Do I Need a Vaccine Passport to Book Travel?
Dear redemption: I really want to use my reward points to travel internationally soon. Is it true that I have to have a vaccination passport to book my flights? —Kellee
It’s great that you plan to use your credit card reward points to book international trips soon – and your question about vaccination passports is very timely.
It is true that vaccine passports are likely to play a crucial role in the future of international travel – but you do not need to have a vaccine passport right now to book a flight for future international travel.
As more and more people around the world are vaccinated every day, we are once again seeing COVID travel restrictions change. While some airlines may require a special vaccine passport in the near future, vaccine proof is currently gaining in popularity as an alternative to long and expensive quarantines and even some testing requirements.
For reward travelers like us, this proof of vaccine selection translates into more destinations where we could possibly use our quarantine points to visit – without quarantine – sooner rather than later. This is not good news!
What is a vaccine passport?
The vaccine passport is essentially a digital document confirming that you have been vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Just as you need to have your real passport to prove your identity when traveling internationally, a vaccine passport proves the status and history of COVID.
While COVID vaccine travel passports and mobile applications for vaccination tracking data are new – especially in the West – the idea of international travel vaccine proof has been around for a long time, from 1933 in fact. If you have ever traveled to Africa, for example, you will probably need to be vaccinated against yellow fever and have a “yellow card” with you to show with your passport upon arrival.
Vaccine passports for COVID carry the same idea to a new level in mobile applications and will likely be required for entry into different countries and for flights to certain international airlines.
What Do Vaccine Passports Mean for Rewarded Travelers?
The biggest positive impact of vaccine passports on rewarded travelers is simple: more places where you can use your points to travel again soon!
The downside: Vaccine passports are another new system that you must navigate for both the airline you are traveling with and the destination you are visiting. But a little more into that – good news first.
Where can I use my reward points to travel now?
The best news about vaccine passports is that we can really use the points we have saved from our favorite travel credit cards throughout an entire year of COVID to go back to amazing places (or just two weeks after receiving the vaccine, of course ).
Vaccine proof has already allowed the Americans to open their borders once again to Belize, Ecuador, Georgia, Ireland, Lebanon, the Seychelles and Thailand (to name a few). And it is likely that more and more countries will soon join this list – or they may have already reopened by the time you read it.
Of course, each of these countries will still have its own entry requirements. Some countries will still require negative COVID-19 tests upon entry or special visa requirements, so you should check the destination details thoroughly – even if you have already been vaccinated.
Do you want to travel to Thailand now? If you have a vaccination certificate and have applied for a visa in advance, you will be able to skip the mandatory 16-day isolation for incoming travelers. And because there is not much traffic to Bangkok these days, you will probably be more likely to win a ticket with your credit card points. A quick search on AA.com now shows a lot of prize availability in the coming months in all three service categories starting at 37,500 AAdvantage miles for the main cab, 70,000 for business class and 110,000 miles for the first.
For domestic travel, vaccination passports will probably not be mandatory, but they could be useful for travel to cities and states that impose quarantine restrictions. For example, it is rumored that Hawaii will begin allowing travelers to and from the islands to circumvent quarantine requirements with a vaccine in May.
How to do your homework
While proof of vaccination is helping to open up more destinations, the evolving nature of vaccination passports leaves much to be desired for travelers trying to tour the area. If you are already planning international travel, you should research the vaccine requirements for both the destinations you visit and the ones you are passing through, as well as the requirements of the airline you are flying. . From what we know now, different airlines and different countries are trying out different digital vaccine passport programs – you may need more than one application.
As a reward for traveler points you will want to pay special attention if you book international mile travel on an airline that includes common code flights to a partner airline. For example, if I use American Airlines AAdvantage miles earned on the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® to book this flight to Thailand with a Japan Airlines-operated aircraft, I would have to check both airline requirements as for airports I have to cross the route to be safe.
Requirements affect vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers
If you can not get a vaccine or do not plan to do so yet, but are still thinking about booking a trip, you should do your homework and consider the vaccine passport requirements before booking flights.
The bottom line
Although we do not know everything about vaccine passports because they are still in the early stages of development, we do know one thing for sure. Vaccine passports have the potential to open borders and play a critical role in our return to the world of international reward travel.
All information about the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has been independently collected by Bankrate and has not been verified or approved by the issuer.