Travel Methods: Loyalty & Rewards Programs

Just because you’re going on a trip far enough that you’re going to be in a place that, shall we say, isn’t going to have a large corporate marketing presence doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of various loyalty and rewards programs for these far-flung vacations. Far from it. Most credit card travel loyalty programs offer rewards based on the major expenses like airfare, cruises, safaris, and other types of travel. Plus, finding interesting and remote destinations to visit is very much in the eye of the beholder….Simply being able to rent a car can unlock all kinds of travel freedom for the young adult, but it can also be a challenge logistically and financially. Fortunately, there’s a loyalty program available for this problem—and for many types of travel.


Why are There So Many Travel Loyalty Programs?

In general, customer marketing strategies have become more sophisticated. They’ve also become more focused on creating a deeper level of customer loyalty. Specifically, companies are looking to connect their brands to a customer experience defined by strong, positive memories. Travel is and will always be ripe for this type of marketing and a wide variety of loyalty and rewards programs. Assuming you’re not hitchhiking your way across the country, then if you’re a traveler, you’re a consumer. And you should look to take advantage of these programs.

For those travelers who are interested in perusing the entire landscape, here is a great list of credit card travel programs. If you’re also interested in researching the best airline and lodging reward programs, we recommend this travel loyalty program guide from The Points Guy. That being said, we wanted to highlight three credit card travel loyalty programs that are popular right now to help you understand what’s available. We’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do with the strong, positive memories that are created on your travels.


  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This is a popular one right now and one that’s connected to loyalty-based customer marketing. It has among the highest early-return incentives that can total between $500-$650 depending on where they’re used. A great option for people who are going to spend at least $4,000 on their first trip and continue to use it regularly moving forward. With annual fees between $450-$550, you need to make sure the expected benefits cover the cost, although the $300 annual travel credit already goes a long way.


  • Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards: This is a much better option for people looking for a straightforward option with less risk and commitment after the first year. There’s no annual fee. There’s a competitive travel-miles sign-up bonus that kicks in after only $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, as well as a travel and hotel rewards program. It also offers 0% APR for the first 12 months, making it popular among travelers who expect to take a few months to pay off their first trip.


  • American Express® PENFED Pathfinder Rewards: The Platinum Card® from American Express has long been the gold standard for aggressive travel rewards that benefit customers who don’t mind paying an annual fee upfront. Certainly, this isn’t a bad choice, but American Express® didn’t get to be known as a leader in travel loyalty programs with just one credit card. PENFED Pathfinder Rewards offers some of the best rewards we’ve seen–$100 annual airline travel credit, $100 TSA application reimbursement, 3-4x reward points—without an annual fee attached to the card.


Bonus Travel Loyalty Program: AAA and Hertz

We mentioned a travel loyalty program that helps younger drivers overcome barriers to renting a car. Hertz already has an Under 25 rental program that allows drivers ages 20-24 (18-24 in NY and MI) to rent a car for an additional fee. But there’s also a way to get around this fee. Hertz and AAA have a partnership program in which AAA members can get this fee waived. This is a great resource for younger, road-tripping travelers, especially those without their own vehicle—as is the case with many younger Millennials. But it’s also a great reminder of how AAA got to be AAA and why travel loyalty programs are worth participating in.