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Ad targeting for travel and credit card advertisers

November 09, 2023
Cyclist holding a bike on the mountain while smiling.

From search to booking—your customer’s journey to the ideal vacation

Holiday season in the US is the time consumers are preparing to travel and visit family and friends. At the end of the year, businesses are also planning team trips and visits to clients. In addition to researching travel destinations, shoppers are looking for answers on how to finance their trips with travel credit cards and how to leverage travel loyalty programs.

In fact, travel credit card search volume is up 14% year-over-year in volume which is a great addition to the saturated travel loyalty search landscape. Plus, 97.5% of the travel loyalty programs cashflow is from travel credit cards1. Travel credit card and loyalty searches peak in August through December; whereas travel supply verticals peak in the spring and summer.1

These insights from the Microsoft Advertising research reveal that activating both campaigns in tandem is an effective strategy to leverage symbiotic seasonality. An additional key insight for advertisers is that shoppers with travel credit card intent now look for more immediate benefits and more leisure travel when they’re researching and ultimately booking their travel plans.

To empower our advertisers to achieve more, Microsoft Advertising developed a research project centered on this question specifically for travel advertisers and credit card advertisers:

How do customers who shop for both travel and a credit card start and navigate through their shopping journeys?

The research also included discovering what consumers who shop for a specific credit card brand also shop for, and what people usually shop for when they don’t have a specific credit card brand in mind.

Read on to discover more results of the study.

A map of two verticals—travel loyalty and travel credit cards

Some shoppers are comparing trip locations, for example, weighing the pros and cons of a family trip to Hawaii versus Costa Rica. Consumers are also comparing travel loyalty programs, hunting for the best vacation deal. Travel loyalty is a term that refers to the benefits and rewards that travelers can earn by being loyal to a specific airline, hotel, or travel company. They’re designed to encourage customers to book more travel with the same provider, and to reward them with free flights, hotel stays, upgrades, and other perks.

Some people are brand agnostic when looking for a credit card to use for travel. Others know the brand they’d like to use for their next trip. Travel credit cards offer rewards or benefits for travel-related expenses. From earning points or miles that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, car rentals to saving money on foreign transaction fees and currency conversion rates, and more—the benefits are vast.

Cross-shopping consumers offer unique targeting possibilities to both travel advertisers and credit card advertisers

The Microsoft Advertising research shows that shoppers for both Travel and Financial Services tend to embark on more extensive journeys—1.5 months, encountering rich ad formats with increased exposure.2

Whether you and your team are travel or credit card advertisers, this holiday season Microsoft Advertising recommends you leverage multiple targeting tactics and first-party data points, to best reach your customers—as search is just one of the many variables that helps connect advertisers to potential customers with intent.

Microsoft has billions of data points and first-party data that you won’t find anywhere else.1 Microsoft is the only platform with access to permissioned data from massive consumer properties like Microsoft Bing, Microsoft Edge, and LinkedIn. This rich first-party data will ensure advertisers can continue to find their audience in the evolving market.

With all of these properties, Microsoft Advertising can tap into billions of data points, combing a powerful set of attributes like search intent, browser behavior, profile data, content preferences, demographics, and more.

For example, the research revealed that 75% of travel credit card shoppers are associated with an In-market Audience category.1 Microsoft has a list of In-market Audiences to target and reach users in market for travel credit cards while cross shopping the other verticals.

Additionally, machine learning is applied to develop audiences and targeting solutions that allow advertisers like you to pinpoint your ideal customer and deliver more relevant messages based on intent.

Survey says: A diverse and balanced ad strategy yields stronger results

The great news for advertisers is that travel and credit card ads are a complementary match—like peanut butter and jelly. When Microsoft Advertising asked the new AI-powered Bing what travel and credit card ads look like, that was the brilliant answer. So, just like Santa and Mrs. Clause, Ben and Jerry, or rhythm and blues—it’s clear travel and credit card ads are a favorable pair.

That’s because Microsoft Advertising’s Travel and Financial Services research shows that credit card advertisers benefit from the travel vertical’s reach, while travel advertisers benefit from credit card users’ efficiency.

Credit card advertisers—67% additional reach from Travel audience ads
Travel advertisers—4.2x higher click rate from Credit card audience ads3

Your next step: Targeting with Microsoft’s Credit card ads and Audience ads

Reaching and targeting family travelers and business travelers with Microsoft’s Credit card ads and Microsoft’s Audience ads is a smart strategy. Below are Microsoft Advertising’s final research insights and key takeaway actions for advertisers like you to take today.

Credit card ads

Some factors to consider when targeting travel credit cards for your audience include understanding your consumer’s travel goals and preferences, as well as their spending habits and budget.

The Microsoft Advertising research revealed that Microsoft’s Credit card ads served with Search Network effectively lift Search ads’ performance when served in tandem with Credit card ads. Specifically, serving Credit card ads next to a Responsive search ad can drive a 2x lift in click-through rates (CTR) on the Responsive search ad while leading to a 75% less on Cost per Click (CPC).1

Key takeaway actions for Travel credit cards

  1. Activate your Travel credit card campaigns during the holiday season to capitalize on increasing demand.
  2. Leverage Credit card ads and Audience ads to engage travelers throughout their shopping journey.
  3. Utilize In-market Audiences to target financially and tech-savvy travel credit card shoppers.
  4. Add geo-targeting keywords for credit card shoppers in specific areas including Florida, California, and Texas.
  5. Use non-brand tactics and rich media ads to reach credit card shoppers with extensive shopping journeys.
  6. Check for seasonal keyword gaps and new trends.

Audience ads

The Microsoft Advertising research uncovered that Credit card audience ads targeting credit card segments create strong lifts in Travel user intent. Specifically, Credit card audience ads drive a 4.2x lift in click-through rate and a 6.7x lift in conversion rates for Travel users who are exposed to both Credit card audience ads and Travel audience ads, compared to those exposed to Travel audience ads only.1

Key takeaway actions for Credit cards

  1. Activate your Credit card campaigns before the holiday season to capitalize on increasing demand.
  2. Leverage Audience ads from both Credit card and Travel verticals to engage a larger volume of credit card shoppers.
  3. Utilize In-market Audiences to target travel-focused credit card shoppers.
  4. Focus on dynamic remarketing or remarketing tactics for users with longer conversion journeys.
  5. Use brand terms, as most credit card shoppers initially start searching with brand loyalty in mind.
  6. Incentivize consumers with cashback or rebate programs and keywords, as they’re looking to get more perks with cards.

As the holiday season approaches, leverage Microsoft Advertising’s products and features to successfully reach and target travel and credit card shoppers.


[1] Microsoft Internal Data.
[2] Microsoft Internal Consumer Decision Journey Data.
[3] Microsoft Internal Data, May–July 2023. Single touchpoint user journeys excluded. Vertical analyses consist of top 28 advertisers with Travel and Credit Card verticals. US only.

Addison Nitto


Brent Brown

Sisie Nong

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