Table of Contents:
1. Check your insurance policies.
Some travel insurance and renters insurance policies cover “Acts of God” or natural disasters that prevent you from traveling. While you may have to hunt for it, it’s possible that your insurance policy will allow you to get compensated for the loss of your miles if you can’t transfer them into cash because of Covid-19-related travel restrictions.
2. Check the fine print on your credit card’s policy.
There may be a hidden benefit tucked away in the legalese of your credit card’s policy even if it seems like you can’t convert those rewards to cash or credit. Most credit cards will have a company approach to refunds that is fairly standard, but they will also have a policy–often not that well-known or easy to find–regarding global catastrophic events that make normal business operations impossible. That’s where you may find a little wiggle room to negotiate a better deal. Look for language like “at the company’s discretion” if you find an “Act of God” policy and get ready to put your case forward to customer service. Check out our list of credit cards with great travel insurance policies.
3. Find out the official airline policy before you get on the phone.
There’s a great master list of airline travel cancellation policies published by the folks at Forbes. You can look up the airline that you were planning to travel on to get a good idea of how they will approach refunds or miles conversion. Then head to your airline’s official website and look for updates. When you’re ready, call customer service and ask for help. Airlines still need to win a PR battle as consumers and even congress demand more flexibility in rewards transfers.
4. Find out if your current credit card already has you covered.
A number of credit cards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred® , the Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige® Credit Card offer rewards that you can use to pay off your credit card bills or transfer to gift cards to use to shop at Amazon or Walmart. Don’t hesitate to call your credit card’s support line to determine exactly how you can use your rewards and if there are special exceptions for customers impacted by the pandemic. Look up your bank or card issuer’s specific agreement here.
5. Become a Rewards Cash Out Ninja in 3 Easy Steps
Know your objectives before you negotiate.
If you are negotiating with the goal of getting extra cash to stock up on essentials, don’t get sidetracked by an offer of a deep discount on future travel. Set a floor for what you will accept (like a gift card for an online store that you use frequently) and call back later if you aren’t satisfied.
Give the company time to come up with a solution.
Pandemic or no, companies care about keeping consumers happy about their customer service experiences. One unhappy customer can drown out the praise of 10 happy ones on social media, so brands really, really want you to hang up from support calls pleased. Help them out by letting them get back to you. That takes the pressure off the front line customer service rep and allows management to work on fulfilling your request creatively.
Become fluent in your rights, responsibilities, and options as a consumer.
As boring as it is initially (even I’ll admit that!), learning what your rights are as a consumer can be fun. It saves you time when taking with a customer service rep, since you’ll always know what you can and cannot ask for (even if they try to discourage you). You’ll know that if you encounter a situation where you really are being taken advantage of by a company (or just a somewhat lazy rep who doesn’t want to hear you out) you’ll know how to escalate your complaint without losing your temper (for example, asking to speak with an ombudsman). Start with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s consumer rights FAQ for travelers and with USA.gov for your options as a credit card customer.
Ready to learn more? Check out our list of the best cash-back credit cards.