Flickr / thinkpanamaNo one is better position to milk travel rewards than business travellers, which makes it especially painful to see people who get paid to travel miss out on easy perks.
More than 70% of Americans who use frequent flier miles don’t know how many they have and nearly as many said they don’t even know how the programs work, according to a new study commissioned by Brian Kelly, the voice behind popular travel blog The Points Guy.
“What doesn’t make sense is why so few people are keeping track of their points and miles when there are such good resources out there to do so easily,” Kelly says. “They are worth money. Sometimes they are worth a lot of money – depending on how you redeem them.”
Kelly knows a thing or two about business travel rewards. He used to fly more than 125,000 miles a year as a recruiter for a major investment bank.
We asked him for a few pointers on how business travellers can use travel perks in their favour:
Build up points outside of the airport: One of the best places to compound your travel points is actually nowhere near airports at all –– it’s at the store. “These days with miles the best way to earn them is by shopping with credit cards,” Kelly says. “I would say just take out travel rewards cards for everyday spending and when you travel.” Just be sure you nab a card that waives foreign transaction fees, which can be a real killer.
Give your points time to grow: If you want to stretch your dollar furthest, give your miles time to really accrue before you start applying them to travel. You’ll make a bigger dent that way. “I buy almost all my domestic tickets,” Kelly says. “Then I wait and redeem my miles for international trips in business or first class.”
Don’t pass up cheap fares just for the points: Some fliers will do whatever it takes to book flights to earn more points, even if it means passing up cheaper fares on another carrier. That’s not always the smartest move, especially when you consider each mile is worth about two cents. “Cash is king and yes, it’s good to have a good mileage strategy, but I wouldn’t pay a ton extra just to earn miles,” Kelly says.
Don’t focus solely on airline miles: You can earn points on more than just air travel by using cards that let you use your miles on hotel stays and car rentals as well.
Don’t let them go to waste: We get it. Keeping track of all your travel rewards is a hassle few people have time for. To make matters worse, some frequent flier points disappear if you leave your account inactive for a certain period of time, usually after 18 months. Make your life easier and sign up for a miles tracking site like AwardWallet. It’s a one-stop shop for tracking miles from all of your accounts, including your passwords for each.