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During quarantine, it’s easy to feel down about being stuck indoors. But being inside may actually give you the best opportunity to save up for the next vacation through travel credit cards.

With 18 active credit card accounts, I’ve earned and spent millions of points and miles for the past 25 years. Just this March, I took my family of five plus a friend on a two week trip to Israel and South Africa. All the flights and hotels were paid for with credit card rewards.

You won’t be shocked to learn that this crisis is affecting the credit card industry unlike any other in my lifetime, including the 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession. But you’ll probably be surprised to hear that I’m not changing my credit card strategy.

Stick with travel cards, and they’ll stick with you

As you might imagine, I actively manage my credit cards and am always tweaking my family’s reward card strategy, which is focused on earning the most valuable travel rewards. But ever since the reality of the current crisis set in, I haven’t changed a thing.

That’s because I believe earning travel rewards is a long-term strategy, and this crisis won’t last forever. For newcomers to regulars, here’s how you can take advantage of the pandemic with travel cards:

1. Find the right travel credit card

Whether you’ve used travel credit cards before or not, your best shot is finding cards that offer both a generous welcome bonus and long-term value for your spending. Once you’ve used your cards to earn enough travel rewards points and miles, only then will you start looking for the most valuable way to redeem them for travel reservations. Compare travel reward cards »

2. Look ahead

The best award travel deals are usually booked many months in advance. Many airlines release their best award seats when their schedules open about 11 months before each flight, and to book a free night’s stay at a hotel during peak seasons, you might need to redeem your points over a year before the trip. ;

That means that the points and miles that I’m earning today will likely be redeemed for a trip that I’ll take in mid to late 2021, when we all hope that travel will have resumed to a large extent. Better yet, all of the airline and hotel programs that I’m loyal to have reacted to the coronavirus crisis by extending expiration dates of their points, miles and award certificates. Most have even extended member’s elite status, some by up to one year.

3. Mind your annual fees

With all these travel rewards credit cards, I spend a lot on annual fees. But when I’m not using many of these card’s travel benefits, it could be tempting to cancel these cards to avoid these fees.

But there could be another way. When that time comes, I’ll first call the card issuer and ask them to waive the fee, which has often worked even before the current crisis. But if the answer is no, and I don’t want to pay for travel perks that I can’t use, then I’ll consider downgrading the card to a no-fee version.

This little-known trick is a great way to avoid annual fees while keeping your account open and in good standing. And when you resume traveling, you should be able to upgrade the card back to the premium version when it makes sense to do so.

Talk to a debt relief specialist to find the best way to pay off credit card debt.

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About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

I'm one of the country's leading experts on credit cards and have been regularly syndicated by mainstream outlets such as MSN Money and Yahoo! Finance. I live in Denver, Colorado with my wife and two daughters, and we love to travel. We often fly first-class, not because I'm rich, but because I know how to acquire credit card miles in the most efficient way. Keep reading, and I'll teach you, too.

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