You may love or hate traveling for work and conferences like SHRM Annual or SXSW, but the fact remains that you can pretty easily travel hack your way to better rooms, better flights, and better perks. Who doesn’t love a deal or free upgrades?
How to Get More Rewards Points, Upgrades, and Frequent Flier Miles
While attending SXSW, I attended the session on how to get the most out of your rewards and travel points, and I thought I’d share the best practices and highlights along with a few of my own favorite travel tips and upgrade hacks. First, we’re going to assume that you’ve signed up for rewards accounts with your favorite spots and just skip to the next step.
#1 – Get a Credit Card
Getting the right card is critical to your points game. Before you commit, check sites like creditcards.com to see what fits your goals. There are often big bonus offers throughout the year so keep your eyes open for those at things like thepointsguy.com. Once you’re signed up, here are some additional tips for maximizing points:
- Shop through their “bonus malls” or shopping portals
- Add an authorized user to rack up the dollars and the points
- Pay it off every month (to avoid penalties, obviously)
- Pick up the dinner tab when you’re out and ask others for cash
- Auto-pay your bills or rent on the card
Personally, my favorite credit card is American Express. I use it to pay for everything, and because of my frequency of use, I am able to get VIP access to reservations, services, and other perks first before everyone else.
#2 – Book Hotels Through Sites Like Rocketmiles, Pointshound
Getting bonus points for booking something you were already going to book? Yes, please! Both RocketMiles and PointsHound do just that. Book your hotel through their portal, choose your rewards program, and watch the points roll in. The cost for the hotel is similar but you get added points on whichever loyalty program you choose as a sweet, sweet bonus.
#3 – Join Dining Programs
Eat and earn through both card dining programs and airline dining programs. Some programs even offer sign up bonuses as an incentive. Link your card and spend dollars dining at the right spots within their reward network in order to hit each tier. Combine these with your reward cards and your Opentable reservations for maximum returns. Opentable is my favorite when traveling especially when I’m looking for fast reservations in cities like Las Vegas, New York, and Austin.
#4 – Install Points-Earning Plugins
Most airlines—including United, Southwest, American Airlines— have Chrome and Firefox points plug-ins that allow you to earn miles just by purchasing on partner sites. These little plug-ins or buttons will remind you where you can earn points, help you activate the points, and then see where you’ll get the most mileage for your points. You should get points for buying that $100 instant pot.
#5 – Be a Loyalist
This may seem counterintuitive but chasing the lowest fare isn’t actually your friend here. It’s much better to be a loyalist. Flying on one or two airlines, patronizing the same hotel or car rental place every trip is the way you level up on status and on points. Take a look at who flies out of your area, which hotel group you actually enjoy staying in, or who has the best rental loyalty plan and stick with it.
You can travel hack in a million different ways but it’s always helpful to have a guide. Subscribe to top sites like Points Guy, Nerdwallet, and Lifehacker. Of course, there are a ton of different sites that will point you in the right direction for the latest and greatest way to earn rewards.
Beyond travel my favorite money saving tip is using the Chrome extension, Honey. Honey helps you find coupon codes, discounts, and deals not just on travel but on anything you buy online. I recently saved $50 a print order for my Social Siesta party as part of SXSW. While these tips and tricks take time to implement, they pay off longer term.