How to Create a Travel Rewards Credit Card Strategy for Families How to Create a Travel Rewards Credit Card Strategy for Families

How to Create a Travel Rewards Credit Card Strategy for Families

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$200 hotel credit offered with The Platinum Card® from American Express applies to prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings made via Amex Travel. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.

The world of points and miles can seem daunting even if you’re just one or two travelers traveling together. Imagine the hurdles that families have to face when trying to figure out how to plan for family travel that involves four or more people. 

Thankfully, with proper planning and taking advantage of things like pooling points, families can enjoy the benefits of travel with points and miles too. Here’s how to create a travel rewards credit card strategy for families.

Overview of Travel Rewards Credit Card Strategy for Families

Due to simple mathematics, families need a lot more points than a solo traveler to make the same trip happen. While it's great that you can redeem 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly in Qatar Airways Qsuite from the U.S. to South Africa, a family of four would need 300,000 miles. And that's just one way.

silhouette of a family moving through an airport to go to their flight
Credit: Toni Perkins-Southam/AwardWallet

When it comes to hotel rooms, depending on the size of your family, you may need to book two rooms. And if you've got finer tastes, paying twice as much per night for two rooms can add up quickly at a Waldorf Astoria or Ritz-Carlton.

Earning and redeeming credit card travel rewards is the not-so-well-kept secret to turning your everyday spending into points that you can redeem for travel. Even if you don't earn enough to pay for an entire trip with points and miles, they're sure to alleviate some of the financial stressors of family vacations.

Related: Start Here for Collecting Points and Miles for Free Travel

The secret to a travel rewards credit card strategy for families is to work in two-player mode — when each adult in the family earns rewards in their own name and accounts — and take advantage of things like companion passes, transfer bonuses, and credit card sign-up bonuses.

Family Airline Credit Card Strategy

Airfare is often the largest expense for a family vacation, so let's start there.

It's important to choose an airline, loyalty program, and airline alliance that's most convenient for you and where you live. For example, the largest airport near my home is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is a hub of United Airlines. Other popular hub cities for major airlines include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for Delta Air Lines and Miami International Airport (MIA) for American Airlines. Southwest Airlines doesn't have traditional hubs at all.

Some airports are great for multiple airlines. SFO isn't an American Airlines hub, but it has a strong presence at that airport, making it another great option for flight redemptions.

In addition to choosing an airline to be loyal to, look at the other airlines within the same airline alliance. Do these airlines fly to destinations on your list? If they do, you can redeem miles with these airlines, as well.

Choose the one airline that you'll fly with most of the time — or at least that you plan on redeeming miles with — and start to earn miles within that program. Only one person needs to carry an airline credit card to earn the benefits listed in the table below. However, if miles are all you're after, it makes sense to earn sign-up bonuses when you can.

You can see current offers on airline credit cards and their benefits here.

American Airlines planes lined up at jet bridges at an airport

Best airline credit card perk for families

The best airline credit card perk for families, when available, is easily a companion pass. The Southwest Companion Pass is probably the most well-known, but Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Lufthansa all have companion fares or passes that you can earn in various ways.

Companion certificates offered by Delta and American are both tied to credit cards. Depending on which Delta co-branded card you hold, you'll get a companion certificate each year that you renew your card membership and pay the card's annual fee. With American, you can earn up to two companion certificates when you spend between $20,000 and $30,000 on select credit cards. Alaska Airlines also offers a companion fare to its cardholders, available automatically to business cardholders, though those with Alaska's personal credit card need to spend $6,000 on purchases to earn the companion fare.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Companion Fares & Companion Passes

No matter which airline you choose, a companion pass will go a long way to helping your family save money and points on flights.

Family Hotel Credit Card Strategy

Hotel loyalty programs continue to evolve, whether that be by offering more properties or expanding on or removing certain elite perks. Either way, no two loyalty programs are exactly alike.

The most popular hotel loyalty programs are Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt. Additional programs include Accor Live Limitless (ALL), Choice Privileges, Radisson Rewards, and Wyndham Rewards.

a large hotel bedroom with views beyond the patio to a pool and ocean
El Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Credit: Choice Hotels

Most people have a preference for which hotel chain they like to stay at. Marriott has the largest footprint globally, but, unfortunately, often requires a lot of points to redeem a free night. World of Hyatt has fewer properties but is a fan favorite, thanks to great redemption rates. And Hilton offers generous sign-up bonuses on its co-branded credit cards but sometimes requires a ton of points for a free night as well.

Additional programs may catch your attention if they have properties at your intended destination. Families should no doubt choose a hotel credit card offered by their favorite loyalty program — one that offers perks that are valuable to them. Perks can include automatic elite status — like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card — annual or monthly hotel and dining credits, and free night certificates.

Similar to airline credit cards, families won't need each adult to have the same card or a card that offers the same perks. Even if you've booked multiple rooms to accommodate your family, each room under your loyalty number will qualify for the same perks. That means only one parent will need to pursue elite status with a particular rewards program, so all of your family's stays should be booked in that person's name to attain status faster and enjoy the benefits it offers.

You can see current hotel credit card offers and benefits here.

Best hotel credit card perks

The best hotel credit card perk might be, hands-down, elite status. That's because elite status is traditionally only earned by staying at a particular hotel brand so many times a year — such as 50 or 60 nights. But with a credit card, you earn just by being a cardholder and paying an annual fee.

Related: All Hotel Elite Status Match & Fast Track Opportunities

Elite status perks vary by brand and status level, but you can expect things like space-available room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and more rewards earned on each (paid) stay, helping you earn points faster toward your next free stay.

