How to Make the Most of Your Travel Rewards Programs

We’ll admit it: here at TripIt, we’re travel points addicts, and we bet you are too. We love watching points accrue and using the perks that come along with travel rewards programs. But when it comes time to use your points … well that can be a little tricky. Read our tips on making the most of your travel rewards programs—after all, saving up those points is hard work.

 

Read the Fine Print 
Imagine you’re banking on your miles to pay for your plane ticket back home for the holidays—but wait. You had no idea your loyalty points had blackout dates. Cue crisis mode. These pesky dates usually occur during major holidays and peak travel times. Stipulations vary from program to program, so be sure to read the fine print for each program you belong to – you’ll avoid crisis mode and get the most for your points, because even if there aren’t blackout dates, point redemption rates can skyrocket during peak times.

Tip: Use TripIt Pro’s Point Tracker to keep track of your points and expiration dates.

 

Sign Up for Programs with Multi-Partner Rewards
Die-hard travelers often belong to a bunch of different travel rewards programs, and we’re definitely behind that strategy. But if you only belong to programs that allow you to book with one airline or one hotel chain, then you could be missing out on some seriously cheap (or free) travel opportunities. Brian Kelly (a.k.a. The Points Guy) cites American Express Membership Rewards as a program that lets you book with dozens of airlines and hotels, and of course, there are plenty of others. If you already belong to a multi-partner program, you can simply transfer your points over to the airline or hotel chain you want to use.

 

Evaluate Your Points Per Dollar
Most travel rewards programs offer one point for every dollar spent. However, it’s a good idea to double check what your points per dollar are on each of your travel rewards programs. You’ll find that many offer double points (or in some cases even more) for every dollar you spend when you shop with certain retailers. For example, Chase’s American Airlines AAdvantage cards offer two points for every purchase made directly with American Airlines. The trick to making the most of your points is figuring out ways to accrue them quickly and cheaply, and these special offers definitely speed up the process.

 

Bask in the Freebies and Perks
As they say, “the best things in life are free,” and when it comes to travel freebies and perks, we couldn’t agree more. From complimentary access to club lounges and priority boarding, to free checked bags or savings on in-flight purchases, there’s often a treasure trove of benefits that comes along with your travel rewards program. Be sure to check which ones your rewards program offers because you could end up saving even more money on travel-related expenses.

 

Donate Your Unused or Expiring Miles
If your miles are going to go unused or are about to expire, we encourage you to donate them to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Seventy percent of wishes granted by Make-a-Wish involve travel, and since we’re making our way into the holiday season, now is the perfect time to give back. It’s quick and easy, and will make the wishes of brave kids come true. Donate today using this link and be sure to share over your social channels: http://tripit.com/gift

Tip: Donating is easier than you think. The minimum amount of miles you need to donate is 500 for United/Continental and 1000 for Delta/USAirways.

 

(Photo by Kuster & Wildhaber Photography / CC BY)