While some people clip coupons all day to reduce their grocery bill by a few dollars, there is far more money to be saved by maximizing travel rewards programs. Airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies each offer customers their own points or miles, but it's up to travelers to leverage these programs to reap the most valuable rewards.
In fact, some people even become so obsessed with these programs that they make a hobby or even a career out of traveling the world for free. Nevertheless, there's still room for the rest of us to take our award travel game to the next level. Here's how to get started:
Sign up for promotions
The whole point of loyalty programs is to encourage you to be a frequent customer of a particular company, and these travel providers often have promotions that feature additional rewards to help attract and maintain a loyal following. Major hotel chains tend to offer a new promotion every quarter while car rental award giveaways are fairly popular as well. For example, National Rent A Car is currently offering their "One, Two, Free" promotion that includes a free day's car rental after just two qualifying rentals. Airline promotions aren't nearly as common, but they do exist and can be very valuable. To find these opportunities to earn additional rewards, you just need to spend a few minutes poking around the websites of your favorite travel providers. Following them on social media doesn't hurt either.
One of the great ways to earn additional points and miles is to make sure that you earn rewards in several ways for each transaction. For example, you can earn hotel and rental car points from the travel provider as well as points or miles from your rewards credit card. Or, you can earn rewards from an online travel agency when you book a flight, as well as miles from the airline itself.
Use the right credit card
Many travelers tend to use the same travel rewards credit card for years at a time, without realizing that both the credit card and travel rewards industries are constantly changing. The solution is to manage your credit card accounts the same way that a savvy investor would manage his or her portfolio of stocks. For credit cards, this means taking a look at the latest travel reward card offers at least once or twice a year, and choosing a new card that offers a generous sign-up bonus, and competitive rewards for the kind of purchases you spend the most on. It also makes sense to accumulate points in reward programs that allow transfers to airline miles or hotel points. Credit cards that offer these transferable points include American Express EveryDay, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Premier, and the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express.
Focus on getting the most value from your rewards
The reality is that earning points and miles is only half the battle, you also have to carefully consider the best ways to redeem them. For example, many reward programs offer awards that amount to just one cent in value per point or mile for merchandise, gift cards, or travel reservations. While these awards are very easy to redeem, it can be possible to realize 4-6 cents per point or mile when used for international business class flights or premium hotels. While there are plenty of blogs and online forums that help teach travelers how best to use their rewards, figuring it all out can take some time and effort. Alternatively, there are services that you can pay to help you book award reservations. While these companies might charge several hundred dollars, it can be well worth the time, money, points, and miles that you can save.
This article was written by Jason Steele, Credit Card Expert at CompareCards.com.