Loyalty while you Travel
Most of us have heard fantastic stories of people flying and staying all over the world for little money using points and rewards. In search of value, I am not one to turn down an a points earning or using opportunity, but I am not going to center my life or travels around them. Let me rephrase that. I think there is a ratio of benefit to hassle involved on points earning opportunities. I appreciate a low hassle ratio. Having a large family and being a slave to school schedules does reduce your opportunities, but it doesn’t eliminate them. I did a 10 day trip with 5 different hotels in two states, flights, and rental car for 5 people (which often requires 2 rooms per night) for around $500. So it can be done, people.
Here are my top 5 suggestions for evaluating and maximizing points earning opportunities for newbies or people that try to avoid too much of the hassle factor.
1) Float with the current – What I mean is, evaluate what airline and hotels your family uses and check those out first when planning travel. For example, Hubby travels a lot for work. He uses Southwest and American for airlines and Hilton, Hyatt and a few other hotels. So when we are headed to pick up kids from camp and need a place to stay for the night, I check out a Hilton or Hyatt property first. But remember, a Hilton property can be a Waldorf Astoria, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Conrad, Doubletree, etc. If it’s within a few dollars, it’s an easy choice. It’s a lot easier to accumulate miles in programs that you are already utilizing to some degree.
2) Online Shopping portals – Most reward programs have a shopping portal. Basically you go onto their shopping website and register your rewards account information. After you’ve done that, you are ready to go shopping, which is really a portal to the online shops you were going to use anyway. The portal gives you a certain number of points per dollar that you spend, depending on the store, the season, etc. This one is a no brainer after you get in the habit of using a portal. Now if I could only get Hubby in the habit!
3) Dining Rewards – Many airlines have dining rewards, like Mileage Plus Dining for United and AAdvantage Dining for American. Follow the instructions to sign up (for free) and dine at any of their participating restaurants to earn points. The larger the metro area you live in, the more restaurants are listed, and the more feasible this is. Nothing extra is necessary from you while dining at the restaurant. One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants is on many lists, so we are not adding hassle factor to this one. This is not a way to rack up serious points. But it is a way to maintain activity in a rewards account so that your hard earned miles don’t expire. Every point counts!
4) Credit Cards – Travel reward credit cards are highly lucrative in the world of points and rewards. I won’t go into great detail about them here, since there are entire blogs dedicated to it. Many people own the airline co-branded card of the company they fly with the most. There is so much more to it than that now. I will caution you that if you have any credit issues or cannot pay your credit card bill completely each month, they aren’t worth it.
5) Join every rewards program – Since reward programs are free, make sure to join them before your flight/stay so that you can take advantage of every offer they have. Even if it is not one you think you will use. For example, I joined the choice privileges reward program that has hotels like Comfort Inn, etc. We were staying at one in a small town traveling with Junior’s lacrosse team. A few weeks after our stay, I got an email about a $50 gas gift card promotion with 2 stays, and our recent stay already counted as one. Several weeks later the coach picked a Comfort Inn for an out of town game, again. As soon as the stay points posted, I had to call the number and cash it in. So even though I wasn’t going to build up enough points to earn reward stays out of this hotel rewards program, I got some gas money for the road! Some hotel programs give you a credit at the mini bar, or bottles of water at check in. I’ll take free stuff anytime, thanks.
So there you have it. Like I said, there are experts that I defer to in the loyalty world. Start with The Points Guy or Mommy Points if you want to learn more. I like their style and ways they keep me up to date without overloading me. While I have used points to fly across the Atlantic, sometimes using them to avoid paying for 2 rooms everywhere we go in the US, is just enough. Use your points in the best way that fits for you and your family. Anything that helps support my travel habit, with a low hassle ratio, count me in.