I have always done my best to save money any way that I can on travel. I joined a few free Airline and Hotel Rewards programs over the years in order to earn points. But I had no idea just how much I didn’t know until this year.
I started my blog in April and began following a variety of Travel & Points Blogs. Most of them are very savvy, having dozens of Credit Cards and countless Rewards Program Memberships. They know all the right moves to earn the maximum points or get the best Reward Redemptions. And so began my Points and Rewards education.
My favorite Points & Travel Blog is Your Mileage May Vary. Joe and Sharon are a husband and wife who write the blog together. Joe does most of the Points and Mileage articles while Sharon writes about Deals And Disney and they both write about Travel experiences. They present the material in a very relatable fashion with a pleasant pop of humor.
When I read some of the other Points Blogs, I sometimes feel intimidated or out of my league. They are so many levels above where I am with Points/Rewards. I am just a Regular Dev, Lover of Travel and Seeker of the best Deals. I am NOT a Frequent Flyer/Car Renter or Airport Lounge user. I can’t afford $1500 or more in Credit Card Annual Fees per year if I want to Actually afford to Travel. While they are always flying First Class on some new Jet to a fancy hotel in an exotic destination, I am buying Basic Economy to Texas and staying in the Holiday Inn!
Joe at Your Mileage May Vary explains things in a way I understand. He provides useful information for someone at my level in the Points and Rewards game. I never feel like the ideas he presents are out of my reach. They have even taken time to answer my questions when I have reached out for help. They are approachable, real people who seem like they could live next door! Just what I need.
I love that Joe manages their credit card spending for points while Sharon prefers not to have to worry about which card to use to get the most rewards. We are the reverse. My Husband doesn’t get too involved with any of this miles/points/rewards stuff. He nods his head and humors me when I excitedly try to explain a plan I am working on. Other times he looks at me like I am crazy. He’s just not that interested in it and knows I will eventually figure it all out. After plenty of research, I usually do.
I have taken some baby steps:
- I reviewed my old Credit Cards to see which ones had any benefits that make them worth keeping. I now have a plan for phasing out the old ones (most were opened before benefits were a thing) and bringing in better options.
- I converted a Credit Card that we had for a long time which had virtually no benefits to another type of account which offered Car Rental Protection plus earns Rewards on Purchases. Although I did not get any Bonus Points by converting the account, it didn’t require any inquiries or changes to our Credit Report. This was important as I had my eye on applying for a couple of other Cards next year.
- I opened a new IHG Rewards Club Premier Card with a Bonus Offer of 100,000 points if I meet the spend requirement in the first 90 days. That was no problem to do and I am now just waiting for my statement to cut to see my points hit the account. I am excited about this card because we are pretty loyal to the Holiday Inn line of Hotels and these points will be a great resource in my Travel War Chest. It earns 10X points on IHG hotel stays, gives me a Free Night Annually, plus Fourth Night Free on Five Night Bookings. (I am planning to save my points for a big trip in 2020 and hope to be able to use points for almost all of my Hotels.)
- I took advantage of an IHG Promotion where I could get a 100% match on points purchases. I bought 30,000 points (which counted toward my spend requirement) and they matched that 30,000 points for a total of 60,000 points. Adding those points to my current balance and the Bonus for opening the Credit Card and I am ready for some serious Reward Hotel Stays!
- I also booked a Car Rental Deal through my Southwest Airlines Rewards program that gave me Double Airline Rewards Points. I had to book the car anyway so getting Double Reward Points was just a bonus. (I am saving up Southwest Points to use for trips to see my Son in Texas.)
- I participated in a SPG (Marriott/Starwood) Hotel promotion and won quite a lot of points to add to the War Chest as well. (More hotel options for that big trip!)
I never would have done any of these things without reading Travel and Points blogs and learning from the pros. There is always some little take away nugget that I can stash until the time is right to use it. Now before I make any arrangements, I really look at different ways that I can get the most bang for my buck….or earn the most Rewards or Points.
The thing is if you manage just a few key elements in your spending and travel, you can get a lot of benefits from even just a few Credit Cards or Rewards Programs.
Here is my Small Town Girl Strategy for easing into Points/Rewards:
- Pick 1 Hotel, 1 Airline or 1 Car Rental Program and register for their Rewards Program
- Be sure to use that Brand of Service for any Reservations you make in order to earn as many points as possible
- Watch for an offer from that Merchant to earn a large amount of Bonus Points to sign up for their credit card (If you do, be sure you complete the steps to earn the bonus points-never miss out on free money or points)
- Make sure to utilize all the cards benefits to offset your annual fee
- Continue registering for other free Rewards Programs for Hotels, Airlines or Car Rental Companies as you need to need them. These have no risk, you just accrue points for each time you use them. (Start with one Brand of Service for each travel type and frequent those providers so that your Points will add up faster. You can add more brands as you travel more and become more comfortable with these types of programs.)
- Watch your e-mail for flash deals that may give you opportunities to boost your points.
- Check your Rewards program to see if you get points for making reservations through them with a Travel Partner (like booking my car rental through the Southwest Rewards site to get Double Points.)
- Sign up for a Shopping Portal like Ebates or Ibotta. Starting your bookings from a Shopping Portal can earn you additional back-end Rebates.
I hope this encourages you to start optimizing your Travel Savings by using Points and Rewards Programs. Start small to avoid getting overwhelmed. Follow some travel blogs and read their helpful travel tips, Points and Rewards earning strategies, and Rewards Credit Card Reviews. Help is out there!