My friend’s significant other, who I will call Sam, is what I consider to be a Points Connoisseur. When I was visiting them a few weeks ago, I was shown pictures of the most exquisite hotel room on the remote island of the Maldives where they stayed for two weeks last December. Then, Sam made a statement that virtually knocked me off of my feet. He managed to cover the entire hotel expense by using his points, which is truly unbelievable since the rate was about $2,000 USD per night.
What was the secret? A simple strategy used throughout a 30 year career of heavy business travel that allowed Sam to accumulate over a million points with the Marriott hotel chain. By staying loyal to one brand, and working for a company that gave him the flexibility to book his own travel, he was able to build this equity over time.
However, what is interesting is that the hotel in the Maldives where he stayed was not a Marriott, but was in fact a Hilton. By transferring points from the Marriott chain to a partner airline, and then from the airline to the Hilton, he was able to enjoy this dream vacation of a lifetime.
Although most of us may never be able to accumulate as many points as Sam, there are a few things we can all easily do to build up our balances and enjoy the benefits of cashing in our points for travel perks. Here are my favorite three tips:
Create loyalty accounts: The first step in this game is to create accounts with as many airline
and hotel loyalty programs as you wish. If you want to keep things simple, pick only the most frequent hotel and airline brands that you use. Once you set things up, write down all of the account numbers and user names in one place for ease of access and use. Also, it is advised that you create an account with an online mileage tracker program like AWARDWALLET.COM which is free and can even alert you when miles are going to expire.
Shop online through strategic links: Did you realize that many airlines and hotel chains have
shopping mall websites that link to big stores and let you earn miles or points while buying online? For example, United Airlines’ site MILEAGEPLUSSHOPPING.COM has links to Bloomingdales, Apple, and Barnes and Nobel among many other retailers. Simply log-in through United’s portal and buy online as usual. Some of the deals let you earn as much as 6 miles per $1 spent. However, be aware that you may have to forfeit coupons or retailer discount codes to earn these miles. Always read the fine print before you start buying.
Follow the point guru’s online: There are several websites that spend all of their time and energy on
this subject, as well as showcasing the latest hot deals available. These can be useful tools to help you navigate this very overwhelming and complex world. I particularly liked the advice on ThePointsGuy.Com, MillionMilesSecrets.Com, and FrugalTravelGuy.com.
As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!
*Image of a young woman giving passport and ticket back to businessman at airport check-in counter via Shutterstock