a great value for a simple family vacation if you’re booking some moderately expensive flights. At 6 points per dollar, the minimum Travelocity spend required to get you to 20,000 points (and the $400 statement credit) is $3,333.33.
But as we stated, there are limitations, so this isn’t for everybody. Those of you who aren’t interested in buying through Travelocity, jumping through hoops, or paying annual fees may want to check out the AARP credit card, which gives a 3% cashback bonus on all travel purchases and has no annual fee. It’s another unpublicized-but-good bonus for those in the know. And note that while you do have to be an AARP member to have the card, you don’t have to be old: AARP membership is open to any age. (We’re former members and we’re in our thirties, so we can vouch for this.)
An interesting sidenote to the AARP card: several years ago, this card launched with an uncapped 5% cashback promotion for the first six months. Chase also was awarding the extra 2 bonus points for travel on top of the 5%, meaning you could get 7% back for all travel. The extra 2% may or may not have been intentional on their part–we’re guessing not.
At the time, a few cruise lines would let you take out cash advances at the casino of $1,000 per day, if we remember correctly, at their casinos using a credit card, and ring it up as a cruise purchase. (They may still do this for all we know–we’ve never been on a cruise and don’t keep up with that industry too well.) So if you took the AARP card on a cruise, you could make an easy $70 per day just by taking out money at the casino, though how “easy” this is depends on your feelings about carrying around several thousand dollars in cash.