Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Frequent Traveler Rewards

The first thing I learned when I started to travel for business was the value of joing every traveler program I could.

Many of the programs have such high minimum stays/miles/days that the average vacation traveler never hits any rewards, but one short trip can earn you more than you think.

First, Airline Miles: this seems obvious but you would be amazed how many people I travel with that aren't members of any program. Due to our limited flight options from Wyoming I mostly fly United. Many of their services are average (at best) but as soon as you meet their first "Elite" goals (35,000 miles) then you automatically get seated in Economy Plus, with no extra costs. This is a luxurious 5 extra inches of legroom. For a 6500 mile Hong Kong flight it may be the difference in sanity and craziness. Hint: Always ask which "Alliance" an airline belongs to. Don't make the mistake of getting a United and a Lufthansa FF Card since they share you can use 1 for both, but cannot combine later (I will do a more detailed entry on this later)

Second, Hotel Rewards: I made the early mistake of choosing Miles instead of Reward Points when I stayed at Mariott. Because I stay there so often I lost a lot of free nights, and ended up with a few thousand measly miles out of it. I still have a few programs that I have set to miles because I stay there infrequently. But if I plan to stay more than 3 nights a year at any chain I choose rewards so I can earn free nights

Last, Rental Car: This is by far the easiest. Sign up online to become a "preferred" member and you will get special service from your first rental. This usually includes express check-in (which has saved me many hours), free upgrades, and sometimes special covered loading areas. The rewards themselves are a little slow to rack up, but you can usually earn miles and rewards. I am a member of the Thrifty blue chip and I get a mile per $ spent and 1 free rental every 11 rental days. Since most my travel is to Asia I don't rent much, but when I do I am rewarded for it.

*Remember, your company cannot take your miles, or any other rewards you earn. These are yours to keep and use for PERSONAL travel.

After only 3 trips this year I have enough rewards to take all 4 of us on a domestic trip (includes 4 flights), 2 nights of hotels, and 1 car rental.

Lastly, I have 1 airline that I only aquired 3,600 miles on this year. Doesn't seem like that's worth anything, but I can redeem as few as 900 miles for subscriptions to some of my favorite magazines, that makes it worth about $20 per subscription, not bad.


Carmi said...

I definitely live in the wrong country. Here in the Great White North, the Big Bad International Airline has outsourced its points program. The new owners subsequently introduced enough restrictions on it that make free speech in North Korea look like paradise in comparison.

Thankfully I'm off the travel wheel for a while. Canada's a lovely country, except when it comes to stuff like this.

Good to e-see you again! I've missed your and Christine's blog entries. Is she still keeping her blog going? Haven't seen anything new since August, though I do check in from time to time, just in case.

November Rain said...

hi from Michelle... I make about 1 flight every 18 months to the US

that is from Europe

Jennifer said...

I haven't been on a plane in a couple of years flying to Reno in June, but unless the company I'm volunteering for offers me some sort of contract, I won't ever travel enough to use any kind of rewards system! I wish I could travel for a living...sounds great!
Here from Michele's. I'll add you to my Google Reader and come back to visit again! :)

Dak-Ind said...

we talked about joining some miles or rewards program because we fly on our vacation nearly every year, but i noticed some airlines (we usually fly delta) insist you use your rewards in a certain ammount of time. since we dont fly but once every year or two, and only to florida from oregon, it didnt seem worth it. i wish we could transfer our miles to a family member who could use them, but again we were told nope, so we never did it.

we did join a car rental premeire user thingy, and its been great for us. pay for 10 days and get 2 free. since our vacations are 12 days long, its great!

michele sent me.

November Rain said...

thanks for stopping over at my blog

Bubble I wont be in germany in March as we are moving to Zurich in Jan

shame I would have liked to meet you for Spitzi and brezels

(I dont drink Bier)

aka_Monty said...

Oh, if only I'd known back when I had a job that required travel!! Of course, I was a hotel GM so I stayed for free, but I could've used those airline & car rental perks!

Of course, back in '90-'91 when I worked for Hertz Worldwide Reservations, you had to PAY to become a "Gold Club Member"--there was no other way to get a membership than to buy it with cold, hard cash (well, or plastic).

barbie2be said...

don't forget to add milage dining programs to your list. i belong to the united FF program and also signed up for dining rewards. since 12/20002 i have earned 35,000 miles.

thanks for stopping by my blog today via michele. :)