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Can You Still Earn Credit Card Rewards When You're Not Traveling?

With the current challenges of travel stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, travel rewards credit cards may have lost some appeal. The good news, if you're spending money, there's still an opportunity to earn rewards on your credit card spending.

Check your credit card's current bonus categories.

Several travel rewards credit cards have expanded their higher-earning rewards categories to appeal to the shift away from travel spending. This means you may be able to keep your favorite credit card and still earn a decent amount of rewards. Here's how some of the most popular travel credit cards have adjusted their rewards programs.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: More points on groceries

Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering two points per dollar on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Plus, cardholders also earn two points per dollar spent on dining, which includes eligible delivery services, and takeout.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Gas and groceries can get a statement credit, more points on groceries

From June 30, 2020 through June 30, 2021, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive an automatic statement credit on gas and grocery store (and travel) purchases up to $300. In addition, grocery store purchases made between November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 will earn three points per dollar.

Citi Premier: More points on restaurants, supermarkets, and gas
Citi Premier is offering three points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets, and gas purchases, in addition to three points per dollar on travel.

Capital One travel credit cards: More points on food delivery with UberEats
Now through January 31, 2021, the Capital One Venture and VentureOne are offering five points per dollar on UberEats food delivery purchases.

Look for versatile redemption options.

Miles and points don't always have to be redeemed for travel. Most credit cards give a variety of redemption options, including statement credit, gift cards, and merchandise. A few credit cards allow cardholders to redeem rewards at checkout with certain retailers. And Chase's new Pay Yourself Back feature allows cardholders to redeem rewards at a higher redemption rate for a statement credit on certain categories of purchases.

You don't necessarily have to redeem your rewards right away. If you're loyal to your travel rewards credit card, you may be able to stack points for a later date, particularly if your rewards won't expire. You can continue adding to your stockpile until you feel comfortable traveling again and use your rewards to cover all or part of your itinerary.

Consider changing credit cards.

Major credit card issuers have a variety of credit card offerings to choose from. If your current credit card isn't working for you, ask your credit card issuer about the possibility of switching to another credit card while keeping any rewards you've already accumulated. Credit card issuers, motivated to keep you as a customer, may be willing to switch your account to a credit card that works better for you. Switching within your credit card issuer's product lineup has perks over opening up a new credit card because you get to keep your account history and credit limit.

If you're shopping around, choose a flexible rewards credit card.

Co-branded travel credit cards, those affiliated with an airline or hotel chain, are the least versatile since branded purchases are the highest-earning rewards categories. If you have one of these, consider switching or adding a more flexible rewards credit card to your wallet, at least until travel picks up again.

If you ultimately settle on getting a new credit card, look for one with a flexible rewards program. Flat-rate cash back rewards are among the most versatile and work with any spending habits. Credit cards with rotating rewards categories are a nice option since categories often revolve around seasonal spending. Applying for a new credit card has the added likely benefit of allowing you to earn the sign-up bonus. Many issuers grant you the sign-up bonus as long as you haven't opened or closed a credit card with that same card issuer within the last two years.

A word of caution.

Be careful about overspending to max out your rewards or opening too many credit cards as high credit card balances or too many recent applications can impact your FICO® Scores. Keep your spending within what you can afford and minimize new applications for credit manage the impact to your FICO Score.

LaToya Irby

LaToya Irby is a financial writer with over 14 years of experience. She's been quoted and published as a credit expert in several major publications including USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, TheBalance.com, and The Chicago Tribune.