If you plan well, you can finance most of your family’s vacation with travel reward points.
The trick is to learn all the ways you can earn points. This entails far more than just buying airline tickets or reserving a hotel room.
You can even earn big points for refinancing your mortgage or buying a house.
Consider these pointers:
1. Decide where you want to go
Once you decide on your goal – your destination – you can determine which programs will help facilitate your plan.
Naturally, allow for enough time to ramp up your points.
2. Plan strategically with the right cards to maximize your points
The easiest of early strategies is to apply for one or two credit cards but not all cards are equal. Nor do you want to pick cards associated with the wrong airline.
Make certain your cards are tied to an airline that serves the destination you want.
Points allowed in one program might differ than in other programs. Some reward programs give you options at a variety of airlines or hotels.
So look for situations with complementary benefits and offers that allow you to earn points that can be transferred.
3. Prove to a credit card company you’ll be a valued customer
Pick cards that deliver more than one point per dollar. Learn the cards’ spending categories that work for you – from dining to groceries.
To get the maximum of bonus points from a credit card, know that you have to charge as much as $4,000 to $5,000 in the first 90 days. This also helps you get the credit card company’s attention.
They want as much exclusivity with you as possible – not wanting you to have a large number of cards.
4. Read the fine print about fees
Many credit card companies will waive the first year fee for you, but they’ll charge you annual fees starting with the second year.
The value of your bonuses and points will be offset significantly if you start paying interest charges.
5. Check the Internet for sites that calculate points and their comparable value
Not only are all cards equal. Neither are the points. One hotel chain’s point value might not be equal to a competing hotel chain’s.
Check the Internet for Web sites that calculate values and provide strategies for you such as The Points Guy, Mommy Points and View from the Wing.
6. Try to be flexible with your schedule
As you probably know, it’s hard to find award tickets if you’re not flexible on fight dates.
For instance, travel in the U.S. at holiday periods aren’t ideal for you. International trips in the premium flight classes are representative of the most valuable travel rewards.
7. Patronize the right shopping portals and for dining rewards
You can accelerate your points by double-dipping: Patronizing Internet shopping portals that offer maximum reward programs.
For instance some airlines will give you bonuses through their portals. So, if you buy on a portal with your credit card, you’ll earn extra opportunities to ramp up your points by dining at certain restaurant chains.
8. Charge everything you can but be selective
Be selective about your purchases. Some credit card companies will view your account with a jaundiced eye if you pay your taxes with a card or patronize cigar stores.
Try to research what is acceptable to the card companies. To some card companies, car insurance and utility bills are permissible. But make certain purchase-charges do not invite fees that are higher than your reward values.
9. Research expiration dates and monitor your point accumulations
Watch for expiration dates on reward points. Some reward points will unexpectedly expire on certain airlines or if you don’t use the card in a timely fashion.
AwardWallet is one app that will help you plan.
10. Redeem points strategically
Maximize your opportunities.
For instance, while you can use your points for shopping they don’t give you the best return on redemptions.
Another example — the same destination is treated differently by airline companies – contingent on the flight dates.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are more travel strategies:
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11 Travel Tips – Save Money, Prevent against Cyber Theft, Fraud — The most vulnerable travelers are businesspeople. That’s because they have to use Internet and e-mail. They’re in danger expressly from vulnerabilities, such as from wirelessly accessible passports to using WIFI.
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6 Top Tips for Etiquette in Business Travel — If you’re into people-watching, the airport is an entertaining place to be. You’ll see all kinds of personalities. That’s especially true for the wide variety of business travelers. For successful trips, business travelers share one common trait. They need to be mindful of business etiquette.
“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”