Imagine you’re shopping with a $100 gift card and you find something you want for $58. However, when you go to the counter, the register rings up $100! After challenging the clerk, you’re told that there are spending “tiers” and any purchase under $100 is rounded up. Sounds absurd, right? Well, that’s how many credit card reward programs work. Take Capital One’s redemption schedule: under their system a $149 flight requires 15,000 points, whereas a flight costing just $5 more would push you to the next tier and require an additional 20,000 points. The only way around this is careful card selection. That’s why we’ve factored the “burn rate” into our calculations, to show you how far cards will really take you.
A truly free flight
If you’ve ever booked a flight on points you know that most travel credit cards only cover the base fare—leaving it up to you to cover the taxes and fees, which make up between 15% and 40% of the cost. To avoid this, look for cards that cover the cost of the full flight and check to see if the issuer has a separate redemption schedule for taxes and fees. Below, we’ve listed some great cards that allow you to use your points for taxes and fees as well. Just keep in mind that you’ll burn through your points faster with these cards:
Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard
Scotiabank Gold AMEX
MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard
CIBC Aventura Gold Visa