The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the travel industry, both in the U.S. and internationally. According to the Transportation Security Administration, airport traffic from April through August in 2020 was roughly 18% of what it was during the same period a year ago. With more consumers staying home, some travel credit card issuers have added new benefits or repurposed existing perks to provide more value and, they hope, keep cardholders from canceling their accounts.

Key Takeaways

  • The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on travel—and travel spending.
  • As a result, many travel credit card issuers are offering new or enhanced perks to reflect how cardholders are spending their money now.
  • These changes can benefit people whose spending has shifted from travel to other categories, including groceries, dining, and streaming services.

How Credit Card Issuers Have Enhanced Their Perks

From extra rewards to flexible redemptions and statement credits, many of the top credit card issuers are providing significant additional value to cardholders who have been staying home during the pandemic and spending more in certain non-travel categories. Here is a rundown of major issuers and how their rewards programs have changed.

American Express

  • All U.S. consumer cardholders can receive a complimentary one-year Calm Premium app subscription if they don’t already have one.
  • Platinum Card from American Express holders can get up to $20 per month in statement credits for qualifying streaming and telephone wireless purchases from May through December 2020—up to $320 in total. Plus, they can get a $100 statement credit on Dell purchases when spending $100 or more by Jan. 31, 2021.
  • Business Platinum Card from American Express holders can get up to $20 per month in statement credits for qualifying streaming and telephone wireless purchases from May through December 2020—up to $320 total. Also, they can receive up to $200 in additional statement credits toward Dell purchases, for a total of $400 for the year.
  • American Express Green Card holders can receive up to $10 per month in statement credits for qualifying wireless telephone purchases from May through December 2020—up to $80 total. 
  • New cardholders who opened an account between December 2019 and May 2020 also received an additional three months to meet the one-time bonus spending requirement.

Bank of America

Capital One

Chase

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will earn 3 points per dollar on up to $3,000 in Instacart purchases (plus $50 in credits toward an Instacart membership), 3 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in gas purchases, and 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 spent on select streaming services through September 2020. Cardholders can also get cash back for grocery, dining and home improvement store purchases at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will earn 5 points per dollar on up to $3,000 in Instacart purchases (plus $50 in credits toward an Instacart membership), 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in gas purchases, and 10 points per dollar on up to $1,500 spent on select streaming services through September 2020. Cardholders can also count gas and grocery purchases toward their $300 annual travel credit and get cash back for grocery, dining, and home improvement store purchases at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.
  • Marriott Bonvoy cardholders earn 6 points per dollar on up to $3,500 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants through Sept. 15, 2020. Cardholders must register to take advantage of the benefit.

Citi

  • New cardholders who opened an account between December 2019 and May 2020 received an additional three months to meet one-time bonus spending requirements.
  • Cardholders with ThankYou Rewards points can use them to get cash back or to make their minimum payment through Nov. 11, 2020.
  • Citi Prestige cardholders can count supermarket and restaurant purchases toward their $250 annual travel statement credit benefit. 

Discover

  • Discover it Miles cardholders will permanently be able to redeem their miles as a statement credit toward restaurant and gas purchases.

U.S. Bank

  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card holders will earn 3 points per dollar on takeout, food delivery, and dining purchases through December 2020. They can also count dining, takeout, and food delivery purchases toward their $325 annual travel credit through December 2020.

The Bottom Line

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the biggest credit card issuers have stepped up to provide enhanced benefits based on the current spending habits of their customers. If you already have one of the cards listed above, make sure you’re taking advantage of the extra perks that have become available.

If not, you may still have time with some cards to apply and enjoy the new benefits. Bear in mind, however, that many of these cards charge annual fees, and if you can’t manage to make up for the fee through rewards and benefits, it may not be worth it.