With so many different frequent flier and loyalty programs out there, choosing one can feel a little daunting. Here are a few ways to earn points quickly, climb your way up to elite status, take advantage of those programs and maximize your miles.
Find the Best Card That Suits Your Needs – If you’re a frequent buyer trying to earn points for each purchase you make, there are quite a few cards out there. Some bank/debit cards give you more points than others. For example, some offer one mile per dollar spent while others only give a mile for every two dollars spent, so be sure to choose the best value. In addition to points value, pay attention to the fine print (a good tip for anything you do). If there’s an annual fee, make sure it’s worthwhile and comes with additional perks such as travel insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, car rental insurance, etc.
Since I travel so much, I use the American Express Gold Rewards Card where I can earn double points on eligible gas, grocery, drugstore and travel purchases. The points add up quickly and, when I go to redeem my points (like when I paid for a rental car in Los Angeles) it’s fast and easy. In addition to a car rental or flight, I can use my points towards any hotel or vacation package, across any airline, anytime without the pain of blackout dates, restrictions or limited seats. Find a cheap deal on Kayak, Orbitz or Travelocity or a cool adventure trip offered by a tour company and I can even use my points towards that! I can also transfer my points to a variety of airline programs, including 1:1 to Aeroplan.
For a comprehensive guide to all the frequent flier programs out there to see what best suits your needs, check out RewardsCanada.ca in Canada, and http://flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page in the US.
Look for Bonus Intro Offers – Sign up for cards that offer a Welcome Bonus to new members. These incentives are integral to getting a free flight faster!
To keep up with frequent flier news and stay in the loop about upcoming special promotions, check out: http://www.flyertalk.com/ This forum discusses the latest frequent flyer & hotel programs, you can post questions and share deals with the rest of the community.
Use the Card for Everything – Cash is so old school. To earn points faster, use your card for everything… groceries, phone bills, utilities, taxis, even gum. My philosophy is to get rewards for every purchase possible! When you use your card for all your purchases, it also helps you keep track of your spending. Just be sure to be fiscally responsible by paying your statements in full and on time. Don’t get into debt over the desire for miles.
Use ‘em or Lose ‘em: A lot of us sit on our points. These points have monetary value, so if you’ve been waiting for a while to cash them in…best to use them every time you fly, rent a car or get a hotel room. Then you’re putting them to good use, instead of saving up for a big trip some day in the distant future. Don’t forget to monitor the expiration dates of your miles by checking your monthly statements. According to a study conducted on behalf of American Express Canada, nearly one in four points collectors have let their points expire and another quarter are sitting on a large bank of points, with no immediate plans to redeem them. So use ’em or lose ’em.