5 easy strategies for travel rewards & discounts
These are challenging times so we all look for great ways to save more and get more out of our travel dollars. As your PoshPorts Ambassadors we do a considerable amount of travel ourselves, so we've become pretty adept at getting the biggest bang for our buck. And we want to share our best strategies with you! We know it can be a confusing minefield of information, offers, "deals" and rewards. We're here to clear away the clutter and give you five great ways to take advantage of the best posh possibilities without having to spend more time than it's worth to find them. So, here we go:
1. Choose one credit card that offers a strong reward program that is not associated with a specific airline. We love the Capital One Venture Card. This card enables us to earn 2 miles for every dollar we spend. There is usually a generous mileage allotment as a sign-on bonus as well. There are no blackout dates, no limits on where and how you can book your travel. There's a simple formula for redemption and your miles do not expire. You can even decide to use it for travel you have already taken within 90 days. You can also redeem your miles for cash, merchandise or other awards if you find your travel schedule thin. These types of cards also often offer a shopping portal where you can receive bonus miles when you actually make your purchases from stores that belong to their group. This can be a real boon if you are making a large purchase, such as an appliance or electronics, as some stores offer 5 or 6 bonus miles per dollar spent. This helps your miles add up quickly. You just need to remember to use the shopping portal when making your purchase. There are also travel experiences, food, wine and other ways to enjoy the privileges of membership. American Express is another provider that offers great perks to their members, particularly Gold Card members. They offer exclusive deals and events, and you can often use your rewards to upgrade your seats for air travel.
2. Choose one airline and optimize its use. If you want to have two credit cards, then make the other one an airline card. We use American Airlines because we got a huge sign-on bonus of miles and there are a lot of other airlines that are part of their alliance, but any of the other major airlines should work just as well for you. Rather than flying on many different airlines, you can bank your miles through one, which helps you get to advanced loyalty status such as gold or platinum much more quickly than if you're flying many airlines and spreading your miles thin. Your loyalty status will provide you with tangible additional benefits such as priority access and free upgrades. Depending on your program, you may also be able to take advantage of the private airline lounges for a small fee when you need it without having to shell out hundreds of dollars for an annual membership. If you travel a lot and have lots of extra time in the airports, you may want to buy the membership. But if you just have an occasional long layover or wait, once in awhile a members-only lounge is a great thing to use.
3. Choose one or two hotel groups or use an online booking site such as Hotels.com to gain your advantage. Many online sites offer such benefits as free nights when you reach a certain milestone of booking nights (Hotels.com gives you one night free after you have booked 10). Most hotels offer some sort of loyalty program with benefits such as free water, internet, parking or club access when you reach a certain level with them. And, once you become a preferred customer, the discounts and perks really start to come. We have enjoyed using the Fairmont Presidents Club and staying on the club level at hotels when available. This special floor has a private lounge, which often provides breakfast and cocktail hour in a lovely setting. There can be joint offers for discounts with other posh companies as well. When you are traveling internationally, there may be some very posh options at luxury resorts as well. Orient-Express hotels, for instance, are known for their beautiful accommodations, knowledge of the local customs, and top-notch locations. take advantage of concierge services and the information your hotel staff may have about fun cultural things to do and when best to do them. Museums and other venues sometimes have free or discount days, which you can take advantage of - but only if you know about them.
4. Don't forget the clubs, loyalty memberships, perks and benefits associated with ways you already shop. For example, if you have a Visa Signature credit card (the Capital One Venture Card is one), you can take advantage of various travel benefits, including special discounts and deals on packages, hotels, cruises, and more. Their Luxury Hotel Collection provides an exclusive set of special perks including room upgrades, food & beverage vouchers, free Internet or parking, and others. Be sure that if you belong to a travel loyalty or online booking group that you try to use it as much as possible so that you can aggregate your benefits more quickly.
5. Use the interconnection of systems to your advantage. Car rentals, hotels, credit cards, airlines, trains, planes, restaurants...many of the loyalty programs are all tied into one big happy spending and earning system. If you already belong to some loyalty programs, see how they all fit together. Sometimes when you book a rental car, hotel and flight from within the same loyalty system, you can get a boost in your status in some or all of the participants in the system. Be careful though that you are not being charged a premium to, say, get your car rental dollars added to your airline miles program. Read the fine print. And, be sure that you are working with companies that are all in the same system. Again, your goal is to make the most of the dollars you spend, so you will want them to all go into the same giant pot of perks. Even if you might save a few dollars on a particular flight by using a non-alliance airline, be sure that you're not losing out on benefits you might otherwise gain by being a consistent traveler on a particular airline alliance.
The common thread in some of our favorite strategies above is that, whatever loyalty programs, rewards systems, or discounts you are using, you will be better off doing so consistently. Over time, the increase in your status and loyalty to a group will pay off in tangible terms that make it worth your while not to stray too far from the fold. While some of the programs can be confusing and less than worthwhile (for example, buying miles is rarely a good idea), many of them are designed to do just what they want you to - make you loyal to their company's products. And, such loyalty can be rewarding - for the savvy traveler.
If you have any other strategies you use to get the best discounts and rewards for your travel, we'd love to hear them!