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If you haven’t had to cancel a trip, or at the very least change a flight, what’s your secret? Travel is as wonderful as ever and in many ways more appreciated than ever now, but it doesn’t always go to plan these days.

For some people, it’s no longer in the plans at all, but things like new phones, home decor, offsetting the cost of a special meal, or sneakers certainly are.

After a decade of virtually every credit card moving to offer incredible travel rewards to keep up with the mega trend of airline miles and hotel points, the pandemic makes the “what do I do with my credit card points” thing a bit more complicated.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The trick to earning credit card rewards during a pandemic is to earn with cards that present a double threat: a card which can convert points into airline miles or hotel points, but also offers lucrative cash back, too.

That way, you’re covered for whatever you want your rewards to unlock.

Double Threat Credit Cards

Double threat credit cards don’t lock you into a one size fits all approach to spending your rewards. If you want cash back, you can have it. If instead you want airline miles or hotel points which can unlock aspirational value, you can have them too.

Airline miles and hotel points are wonderful when availability presents itself in the perfect cabin or room, on the perfect day, but for many people those two things lining up together are fanciful.

Cash back only cards leave out the potential for aspirational value, such as first class seats or five star suites, but miles only cards leave the ease of use of “just gimme cash” off the table as well. One card offering both is the ultimate “win”.

Best In Class Double Threat Cards

Cash back is supposed to be easy, and transfer to airlines or hotels should be too. But for “best in class” double threat cards, those two things alone aren’t good enough. You also need…

  • Strong points earning rates
  • Strong points and cash back redemption rates

For the best earn rates on your spending, the strongest value points transfer options and dependable value when converting points into cash back, two cards really stand out: the Capital One Venture X, and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Each card offers the potential to earn up to either 10X points or 10% cash back on select travel purchases, easy to digest 1:1 airline and hotel transfer partners, as well as clear guidance on how much points are worth, if used for cash back.

Capital One Venture X

Capital One Venture X carries a $395 annual fee, but more than $400 in annual travel perks which are easy to use, such as a $300 travel flexible credit for Capital One Travel, and 10,000 bonus points. Right now, there’s also a 100,000 point welcome bonus and a $200 Airbnb/VRBO credit, too.

The card offers an incredible 10X points or 10% cash back on hotels and cars booked through Capital One Travel, and 5X on flights through Capital One Travel. That’s right, you can choose whether to use your points with airlines and hotels, or as cash back to cover some, or all of any purchase.

The Capital One Travel platform also offers price drop protection, which gives a partial refund if flight prices drop after the search engine suggested booking!

A fantastic feature of this card is that all spend earns at least 2X points or 2% cash back which makes it a fantastic choice for non-bonus categories found in daily spending.

1:1 Transfer Partners

Capital One now offers 15 airline and hotel transfer partners, where 1 Venture Mile equals at least 1 mile with these airline partners. This means a 100,000 point bonus could be converted into 100,000 miles with a variety of airlines.

But since it’s a double threat card, the points can be converted to cash back in a tap.

1 Cent Per Point Towards Travel

If you can’t find availability to redeem points through an airline or hotel program, you can always just pay for a flight or hotel and use your cash back to cover some, or all of the purchase.

The same way Capital One Venture Miles can be converted into airline miles, they can also be converted into cash with purchase eraser. The new 100,000 point bonus would represent $1000 towards travel and can be used all together, or bit by bit.

If you had a $3,000 Airbnb stay and wanted to make it a $2,000 purchase, you could use 100,000 points to erase $1000 off.

Read the full review of the Capital One Venture X.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card is fantastic for many of the same reasons as the Capital One Venture X, but the card carries a higher $550 annual fee, which requires a bit more work each year to justify keeping. With that said, it can be totally worth it!

Chase now offers 10X points earning for hotel and car rental purchases made at Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel, as well as 5X on flights. In that sense, the two cards are very similar. The card currently only offers a 50,000 point welcome, but that can change for the better, and often does!

1:1 Travel Transfer Partners

Chase also has an impressive stable of 1:1 transfer partners, where points can be converted into miles with a variety of top airlines, including Emirates, United, Virgin Atlantic and more.

They can also be converted into hotel points 1:1 with the World of Hyatt program, which is a significant win for cardholders to unlock great value.

Better Than 1 Cent Per Point On Travel & Mystery Categories

A key feature of the Chase Sapphire Reserve which makes up for other features where the Capital One Venture X clearly has a leg up, is that Chase offers better value toward cash back, when used on select categories.

With Capital One Venture X, you get 1 cent per point of value on travel, but with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get 1.5 cents per point of value.

This means 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points are worth $1,500 when used toward travel, rather than $1,000, like Capital One. Making matters even more unique, Chase rotates a variety of categories in, which also benefit from the higher cash back rate, often including dining or home improvements.

So yeah, if you had a $150 dinner, you could wipe it off your card account with 10,000 points when dining is part of the enhanced ‘Pay Yourself Back’ offers. Currently, Airbnb is too!

Double Threat Rewards Credit Cards: The Key To Pandemic Earn & Burn

People who said they’d never use Chase, Amex, Citi or Capital One Points for cash back before the pandemic, have since used points for cash back. Much has changed, and it always feels good to unlock fun things with points.

By earning with incredibly rewarding cards with the largest multipliers, you’re always getting a top return on your buck, but with these double threat cards you’re also able to use rewards to fit any evolving needs.

If you’re looking to stay on top of the points game during a pandemic, now you know.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. I am also liking the Chase Aeroplan card with the 1.25X pay for travel option up to 50,000 points a year. I am adding this card when I get below 5/24 for sure. With United ORD and EWR connections from IND for Star Alliance and two Air Canada connecting flights to Toronto per day using Air Canada to Europe (no positioning flights) and 25K benefits, preferred pricing, 25 eupgrades…it looks like my first keeper airline card.

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