Cards, points and miles: how to optimize resources to travel abroad

Few things are as exciting as planning a vacation. And, when the pockets are thin, all the strategies to get closer to the objective add up. Credit cards and bank benefit programs and digital wallets in alliance with airlines, travel companies or tourist reservation platforms have traditionally been good allies. Reformulated and with some logistical changes, these programs are still in force, and exert a powerful force of attraction among users.

The possibility of paying in installments is definitely one of the benefits most sought after and valued by customers. Of course, given the foreign exchange restrictions, this alternative was enabled only for tourism within the country (it is widely used) and the programs of miles, points and benefits that can be exchanged for air tickets, remained the only alternative so that traveling abroad make it more accessible. They are also the passport to hotel nights, excursions or “free” car rental days both within Argentina and abroad and the gateway to a VIP experience for international passengers.

“Before transforming our benefits program and launching BBVA Points, we conducted several surveys where the results confirmed that The first thing that a client values ​​in a benefits program is the possibility of traveling and to live unique experiences”, says Sebastián Arilla, Manager of Payment Methods at BBVA in Argentina.

Gabriela Balestrieri, Marketing Manager of Santander Argentina, assures in this sense that “the demand for travel benefits does not exceed that of mass consumption such as supermarkets, fuel, pharmacies and others, but it still represents something aspirational and are highly valued by customers.”

The data is quite eloquent regarding the place that tourism occupies among Argentine consumers: according to the index released by Prisma -one of the leading companies in payment method management- Consumption made with credit cards linked to travel, airlines and tourism grew almost 15% in the second quarter of the year compared to the first and 97% compared to the same quarter of 2021, when the restrictions due to the pandemic kept tourists indoors.

Financial entities seek, precisely, to capture this need and conquer the client (or potential) willing to travel. “BBVA Points (which replaced the alliance that the bank had with Latam) is the benefit program that rewards customers by taking them on a trip around the country and the world hand in hand with Despegar and is for all types of customers, young , couples, entire families, even companies”, explains Arilla.

The accumulated miles or points are a hitchhike to the goal and, obviously, the more you spend with the cards in question, the more it adds up. In retaining that customer is the profit of the banks. In being able to pay for part of a trip through expenses that would be made anyway, the advantage of the users.

The possibility of paying in installments is definitely one of the benefits most sought after and valued by customers.Shutterstock-Shutterstock

Indispensable for this strategy to be effective: be extremely orderly and not accumulate unpaid balances. Because, in that case, the interest that the cards will charge for that credit will cancel out any economic advantage that can be obtained.

Another shortcut to get closer to the boarding gate: study which of the cards or banks would give us the benefits we are looking for. With time you can change the entity, and even request a transfer of salary account. Put all the automatic debits and the largest consumptions there. Points or miles are not achieved overnight: planning is essential to success.

Not all entities target the same public, nor do they all have the same amount of benefits for tourism. The key, as users is calculate so that the benefits outweigh the cost that these financial product packages could have and so that the miles or points accumulate as quickly as possible.

Also be alert to offers which are usually launched by the same entities to buy more miles with discounts -or during special days such as Hot Sale, Travel Sale, Black Friday, etc- and thus approach the necessary number in stages. There are no quotas, but there is always searching among Argentines.

Travelers find in BBVA, Galicia and Santander banks their main allies when it comes to planning, according to a survey carried out by the specialized site InfoViajera. These three entities, which together take more than 50% of the votes of the users, are followed by the financial technology such as Ualá or Brubank, Banco Nación, HSBC, ICBC, Banco Macro and Banco Provincia. Travelers also say they frequently use cards from crypto platforms such as LemonCash and Buenbit.

“Through the SuperClub+ program, the customer accumulates points that can then be exchanged for miles on Aerolineas Plus, Latam Pass or Smiles to travel around Argentina or abroad, combining points and pesos with bank cards to purchase tourist services with special rates. and profits in Despegar and Almundo”, details Balestrieri, from Santander. The SuperClub+ program is free and available to all clients (individuals) of the bank and to add more you have to meet challenges such as crediting salary, hiring insurance or making payments with debit or credit.

Alexander Cohen, Loyalty and Benefits Manager At Itaú, he lists the benefits that accrue on iupp, the rewards platform of the entity of Brazilian origin. “iupp points can be used to contract tourist services such as flights, hotels, car rentals, land tourism and recreational activities that can be paid in full with the available points or combined with pesos using the means of payment with the that count: credit cards / debit cards”. One piece of information: fees and taxes (in the case of air tickets, for example) can also be paid by exchanging points.

In the case of BBVA, Arilla breaks it down, both regular and additional add points. “For every dollar or its equivalent in pesos, they add one point (1 dollar = 1 point). Premium clients have an extra 5% accumulation and Premium World clients have an extra 15%.

The financial technology nor are they outside the field of benefits in tourism. Ualá customers add points to the Ualá+ program, which they can exchange for packs of 500, 1,000 and up to 20,000 AAdvantage miles (from American Airlines) to use on future trips. “On the other hand – they say in the entity – we recently added the alliance with Smiles that allows you to exchange 38,000 points for 1,500 miles to choose to fly with more than 35 airlines.”

Additional advantages to the exchange of tickets, hotels or excursions, are the possibility of having high-end experiences. In that sense, banks often offer their customers more premium cards black Y platinum – access to VIP lounges in airports, parking stays free of charge, or make migrations in a preferential line. All or some of them, that depends on the card and the entity that issues it.

    Banks often offer their most premium customers -with black and platinum cards- access to VIP lounges at airports, parking stays free of charge, or migrations in a preferential line.
Banks often offer their most premium customers -with black and platinum cards- access to VIP lounges at airports, parking stays free of charge, or migrations in a preferential line. Shutterstock

For example, Santander American Express customers have access to the service streamlining immigration procedures, parking and VIP lounge at airports and with Visa Airport Companion (effective 10/1) and Mastercard Airport Experiences lounge access at airports worldwide. BBVA’s Premium Worlds have two passes per year to VIP lounges for each card and free medical assistance if the tickets were purchased with the bank’s cards.

When tourism is cabotage, the programs and benefits also add up, and a lot. Here the quotas make a big difference. In Banco Provincia they give their clients up to 20% discount in selected hotels and 6 installments without interest; in bus tickets the discount is 10% and 9 installments are interest. “It is valid for both Visa and Master cards and does not have a refund limit,” they provide in the provincial entity.

Digital wallets like Ualá also say present: 20% discount with Flybondi to fly within Argentina, without limit, on flights dated until December 31 (purchases must be made before September 30). Also, they say in the financial technology commanded by Pierpaolo Barbieri, customers have a 5% refund -unlimited- in Booking, and 11% in rental cars in Rentalcars

At BBVA, “very attractive proposals are put together throughout the country,” says Arilla, noting that the main focus is on strong discounts in restaurants and entertainment such as shows, theaters, cinemas, as well as seasonal activities such as skiing in winter and the resorts on the beach in summer”.

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