Loyalty programs are a great way to maximize your buying power. Hotels, car rentals, airlines, and other travel companies have loyalty programs with great rewards when you select them for your travel needs. Here’s how to do it right:
1. Don’t use points and miles for gift cards
Gift cards are not a good value for your miles and points. Gift cards can also expire and require fees to purchase and use them. Consider how much you spent to accrue the points & miles; they represent great value, so you’ll want to get as much value as you can when using your points. Save points and miles for large purchases when you can see and feel the value.
2. Skip using miles for food and beverages on board
Are you craving a glass of wine or an early morning Mimosa? Think of the cost, usually a couple of dollars, yet the points required will probably be as high as 1000. The dollar amount spent to accrue the 1000 points was $1000. You could buy a bottle of expensive champagne and fresh squeezed OJ for less than $1000. Have a “rule of thumb” to spend points and miles on things which represent the value of your loyalty points. When you do the math, you can see the points and dollars are not equal. Let those points and miles grow and use them for something more valuable.
3. If you can afford the hotel or flight – don’t use miles or points
Loyalty points and miles represent terrible value for hotel stays. The actual value is around one cent for every point you redeem. A visit costing $1,000 would cost you more than 100,000 points. Consider paying for hotel stays which you can comfortably afford and will not cost you more in credit card fees over an extended payment period. When considering how to pay for your vacation credit card fees and interest should be part of the equation too.
4. Save points for airfare and hotels which are expensive
Use points and miles to unlock the door of what would be a prohibitively expensive hotel stay or first class flight. You will be happy you didn’t spend your points and miles on travel expenses you could manage to pay. Instead of spending 35,000 points on a $350 flight you can afford, save the points until you reach 100,000 points and upgrade your next vacation.
5. Don’t purchase merchandise with points & miles
I’m sure you have seen the tempting items in the airline’s magazine complete with many shopping opportunities. Filled with unusual things you can’t find anywhere else, you can’t put the magazine down without thinking, “I can use that in the garden next Spring.” Well resist the temptation and keep those points and miles, letting them add up to something extraordinary.
6. Carefully consider cash + points schemes to ensure you are not spending more than you should
Airlines offer the opportunity to combine cash plus points to book a flight. Generally, you are not getting a deal when using miles or points plus cash, (which is in the form of credit cards.) Take this option only when the ticket price is prohibitively high, and you will need miles to complete the purchase. Or you do not have enough miles to redeem for the ticket, and you need to add cash. Be sure to compare the options and keep in mind the fees charged by your credit card will also increase the actual cost of the purchase.
7. Join all the programs you can – they’re free
The points and miles add up. And, you’re staying at hotels, taking flights and renting cars; there is no limit on the number of programs you can join. So go for it and start earning! Don’t forget about other loyalty opportunities too. From restaurants to hair salons to grocery stores. Many businesses are offering loyalty programs. It could be 10% off, special sales or other perks such as early check-in, upgrades, and free-checked bag. Don’t leave money on the table. Participate in programs where you already spend your money.
8. Don’t forget to present your membership number
You can only load-up on the points and miles by presenting your membership number when you make a purchase, check in or make reservations. You’ll see the points increase quickly if you do.
9. And, of course – Don’t let miles expire – they have cash value – use them!
You may have received one of those dreadful letters stating your miles or points will expire soon! Remember they have value. Use them or lose them. And, I’m pretty sure there is a dream vacation with your name on it, waiting for you to claim your reward.
For more information on points and miles programs and how you can maximize your experience, here are several links: