Add in expiry dates on points, blackout dates, tax and fuel surcharges — and getting a “free” ticket is tougher than ever. Well the travel experts at Cheapflights.ca, the online leader in finding and publishing travel deals, are here to help shed some light with a how-to on the Top 10 Ways to Make Travel Rewards Programs Go the Distance.
“Managing your miles can be a full-time job,” said Emily Fisher, Cheapflights.ca travel expert. “Do it right, though, and it can be the key to unlocking a travel goal. Some see points as the path to a dream vacation while others are aiming for the perks of status or even an economical way to score a seat in First Class. There are many ways to win at the rewards game if you are patient and pay attention to the details. We’ll give you some insights into playing the game as well as George Clooney’s character in ‘Up in the Air’.”
To get you started, below are the first five tips on how to get the most out of travel rewards programs:
- Know your range of options – Airlines were among the first to launch loyalty programs with frequent flyer programs that date back decades. However, nowadays hotel chains from Best Western to Marriott to Fairmont all reward regular guests (your airline may do so as well). And, of course, credit card companies do their very best to keep you spending with their cards. And a host of them, from American Express to World MasterCard to Capital One Venture, offer incentives geared toward travellers (and aspiring travellers). Even travel booking sites are getting in the game. Register with Orbitz or Expedia and you can start to accrue benefits and costs savings there as well. You can even rack up points with services like restaurant booking platform Open Table — snag some money for eating well on the road!
- Double (or triple) dip where you can – With so many companies lining up to reward you, make sure you take full advantage. One flight should mean points accrued with the airline, the credit card company and possibly the booking site. Don’t forget to give your mileage account number along with your credit card to the rental car company, too. Tack on points for the hotel and dining out, and you have a good collection started — even from a short trip. And remember, you can often book hotel rooms with airline points and flights with hotel points, adding to the incentive to rack up points everywhere you can.
- Don’t pay to get into the game – With the possible exception of an annual fee on a credit card, all of these rewards programs are free. (And shop around on the credit card front as many travel perk cards don’t carry an annual fee.) The only cost to you should be the time and effort to keep track of the different accounts and your points. To keep it simple (and to keep points consolidated), odds are you will find yourself picking a few rewards programs and sticking with them (which is of course why the companies offer them). However, if you have the patience, having a broad mix of programs you are accruing points across means you can get something out of almost any travel transaction.
- Don’t let blackout dates get you – Expecting to cash in your earned points for a trip over Christmas break? Some airlines (and hotels) are going to let you down when you go to use miles because they blackout popular travel dates for those booking with points. Plan ahead and start building your points with a program that doesn’t have blackout dates (e.g., WestJet, Orbitz or Expedia). If you are committed to that path, you may even want to pay the annual fee and get the added points (and occasional companion ticket) that come from signing up for an associated credit card — as well as the points accrued using the card. If you want more flexibility, though, rack up points with a travel credit card and skip the blackout window blues. When you buy using credit card points, it looks like any other transaction to the airline, so the dates won’t be blocked. In all cases, if you are looking to travel over a major holiday or school vacation, book as early as you can so you can get the best deal, even if the currency is rewards points.
- Book strategically – One of the reasons sites like Orbitz and Expedia are getting into the rewards program game is that some airlines and hotels offer more points (or only offer points) if you book directly on their sites. So you should think ahead when booking about where you want to accrue your points. Pay attention to partnerships, too. If your dream is to go to Asia, make sure you’re building points with airlines and hotels that are partners with the airlines and hotels that will take you where you want to go down the road.
The next five tips cover upgrades, status, concierge services, points sharing programs, and using your points to give back. You can read about these important aspects of travel loyalty programs and Cheapflights.ca’s complete Top 10 Ways to Make Travel Rewards Programs Go the Distance at www.cheapflights.ca/news/top-10-ways-to-make-travel-rewards-programs-go-the-distance.
About Cheapflights.ca, part of the Momondo Group
Momondo Group is an online travel media and technology company that is driven by the belief that an open world is a better world. The group now serves travel search and inspiration to over 17.5 million visitors a month — plus 7 million travel newsletter subscribers — via its Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.ca) and momondo (www.momondo.com) brands.
Skygate began the sourcing of complex air-travel data in 1992, while Cheapflights pioneered the online comparison of flight deals for users in 1996 and momondo launched meta-search in the Nordic countries in 2006.
The Group has offices in London, Copenhagen and Boston with a consumer base across more than 30 core international markets but users all over the world.
Source: Cheapflights.ca via Marketwired