As business travelers, most of us signed up long ago to earn frequent flier miles. And it’s wonderful to receive free trips as rewards for all the traveling we do. But that’s really just the beginning of what today’s rewards programs can do. So here are a few tips on how to up your game to a whole new level:
Trash the cash Gas, groceries, travel, entertainment, utility payments, even rent: if you’re using cash for any of these purchases, you’re walking away from free money. Just make sure you won’t incur a fee for skipping cash, as can happen in a few cases such as tuition payments. Yes, it may take a bit more effort to go cashless, but the rewards are totally worth it.
It’s in the cards Credit cards offer the richest source of points and miles by far. Some even give bonuses for spending in specific categories, allowing you to earn multiple points per dollar. Avoid those with high annual fees and be sure to pay off your entire balance each month. To help you get started, here’s a list of highly rated credit cards.
Loyalty pays off A loyalty program offers you free merchandise, discounts or coupons when you make frequent purchases with a company. They exist in dozens of categories such as hotels, car rentals and virtually every kind of retailer, so sign up for the ones that mesh best with your travel and lifestyle habits. Here’s a list of top loyalty programs. They’re free, so you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Earn as you eat Don’t forget to get rewarded for all the eating out you do. When you enroll in restaurant dining programs, you’ll earn points in addition to the ones you get from paying with a credit card—so you’ll “double-dip” with every mouthful. Delicious.
Online bonanza When you use widely available shopping portals such as Citi Bonus Cash Center to access your favorite retailer’s website, you’ll automatically get points or miles for every dollar you spend. So it makes sense to never go directly to an online retailer if you can enter through one of these portals instead.
Use it or lose it Keep track of when your rewards points expire, usually every 12 to 18 months. Sometimes you can buy them back, but generally speaking, when they’re gone they’re gone. So it pays to keep a close eye on this.
These tips are really just the basics. There’s great points-tracking software you can get, elite status programs you can join and sophisticated strategies such as card-linking that can get you vastly greater rewards. For a deeper dive, check out this excellent points guide.
And many happy returns to you!
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