Do you spend a surprisingly large amount of time daydreaming about the best ways to earn more miles so that you can take amazing trips? Are you one of those people that scours the internet to figure out which mileage portal will give you the most points for your online purchases? Maybe you chose restaurants based on which ones participate in Thanks Again, a program that awards miles for doing business with various retailers?
If you do, we have something in common. (Hello, my name is Ramsey, and I’m a points addict.)
The frequent flier world has changed rapidly over the past year, but there is still tremendous value to be had when it comes to earning and burning loyalty points. It just takes a bit of planning and attention to detail to travel in luxury on a dime. These five practices will help you plump up your mileage stash so that you can spend it on experiences of a lifetime (or on your next family reunion).
Look for brand partnerships with hotels
Many travel brands partner to give each other’s customers bonus loyalty points. Starwood and Delta have teamed up to give Starwood Preferred Guest members bonus Delta SkyMiles for every hotel stay. (Be sure to link your accounts to take advantage.) United and Marriott have a partnership that gives both companies’ elite members benefits like elite status and potential upgrades. They also give the option to convert Marriott points to United miles, and you even get bonus miles when you make a transfer.
Weigh the benefits of hotel booking options
Hotel companies are keen on getting potential guests to make reservations directly through their reservation systems, so if you book a room at a large chain hotel through a third party, you’ll probably have to forgo loyalty points. But if you’re looking to stay at an independent hotel that has no loyalty program, or you simply don’t care about onsite hotel benefits, you can get great airline mileage benefits by using sites like RocketMiles or PointsHound. Both award airline miles for hotel reservations.
Seek out alternate earning strategies
Airlines and hotels are not the only ones that dole out loyalty points. There are plenty of other sources. For example, Amtrak will let you earn United miles for traveling aboard its trains. Starwood and Uber have a similar partnership, with Starwood points awarded for each Uber ride. And if that Uber ride takes place during a Starwood hotel stay, the bonus points are doubled. (And, of course, you can then convert those points to Delta SkyMiles.) If Zipcar is more your style, you can earn JetBlue points for using its cars.
Super Shuttle, the airport transfer service, awards a handful of miles on airlines like American and Southwest for each trip. Flower companies like FTD and 1-800-Flowers issue bouquets of blooms that can also yield buckets of miles. SpaFinder will award you with miles as your body is scrubbed and rubbed. You can even shop your way to more points. In fact, many of the businesses you often make purchases with might be possible sources of miles—and you could be passing them up on a regular basis.
Keep track of promotions
Airline and hotel companies have promotions all the time. Hotel companies are even known to roll out bonus offers each quarter. Most require advance registration to take part, but the few minutes it takes to sign up is worth it.
To take advantage, you should try to visit the promotion pages of your favorite hotel and airline brands on a monthly basis. If you take a look now, you’ll see that Hilton hotels are offering double miles on any stay between now and the end of April, and Starwood is not only offering double points, they’re also offering bonus points for stays at certain hotels.
When you earn big, make sure those points arrive
Once you do all of this planning, it’s just as important to follow through and make sure that what you earn shows up in your accounts. It is alarming how often mileage or points accrued fail to post. There are a variety of reasons it happens, from names not matching to miscommunication between partners or just simple computer errors.
Be sure to audit your balances on a regular basis to make sure you’re awarded the points you’re due. It may take anywhere from a few days to eight weeks for miles to post (depending upon where you earned them), so you’ll want to keep a running list of what should be coming in. That way, when you want to take that trip of a lifetime, all of your points will be there waiting for you!
Ramsey Qubein wings his way to every corner of the globe covering the hotel, cruise and airline industry, scooping up points and miles along the way. He has visited 164 countries and flies nearly 350,000 miles per year. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at DailyTravelTips or on his website RamseyQ.com.