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Americans Miss Out on $22 Billion in Free Travel Each Year

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Our motto at Thrifty Traveler is simple: “Spend Less. Do More.” That’s why we post flight deals to help you save hundreds or more on airfare, be it a short hop in the United States or a trip across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. It's also why we recommend using travel rewards credit cards to see even more of the world for free.

So just how much are Americans leaving on the table by not using a travel rewards credit card? $22 billion a year.


Studying Credit Card Spending

NerdWallet analyzed nine major rewards credit cards and crunched the numbers on the average amount of spending each American puts on a credit card each year. It found that American consumers lost out on a total of $22 billion in free travel by not using travel rewards credit cards for their typical spending. That works out to $227 a person a year. For many Americans, that’s a free round trip domestic ticket.

But even that figure doesn’t come close to showing the true value of travel rewards cards. NerdWallet found that the average value in year one of a rewards credit card, including the big signup bonuses you get from hitting a minimum spend requirement, was $901 in travel.

Considering many of the best credit cards offer 50,000 miles or points as a welcome bonus, that’s a lot of value that Americans are missing out on.

Thrifty Tip: Need help finding a travel rewards credit card? See our post on the Best Credit Card Offers Currently Available


Survey Says

NerdWallet also surveyed 2,000 American adults and found that more than half felt they didn’t travel enough to justify opening a travel rewards credit card. That’s backwards. The average traveler could travel more with smart use of a rewards credit card.

Unfortunately, there’s still a mystery surrounding miles and points for the average consumer. It’s confusing and complex, at times purposefully so. That’s clearly created a perception that miles and points are only for the jet setting crowd, and not worth the trouble for the average traveler.

That’s what we at Thrifty Traveler hope to dispel. Whether you take one flight a year or one a week, a good credit card strategy can help enhance your travels. That may mean taking more trips with the points you’ve earned, or it could help put you in first or business class for a flight already on your radar.

While 35 percent of Americans were wisely concerned about accumulating more debt, you don’t have to break the bank. If you plan wisely and start slow with travel rewards credit cards, you can reap the benefits of free travel while not spending beyond your current, daily habits.


Bottom Line

For those of us steeped in the world of miles and points, the value of travel rewards credit cards is obvious, even life-changing. For many Americans, that’s still clearly not the case. However, $22 billion in free travel, sitting unused, is undeniable. Our goal at Thrifty Traveler is to help more and more of you take a slice of what could be yours and see the world.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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