Frequent Traveler Reward Points
The key to earning your reward points when booking business travel
If there’s one thing business travelers know, it’s how to rack up frequent travel reward points. Across the world, frequent traveler programs are raking in members by partnering with airlines, hotels, car rental services and credit card providers that allow members to use points in exchange for more than just a seat upgrade. But according to FrequentFlier.com, about 75 percent of accrued points are never redeemed. That’s no surprise, especially since cashing out can be very confusing. We’ve got some tips to help clear up the redemption process and to make your travel easier by using frequent traveler points.
Airline reward points
All major airlines have frequent flier programs that reward frequent fliers with free tickets, free upgrades or bonus miles toward another flight. The trick is finding the airline that works for you.
With most airlines, you need at least 25,000 miles to claim a free flight. But claiming your free ticket can get a little tricky. In recent years, the value of a free airline ticket has dwindled, making it harder for fliers to travel when they want. In an effort to keep cash coming in, airlines have restricted a certain amount of seats and issued blackout dates for some frequent flier travelers, leaving many reward passengers negotiating with airlines for seats on specific dates and times.
Each frequent flier program varies slightly with respect to purchasing domestic and international flights or seat upgrades. For example, one airline might allow seat upgrades on domestic flights for frequent fliers with a certain number of miles while other airlines might charge a fee for upgrading, even if miles are accrued. It’s essential to read through each airline’s benefit programs to determine what program works for you. Here are just a few:
There is a difference between frequent flier programs and airline credit card programs that offer miles. The basic airline frequent flier programs are free; credit card reward programs sometimes come with fees, but offer easier ways to rack up the rewards. Make sure you’re signing up for the reward program that works for you.
Hotel reward points
Hotel loyalty programs have come a long way over the years. Today’s frequent travelers use hotel points for more than a room upgrade – complimentary meals, spa discounts, car rental savings and additional hotel amenities are just some of the rewards handed out to hotel loyalty program customers.
Choose a hotel you frequent for business and join up for their hotel reward points. When booking business trips, opt to stay at the particular hotel you’re associated with instead of the hotel nearest the convention center, or the hotel housing the business event, and you’ll accrue points quicker. This is particularly useful for business travelers booking personal vacations. Hotel loyalty programs have minimal restrictions so you can use your hotel points toward any stay. Some airlines, on the other hand, will restrict business travelers to business class seats in order to gain points.
One disadvantage to joining hotel loyalty programs for some travelers is the added fees. Many hotel loyalty programs are associated with a credit card company so travelers can only gain points by purchasing items on a credit card. Hotel chains including Marriott and Intercontinental award travelers points for shopping at participating retailers, for example.
Credit card reward points
The concept of credit card reward points is quite simple – the more you buy, the more points you accrue. The more points you accrue, the wider your options for redeeming those points.
Travelers using credit cards for reward points are usually looking for more than just airline tickets or hotel rooms. Credit card rewards also offer discounts on retail spending, tours, rental cars, arts and entertainment, dining points and more.
It’s important to choose wisely when signing up for a credit card point program. Details matter and if you don’t read the fine print, you could wind up spending a lot of money and getting little in return. Consider the following details when signing up with a credit card loyalty program:
- Look for expiration dates before signing on with a credit card. Some cards set expiration dates on points, forcing users to cash in their points by a certain date.
- You might have to spend a certain amount before you start accumulating points. For business travelers this is an easy spend, but personal travelers might have a harder time reaching the spending goal.
- Beware of caps. In some cases, you can only get back a certain amount no matter how much you spend.
- Take a close look at the partner businesses and make sure the hotel, airlines and car rental chains are to your liking. Then make sure those chains don’t have additional requirements for redeeming points.
Using your points
Now that you’ve earned them, don’t forget to use them! Reward points can be used for travel, dining, entertainment and more. Trade in your reward points for concert tickets and VIP access to entertainment events and expos, or keep racking up points for free air travel and hotel stay. Here are some tips to keep in mind when signing up and using points with loyalty reward programs:
- Sign up with a hotel or airline you use frequently.
- Use your reward member number every time you book a flight or a room.
- Loyalty is key to the loyalty program. Especially with hotel loyalty programs, the more rooms reserved the better your rewards. Room upgrades, spa services and in-room amenities such as food baskets, free meals or complimentary desserts are common “thank you” rewards to loyal customers.
- Try to be flexible when using your airline reward points. The seats available for airline loyalty members might be limited during peak travel seasons to top destinations so ask your airline agent for alternatives.
- Purchasing points is always an option. If you need a few extra points to get a free first-class ticket or a deluxe hotel room, find out about purchasing the extra reward points to help you with an upgrade.
Before you book your next vacation or business trip, be sure to find the travel reward program that best suits your travel needs. It won’t take very long for you to rake in reward points and cash them in for awesome travel deals.
Sources contributing to this article include FrequentFlier.com, CNNMoney.com and Bankrate.com.