Americans Time Off, Millennials, and Rewards Travel Credit Cards

As I listened to the morning show on my way to work last week, the radio show hosts discussed a report that was recently released regarding how U.S. citizens receive significantly less vacation time than any other developed country; as it stands right now, the average American receives two paid vacation weeks a year (a majority of this time taken during the winter holidays), whereas workers in some European countries, such as France, receive up to five weeks paid vacation a year (just think of how clean your house would be and how much more you would get along with your significant other if you have more time off!)

U.S. News came out with the Best Travel Credit Cards of 2017 in June; the survey involved 1,278 credit card holders and asked about the benefits and drawbacks of owning a travel rewards credit card; there are three categories of these cards: airline, hotel, and general (I myself use a general travel rewards card, which allows me to use my points in a variety of ways). U.S News concluded that more than half of travel credit card holders do not take advantage of their rewards. I believe part of this certainly has to do with how little time off the average American receives; if the majority of my vacation time comes from traveling to see family during the winter holidays, then that leaves me very little time during the remainder of the year to go on a real vacation. And, if you are my age and all of your friends are getting married, the rest of that vacation time is saved for bachelorette parties/bridal showers/attending weddings.

As Millennials, we get a really bad rap from the older generations, because they perceive our work ethic as sub par; I’ve heard many mention how, “Millennials want to make as much money as possible, and work the fewest hours”, “Millennials are always asking to work from home, gravitate towards offices that have “cool features”, such as flex spaces, kitchens, and ping pong tables”, “Millennials jump from company to company, ruining the longevity of the term ‘career'”.  But, I think part of this is because, as kids, we grew up, watching our parents be work-a-holics–they were constantly stressed, always bribing us with material items and ice cream to absolve their guilt of never being around, and carried a slew of health problems from never being able to exercise regularly or eat appropriately because they were just working all of the time. So, instead, we see our lives and our identities as extending past our jobs. Unlike Don Draper in Mad Men, we see that our existences include much more than just ‘work’, we don’t want to end up like our parents, so the things we do outside of ‘work’ become more valuable and sought after.

Of course, being a teacher, the question of making more money or having more vacation was an easy one for me to answer: I’d much more prefer to make less money and have more time off; if I am always working, then I can afford a really nice house and a really nice car, but I never have the opportunity to enjoy those things. Sometimes, when I am sitting on an airplane, I do wonder how many of these people actually paid full price for their tickets; nowadays, there are so many ways we can pay for travel, via vouchers, work expenses, rewards points. According to the U.S. News study, I would definitely sit in the minority of people who do, in fact, utilize their travel credit cards; in fact, I’ve paid for entire trips based on my travel rewards. I figure, if I am going to spend the money on gas, or on groceries, or on books, I might as well put it on my credit card to redeem for a vacation later on. Of course, one of the drawbacks is that you book your travel through a travel agency, so having to refund your trip (like I did to Atlanta last year when the hurricane came through) can be a little challenging. The fees and restrictions are often higher, but like the report suggested, the majority of people who have travel rewards credit cards are generally responsible spenders.

So, for my next vacation, I’m thinking a trip to the Alps in the winter sounds pretty enticing…

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