Confessions of a frequent flier point collector.
I have to admit I can’t even make a simple purchase, without first considering the best possible point returns. This may sound strange, to anyone who does not collect points, but there is a whole different world for those who know. A world where free nights in five star hotels, and first class plane tickets are things that you can experience without having to float a loan.
Companies, value their loyal travelers, and they offer extra perks to those special guests. Even if you are not a frequent traveler you should get a loyalty number with hotels, airlines and rental car companies, if you think you’ll use their services.
Marriott offers loyalty members promotions like “stay two nights and the third is free”. If you were already staying somewhere, why not take part? Better still, may hotels have branded credit cards. Some of these credit cards come with an offer of status with the hotel for their annual fee, or even free nights. Many times, the free night is worth more than the cost of the credit card. Other perks may include late checkout, free breakfast, or some amenity such as bottled waters, fresh fruit, or cookies.
Free night can be inexpensive like Radissons’ 9,000 points at a less expensive property, or pricey like Hiltons 100,000 plus points. Each chain has sweet spots where the redemption is a great value like Hilton’s Conrad Hotel, in the Maldives, or Priority Clubs Willard, in Washington, DC. For a smaller number of points you can often upgrade your paid stay to a suite or a club level room. Club level rooms offer many benefits such as breakfast, snacks, beverages, and evening cocktails, and a lounge area to mingle or work in. In an expensive city this can be a huge money saving tactic.
Rental car companies have gotten into the loyalty business as well. Some member offers have included a free night after two rentals. Because you’ve essentially pre-registered, the time savings when you pick up your car, and with some companies the ability to choose your own car makes joining worthwhile.
Airlines have different types of frequent flier programs. Some points programs are based on a dollar value, while others are based on a chart that is determined by the individual airline. In addition to your points there is co-pay, covering taxes, fees and fuel surcharges, which varies widely between airlines. When it is time to redeem your points, just search the airlines website for free flights that meet your parameters. While most folks redeem their points for a round trip coach ticket in the US, this is not the maximum value for your points. British Airways is inexpensive for short trips like Tallahassee to Miami for 4000 points plus a $15 copay, but expensive for Europe at 100,000 points in business class plus an $1100 copay. Instead choose United business for100, 000 points and $100 copay. The best award of all is American Airlines Explorer Award, which allows you multiple flights in a region for not much more than the point’s redemption for a round trip ticket.
Whole web sites are devoted to how to get extra points thorough things like credit cards, home purchases, home sales, mortgages, satellite TV service, bank accounts, debit cards, investment accounts, dining and even shopping at the stores you already frequent. Sites like www.millionmilesecrets.com, www.thepointsguy.com,
and www.freefrequentflyermiles.com offer a great overview.
Now that you recognize why people collect points, just be aware of the other constant. Over time the value of those miles will be depreciated, often without notice. So make a plan, earn your points, and then enjoy the trip of your dreams.