Points for Business Travelers is a new weekly series aimed at helping business travelers maximize miles and points without a lot of effort. Have a suggestion or question? Email roadwarriorette @ gmail.com.
Last week I talked about setting goals. Once you know what you’re trying to gain, it’s much easier to map out a points strategy. This week, before I start talking about credit cards, challenges, and other strategies, I want to cover a few things about loyalty programs. For those of you who have been around for a while, you probably know most of this stuff. But anyone who is brand new to accruing points should read ahead.
The first step to maximizing points is, well, to sign up for them! Loyalty programs are available for all aspects of travel. Each time you fly, stay in a hotel, or rent a car you should get compensated by points or miles. The best way to know which ones to sign up for are the ones you use. It’s pretty simple: look back over your travel and see if there is a pattern for which brands you use the most, then sign up for those programs. (If you’re new to business travel, look at the programs you think you’ll use the most.)
If possible, stick to one or two programs. This way your points are concentrated in a few locations instead of spread out over a bunch of different places. In my case I almost always use Southwest and American for airlines, Hilton and SPG for hotels, and Hertz and Budget for car rentals. Obviously sometimes you have no control over who you use, but do your best.
(If you don’t have any say over what hotel you stay in, I’ve heard good things about the Hotels.com loyalty program. Any readers have any experience with it?)
Keep in mind that hotel rewards programs encompass all of their brands, so for example Hilton, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Conrad, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, and Waldorf Astoria all fall under the Hilton Hhonors program. It took me two years of frequent travel to realize this, and made it way easier to find Hilton Hhonors hotels that were located where I needed them and priced within my company’s budget.
If you are just now signing up for rewards programs, don’t be sad about the points you’ve missed in your past! While I knew to sign up for American Airline’s Aadvantage program right away, I didn’t know to sign up for hotel programs until I had been traveling for months. There’s nothing you can do, so just vow to get the most points you can moving forward.
Next installment: credit cards!!
(Also, check out Mommy Points’ Guide for Beginners if you haven’t already. It’s a very helpful overview!)
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