blackout datesIf you’ve seen any commercials or advertisements for a travel rewards credit card, you’ve likely heard the term “blackout dates” before, but do you know what they are and why it’s best to avoid them? We’re explaining exactly what you need to know about blackout dates and how you can get the most of your travel card’s miles or points. We’ve also listed some of our favorite credit cards that have no blackout dates for travel, making it easier for you to find the right card for your needs.

Defining blackout dates

Blackout dates are time periods when travel deals, reward redemption and promotions aren’t available. These dates usually fall on holidays or other peak travel periods. For example, an airline might not let you use rewards points to purchase flights around Thanksgiving or Christmas. As you can see, blackout dates can limit how you use your rewards, which is why we recommend that you opt for a travel credit card with no blackout dates. That way, you’ll be able to redeem your miles or points for free or discounted flights and hotel stays whenever you like.

How to get the most of your travel rewards

Even if you pick a card with no blackout dates, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind so you can get the most of your travel rewards.

Know when to book

Besides blackout dates, there are factors to keep in mind. For one, flight and hotel values fluctuate throughout the year. Even without blackout dates, you are likely to find that hotel and flight prices are higher during peak periods. That’s why you may want to use your miles or points during less popular periods or for less common flight routes.

Be aware of seat availability

Another factor to consider when using rewards is seat availability. Even if there are no blackout dates, airlines may limit how many seats on a given flight are available for purchase through rewards. They may also spread these seats across different classes — first class, business and economy. This means even though you can book a ticket on whatever date you please, limited seat availability could make it harder for you to use your rewards during peak times — there might not be enough seats to go around. It can also make using your rewards more expensive. For example, you may be looking for economy seats. However, if first class is all that’s available, you’ll end up spending more than you intended.

Best travel credit cards with no blackout dates

If you are looking at a credit card with rewards that are specific to one airline, you may want to consider which airlines are known for high seat availability. Alternatively, you could choose a flexible travel credit card — that is, a card with rewards that can be used with various airlines and hotels, allowing you to book travel however and whenever you’d like. For some of our favorite flexible travel credit cards with no blackout dates, read on.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

blackout datesFor a travel credit card that has it all — and no blackout dates — look no further! The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a hefty 50,000-mile bonus to cardholders who spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. That bonus is worth $500 in travel! The card also earns a steady rewards rate of 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. You’ll earn even more miles — 10 miles per $1 spent — if you book through Hotels.com/Venture (this offer expires Jan. 31, 2020). You can redeem your miles in one of two ways. The first way is to book your travel however you’d like using your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to pay for your travel plans, then use your miles as a statement credit to cover part or all of that purchase. The second way is to book your travel directly through the Capital One Rewards Center. Starting in December 2018, Capital One Venture Rewards credit card holders can also transfer their miles to at least a dozen partner airlines at a 2 to 1.5 ratio, meaning 2 Venture miles are equal to 1.5 partner miles — that’s not a bad deal.

Other valuable features of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card include up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every 4 years, Visa Signature benefits, no foreign transaction fees and a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. Since many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees of 3% to 5% on every purchase outside of the U.S., paying no foreign transaction fees can save the world traveler a lot of money!

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

blackout datesWant an even bigger bonus? Take a look at the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. For a limited time, you’ll earn a massive 70,000-mile bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first 90 days as a cardholder. That’s worth $700 in travel! You’ll also build up miles quickly, earning 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. You’ll even earn miles when you spend them! Every time you redeem your miles — again, with no blackout dates! — you’ll get 5% back as miles you can use for your next redemption. That means if you redeem 10,000 miles for travel, you’ll have 500 miles credited to your rewards bank.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard also includes an intro balance transfer APR, an unusual feature for a travel credit card. Make a balance transfer within the first 45 days of opening your account and you’ll pay 0% balance transfer APR on the balance for 12 billing cycles. You would also need to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater, but this one-time fee may be worth it when it’s compared to how much interest you’re paying on your current credit card. That said, if a balance transfer is your primary goal, our free Balance Transfer Calculator can help you find the perfect card for you. Finally, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard waives its $89 annual fee for the first year, charges no foreign transaction fees and offers World Elite Mastercard benefits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

blackout datesAs a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card holder, you’ll benefit from extremely flexible travel redemption. That’s because you’re able to transfer points for equal value to a variety of airline partners and hotel partners, with no blackout dates. This means 5,000 Chase Sapphire Preferred points are equal to 5,000 partner points. Some of Chase’s airline partners include JetBlue TrueBlue, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and United MileagePlus, while its hotel partners include IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, World of Hyatt and more. In terms of ongoing rewards, you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining at restaurants as well as 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll earn an intro bonus of 50,000 points — worth $500 in cash — after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

To get the most bang for your buck, redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards for 25% more value. For example, if you redeem the 50,000-point bonus through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll earn $625 toward travel. Cardholders also benefit from a variety of travel protections, such as auto rental collision damage waivers, trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance and Visa Signature benefits. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card charges a $95 annual fee, but the fee is waived for the first year and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Next stop …

Knowing about blackout dates is a great step toward determining which travel credit card is right for you. For more great travel credit card options, check out our travel rewards credit cards reviews. Or, for an in-depth comparison of the points value of different travel credit cards, read through our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.