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We all want to travel. Most people would rather lounge on a beach in Bali or eat pizza in Italy instead of going into the office. The problem is, traveling can be expensive, making it a luxury rather than a necessity. That is one of the reasons why millions of vacation days go unused every year, with Americans being among the worst offenders.
Research shows traveling is good for you. It can lower stress levels, boost productivity and decrease the risk of depression. Moreover, traveling abroad exposes you to new cultures and experiences, promoting personal growth and development. It’s not too late for you to reap these benefits. Your next trip doesn’t have to be financially out of reach.
Travelers regularly book “free” flight and hotel deals, and you can too. The ticket itself is usually covered and you only pay the cost of taxes and fees. While travel rewards are commonly associated with credit cards, you don’t need a credit card to start earning rewards. You just need to accrue points or miles in bulk and redeem them wisely.
The reason this isn’t more prevalent is because it takes time to learn. Like extreme couponing, people don’t have the patience to figure out different incentives or spend their money in a restricted or directed manner. The benefits of travel rewards far outweigh the inconveniences, however, and you’ll be happy you took the time to learn when you’re sitting on a $38 flight to New Zealand.
10 Travel Rewards Tips to Earn Points & Bonus Deals
Here are 10 travel rewards tips to help you start earning free deals on flights and hotels around the world.
Sign Up for Loyalty Accounts with Airlines
You need to have an account open before you can accrue points or miles. Loyalty accounts are free and help you keep track of business that you’ve done with a company in the past.
Beginner travelers tend to overlook the possibility of utilizing partner airlines and only open a loyalty account with their preferred provider. This is a mistake.
Your American Airlines miles, for instance, could be used to book travel on British Airways, and vice versa.
Maximize Available Sign-up Bonuses & Incentives
While you don’t need to have a credit card to accrue bulk miles, one of the biggest benefits to getting one is the initial sign-up bonus.
This typically requires that you meet a minimum spending threshold within a set time limit (i.e. spend $3,000 within the first 3 months) but that should be an easy target to hit if you redirect all your spending onto the credit card and immediately pay it off.
You can also get points/miles for things like following a brand on social media or joining an email list.
Earn Points with Mobile Apps
Did you know that you could be earning cashback for every Uber ride you take when you link your account with Shop Your Way? Or that you could be getting $.30 back per gallon of gas in Shop Your Way rewards when you pay with Gas Buddy?
You can then redeem Shop Your Way rewards on different products or bookings through the website. Mobile apps are an underutilized way of acquiring bonuses. Since these are purchases you’d be making anyway, it’s like finding a way to get something for nothing.
Use Point Multipliers
Credit cards all use point multipliers. Some are constant, such as the 3x point multiplier on grocery purchases that comes standard with some cards, and others are temporary, like a promotion granting 3x the points on all Amazon purchases.
The temporary multipliers are usually brand collaborations with rental car companies or online shopping portals. Know what the current point multipliers are for your credit cards so you can be sure to pay in a way that earns you the most rewards.
Match Your Elite Status
Do you have elite status with a certain hotel or airline? Consider matching it.
Best Western, for instance, will match your status with any other hotel chain. Turkish Airlines will do the same with your airline status, provided you fill out the request form and submit proof.
Many higher-end credit cards will offer you elite status after earning a certain number of qualifying miles.
For more information on status matching and programs that have been honored, check out www.statusmatcher.com.
Pool Family Points
Everyone in your family should have a loyalty account, kids included. When the kids’ points aren’t enough to make a booking, consider pooling them and redeeming them in bulk.
Airlines that pool points for families include JetBlue, Emirates and Hawaiian Airlines and sometimes allow extended family members, like your mother-in-law, to qualify.
You Don’t Always Have to Honor a Reservation
It’s not unusual for a traveler looking to earn more rewards to make a reservation they have no intention of keeping if the price is right.
For instance, a recent promotion promised 90,000 airline miles to anyone who booked 10 flights by the end of that month. A “friend” booked 10 cheap, short flights, i.e. from Seville to Madrid for $30, that he had no intention of taking.
The investment of $300 or so was well worth the reward, enough miles to redeem for a free transatlantic business class flight worth 5 times as much.
Track Your Points & Miles
With so many accounts, it’s easy to lose track of your earnings. Avoid annual fees and keep your miles from expiring by being vigilant.
You can do this the old-fashioned way by creating an Excel spreadsheet, or you can sign up for an account with Award Wallet (www.awardwallet.com) and they’ll do all the hard work for you.
Learn Advanced Travel Reward Methods
Advanced travel saving techniques like manufactured spending allow you to earn points on purchases that can then be used like cash.
For instance, instead of simply going to the movies you could stop by Staples on the way, buy a Fandango gift card with a credit card that offers 5x the points on office supply store purchases and use that gift card to buy your movie tickets.
That’s an easy way of turning 20 bonus points into 100, and it adds up quickly. Note that manufactured spending is a tactic used by money launderers and suspicious activity like buying money orders could be flagged at certain stores.
Don’t Waste Your Miles
By now I hope you’ve realized that points and miles are like travel gold. Your goal should be to accrue as many of them as possible and redeem them for free flights or hotels, the two biggest expenses on any trip.
The last thing you want to do is waste miles. Don’t use miles to buy merchandise or magazine subscriptions. Don’t let them expire. This can be avoided in a number of ways, from making another reservation to donating miles to charity.
Finally, avoid booking award travel during a holiday or special event since redemption rates will be inflated.
Your Next Vacation Could be Free
Start using these tips today and you will be well on your way to taking your next vacation, for free!