A card that comes with annual travel credits like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card can also help families to save money when paying cash for their hotel stay. This card grants a $100 on-property credit when staying two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels, as well as up to $25 in monthly dining credits. Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

Family Transferrable Points Strategy

A mom, dad, and young child sit in front of their couch looking at a map. There is a suitcase open in front of them with a sun hat on top.
Image Credit: Nattakorn via Adobe Stock

A credit card that earns transferrable points is a must-have for any rewards traveler — but it's especially important in a credit card strategy for families. While airline and hotel credit cards offer select perks like a free checked bag or space-available room upgrades, transferrable points are easier to earn and go even further, thanks to valuable airline and hotel transfer partners.

And because transferrable points are so valuable, it almost always makes sense that two players would have a card that earns the same points. For example, one might hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the other the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, both of which earn Ultimate Rewards points. Chase doesn't allow one person to hold both of these cards, but two players could take advantage of the sign-up bonuses of each and can combine their points together for redemptions.

Non-premium travel credit cards

The most popular credit cards that earn transferrable currency each have a premium counterpart. The non-premium credit cards that offer transferrable points are as follows:

These cards have various transfer partners, such as Virgin Atlantic, World of Hyatt, and Southwest Airlines, as well as a lower annual fee than their premium counterparts. They're also great starter cards, because you can transfer points to partners for maximum value or use them to book travel directly through their respective travel portals.

Related: Practical Airline Award Sweet Spots for Families

Premium travel credit cards

On the other hand, you've got the premium versions of the credit cards listed above. Depending on the card, you'll gain access to exclusive hotel collections and resorts, lounge access, annual credits toward travel, elite status with other travel brands, and much more.

The trade-off is definitely a higher annual fee. For the cards listed below, the annual fee can range from $395 to $695.

Below is a table comparing the benefits of premium credit cards that offer transferrable rewards.

BenefitsThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressChase Sapphire Reserve®Citi Prestige® CardCapital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Annual Fee$695 (Rates & Fees)$550$495$395
Authorized User Fee$195 for each additional Platinum Card for Authorized Users (Rates & Fees)$75$75$0 for up to 4 authorized users
Weclome Offer80,000 Membership Rewards® points60,000 Ultimate Rewards pointsNot accepting new applicants75,000 Capital One miles
Travel Credit• $200 Airline incidental credit (with a pre-selected, preferred airline)
• $200 pre-paid hotel credit (The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay)
$300 Travel credit$250 Airline credit (includes airfare)$300 annual travel credit for bookings made with Capital One Travel
Category Bonus5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.comEarn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases• 5x points on air travel and at restaurants
• 3x points at hotels and on cruise line purchases
• 1x on all other purchases
• 2x miles per dollar on all eligible purchases
• 5x miles per dollar on flights when booking via Capital One Travel
• 10x miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars when booking via Capital One Travel
Priority Pass2 guests2 guests or immediate family2 guests or immediate familyUnlimited guests (subject to space limitations at each lounge)
Other Lounges• Centurion Lounges
• Delta SkyClub (when traveling same day on Delta)
• Select Lufthansa Lounges
• Airspace & Escape Lounges
• Plaza Premium Lounges
(Guest policy varies)
• Chase Sapphire Lounges
• Chase Sapphire Terrace
N/ACapital One Lounges
Elite StatusHilton Honors & Marriott Gold
• Avis Preferred®
• Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®
• National Emerald Club Executive
National Emerald Club Executive• National Emerald Club Executive
• Sixt Platinum
Hertz President's Circle (through December 31, 2024)
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit• Every 4 years for Global Entry, • Every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheckEvery 4 yearsEvery 5 yearsEvery 4 years
Trip Delay• 6 hours
• $500
• 6 hours
• $500
As of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit• 6 hours
• $500
Baggage DelayN/A6 hours
As of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit
Auto Rental CDWSecondary up to $75KPrimary up to $75KAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefitPrimary up to $75k
Additional Perks & Benefits• Up to $200 annual Uber Cash
• Up to $189 CLEAR Plus membership fee reimbursement
1.5¢ per point redemption through Chase Travel PortalFree night on hotel bookings of 4 nights booked through— up to twice per year.• Access to Capital One Premier Collection of luxury hotels with perks including free breakfast and resort credits.
• Use miles at 1¢ apiece to offset recent travel purchases made with your card.

A Note on Annual Fees

Annual fees can be a hindrance for some when deciding which credit card to get. But the perks offered by many cards far exceed the dollar amount paid in the annual fee — both literally and metaphorically.

For example, the Amex Platinum is one of those cards that everyone seems to want, but the $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees) understandably stops most people in their tracks. However, benefits to this particular card include a $200 hotel credit, $200 airline fee credit, $200 in Uber Cash, and $240 digital entertainment credit. These annual benefits vary in form (most are statement credits, while the Uber Cash goes straight to your Uber account) are worth more than the card's annual fee if you can get full value from them. The card has other valuable benefits that, when used, can make the annual fee more than worth it. Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

So don't be afraid of annual fees on credits. They can make all the difference in the quality of your family vacation because of the perks that the cards they're attached to exclusively offer. Just make sure to do the math, based on your family's situation and travel goals.

Final Thoughts

Credit card strategies for families are complex, to say the least. Luckily, there are many ways to piece one together so families can earn the points they need to make their vacations possible. Hopefully, the information above will make it a bit easier to decide on a credit card strategy for your family.

Related: How to Plan a Long-Term Credit Card Strategy

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

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