How To Maximize Your Travel & Hotel Rewards
Frequent travelers often use rewards cards to accumulate points that are redeemable for airline tickets, free hotel rooms, and many other things. For those cardholders who carry hotel rewards cards, here are a few tips you can use to maximize your points.
- Choose a card that works for you. While this seems like an obvious tip, many cardholders choose cards that simply don’t fit their spending habits. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to carry a card that rewards you for staying in a Comfort Suites Hotel if you prefer to stay at a Holiday Inn. Also, choose a hotel chain that has a hotel in the places you actually visit. Many people vacation in the same places over and over, so it would make sense if they racked up rewards points for a hotel stay in the areas they often visit.
Limit your credit card use to a couple of cards. You will amass a redeemable level of points more quickly if you stick to using one or two cards instead of trying to spread your rewards over several cards at once. Since many business travelers are stuck staying in hotels they may not be carrying a personal card for, it may make sense for travelers to obtain a card for the “corporate approved” chain as well as one for their personal preference. Also, it might make sense to look into a rewards program that will allow you to redeem your points outside of the chain.
Find cards that operate in multiple rewards currencies. Some hotel rewards programs allow you to swap your hotel points for air miles, or for retail and restaurant rewards. This makes owning this card extremely valuable to travelers that can take advantage of rewards earned through extensive business travel, allowing one to earn a truly free vacation.
Use your rewards points when it makes the most sense. Economic uncertainty may lead people to plan fewer vacations and to take fewer unnecessary trips, but with rewards points, this doesn't have to be the case. Lodging makes up a significant portion of vacation expense, but redeeming your hotel points for free stays takes the sting out of vacationing while the stock market is down. Other people have used their rewards points in an even more creative fashion. Some are choosing to stay rent free in hotels while they search for jobs or find new homes after a foreclosure at different locations.
No matter how you look at it, a free hotel stay is definitely a perk worth having when it comes to using credit cards. Since more and more hoteliers are turning to multiple currency programs, it becomes a lot easier to plan a vacation each year where you can rack up hotel rewards points.
How To Stay In A Hotel For Free
Many folks have become pretty creative about keeping their costs low while on a trip, while still finding ways to travel in style. Even if you prefer to take a staycation rather than travel far distances, there may be times when you may appreciate hitting the road and visiting with a room service menu and a pool. Instead of paying full price when you travel, here are a few ideas on how to stay in a hotel for free.
- Be loyal to your hotel chain.
One key to getting free nights at your favorite hotels involves your participation in loyalty programs. In most cases, these loyalty programs award you points that you can accumulate to use on future stays. When you’re seeking a new program, look for offers that include bonus points.
As one example, Hyatt Gold Passport’s The Great 10K promotion gives you 10,000 bonus points once you spend 5 nights as a Hyatt guest. During regular hotel stays, you can earn 5 points per dollar you spend when you check in. When you’re ready to redeem your points, you can use them at a variety of Hyatt hotels around the world.
- Use a hotel rewards credit card.
If you like to use credit cards for your purchases, then a hotel rewards credit card (such as those we've listed above) can pick up a lot of points for you. Take the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. It's a popular card that allows you to earn bonus points upon your first purchase, which may be worth several nights at some Starwood hotels. You can get double (or multiple) points for using the card at Starwood properties and one point per dollar spent on the rest of your eligible purchases. At some of these Starwood hotels, you can get free weekend nights for a certain number of points. The Marriott Rewards cards also function in the same way.
- Check out other travel rewards credit cards.
A lot of people tend to focus on the airline miles they can earn, but you can look for free hotel stays from general travel rewards cards, too. These general travel cards have the advantage of being more flexible about the usage of rewards points or miles. Escape by Discover Card lets you use your accumulated miles for travel credits to your account. Since you can earn thousands of bonus miles in your first 25 months and you get double miles for purchases, it isn’t difficult to accrue enough for a hotel night. You'll be able to swap points for travel credit.
- Check for deals on the hotel’s website.
If you’ve ever wanted to spend an extra night in paradise without paying for it, then you should peruse the deals on your hotel’s website before you leave home. One package from Marriott offers a free additional night and breakfast in Hawaii! These deals tend to change often, so give yourself a few chances to look around before you settle on a particular destination.
- Should you entertain casino hotel offers?
Casinos have always been known for their hospitality, so if you're open to staying in one, this tip may prove helpful. If you happen to visit casino hotels often while traveling or trying your luck, then you should check out any available rewards programs. One friend of mine earned points for a few minutes of his time during our lunch out. Harrah’s Total Rewards program offers discounts and free room stays for different levels of membership. Platinum, Diamond, and Seven Stars members can earn two to three nights and a tournament entry to the Summer Fest and Winter Fest tournaments.
- Join a travel site’s rewards program.
If you prefer to book your stays through a travel site, then see if there’s a rewards program you can join. Orbitz.com and Capital One have teamed up to offer a credit card that gives you breaks if you book through Orbitz. Also, HotelClub has a free membership program that lets you earn Member Dollars for your bookings. These Member Dollars can be applied to future stays. There are three levels of membership, so the more you book, the greater your benefits.
If something beyond the ordinary goes awry during your stay, you should voice your complaint. Negotiating with the front desk or manager may lead to a comped stay for the future. If you can’t find the assistance you need on a local level, then check with the hotel chain’s customer service.
- Piggyback on business.
How about killing two birds with one stone? If you're scheduled to go on a business trip through your employer, you may want to negotiate with your boss about transforming the trip into a partial vacation. If you are traveling for your own business, then you can make this happen more easily -- plus, you'll be able to consider some of your travel expenses as a tax deduction. But make sure to consult with your tax attorney or CPA before using this strategy.
Getting away can be a great treat, but there’s no need to commit your entire vacation budget to it. By employing strategies such as joining a loyalty program and using a travel rewards credit card, it’s possible to earn free stays at hotels.