Is the Promise of No Blackout Dates Such a Great Deal?

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Blackout Dates

When it comes to choosing a travel rewards credit card, a feature you’re often recommended to look for is a guarantee of no blackout dates. Not so very long ago, travel credit card providers offering such a deal were few and far between. Fast forward to today, and the vast majority of credit card issuers seem to be willing to follow suit. Is it just a case of keeping up with the competition? Is the promise of no blackout dates as good as it seems?

With this quick and simple guide, we’ll answer both of these questions and a few more. But first, for those who’ve never heard of blackout dates, let’s explain what they are.

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Blackout Dates – Not as Sinister as They Sound

Blackout dates are only something you need to worry about if you’ve got a travel rewards credit card. Bear the following in mind if you find yourself booking flights or accommodations over a holiday weekend or during the busy travel months. It might be for your annual vacation or monthly business trips. You’ll find there may be dates when you can’t take advantage of any travel rewards, discounts, or membership promotions. This range of dates is known as blackout dates. 

Blackout dates tend to be times when flights and hotels are in high demand. It’s also the time, coincidentally, when companies raise their prices. Rewards and discounts are generally offered by airlines to entice consumers away from their competitors. They don’t need to do this during busy times of the year. Travel plans made during holiday weekends and the peak season are a regular occurrence. The reason is often a necessity rather than a choice. 

Common Blackout Dates

The winter season is full of blackout dates. These dates tend to start around the day Thanksgiving falls in the calendar and run right through until the week after New Years Day. Between these dates, people are traveling to visit friends and family in various locations. They might be staying for just a few hours, the weekend, or longer.   

Summer also has a selection of blackout dates for various destinations. The Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day are just a few examples. If you want to make a special trip to the UK and stay in the Legoland Castle Hotel, for example, there will be limited availability at these times. Having a season pass is all well and good, but not if you can’t take advantage of it. 

Blackout dates can affect other aspects of your travel schedule, as well. You might find a reduction in the amount of checked bags you can take with you. Airlines often refuse to allow a second carry-on bag to conserve space. If you usually take food and beverages with you when you travel, on blackout dates, you might be forced to eat at the airport.  

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Blackout Dates

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Cheap Travel is Possible, Even on Blackout Dates

The reasoning behind blackout dates is solid. These dates are the busiest times of the year, and it’s only fair everyone has the same chance of traveling to their chosen destination. The spiked prices are a little bit harder to justify, but it’s possible to get around them, nevertheless. 

If you’re able to be flexible with your travel dates, it’s much easier to find cheaper travel. Take the days of the week, for example. Flying mid-week is much less expensive than flying on Saturday and Sunday. The reason for this difference in the purchased price is simple. Fewer people choose to fly during the week, so prices are lower. You could save as much as $100 on your flight, lodge, or hotel booking.

Joining an airline or hotel rewards program is another excellent way to save money. Getting a travel rewards credit card works equally well. However, be sure to check the provider or issuer is offering “no blackout dates, guaranteed.”

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You May Still be Disappointed, Even with Guaranteed No Blackout Dates

The promise of no blackout dates doesn’t mean the same as unlimited availability. The two terms are not interchangeable because airlines and hotels can introduce restrictions in other ways. 

Let’s use airlines as an example. It’s usual for airlines to only reserve a specific number of award seats available on each flight. Seats already allocated to other rewards members are unavailable for you to purchase. If you’re adamant you want to book a seat on the plane, your only other options are to pay cash for your tickets or offer up more of your points.

The availability of affordable award seats varies from one airline to another. For example, with American Airlines, it’s only 67.1%. With Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, it’s 100%. 

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Blackout Dates

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Getting Around the Problem of Limited Availability

While limited availability makes things difficult for would-be travelers, there are other options.

  • Look for a rewards program with more flexibility – there are plenty of rewards credit cards from which to choose. If you’d prefer not to be stuck with the worry of limited availability, look for a card provider that gives you travel statement credits. You recover your charge when you get your bill. You might also want to look out for a rewards card with some great perks. For example, event and resort passes, cancellation policies, no deposit offers, rental ride discounts, and much more may be available.     
  • Transfer your rewards – transfer your rewards, and you might be able to access more seats by booking with a partner airline. Visit an airline’s website, and you’ll see a list of the partners.
  • Be patient – don’t feel pressured into making a booking. If you can’t find the seats you want when you first start looking, wait a few hours or check back another day.  

Have you ever been disappointed with a rewards program with no blackout dates? Has your travel rewards experience been a good one? Did you receive the benefits you were promised? Let us know by sharing your comments below. 

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