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Old 02-08-2020, 01:22 PM
dalej42 is online now
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Chicago
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Whatís your strategy for airline/hotel reward programs?

For me, it’s simple, if I qualify for something, I take it as soon as I can use it and don’t try to bank them to save up for something big. If I’ve earned a free hotel night, I take it. I’d rather take a upgrade on a flight than wait for a free one. I’ll use miles to get free WiFi on a longer flight. I’ll exchange miles for drink coupons.

I don’t travel for business so it’s not like I’m racking up miles and points left and right. Plus, it’s been my experience that the companies change the requirements too often and any ‘upgrades to the program’ they make mean it’ll cost more to get what I want. Or, the airline will pull out of a market or a hotel I like will get sold and rebrand as another chain.

I’ve just seen too many people get stuck saving up and then have it backfire. You’ve finally got enough miles for a first class ticket to Europe but now you’ve got a sick parent and you can’t be out of the country for 3 weeks. Or, your hotel chain has a luxury place in Hawaii that you want to use points for a romantic getaway and the program changes and they now require more points because they’ve moved the hotel into a higher tier.
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Last edited by dalej42; 02-08-2020 at 01:22 PM.
Old 02-08-2020, 01:42 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
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For airline programs where the miles expire, like American and (previously) United, I will generally try to use them as soon as I have enough for a flight, rather than risk having to book with that airline just to keep my miles valid, or worse, buy miles. The problem is mostly finding times to go when the miles required haven't been jacked up or I'm being offered inconvenient flights for a lower number of miles. Sometimes I'm willing to pay for a flight I want rather than spend an exorbitant amount of miles for one or take a crappy flight.

For miles that don't expire, like on Delta, I may save them up for a long distance trip (like to Europe or Asia) rather than spend them on a trip to New York. I'll use miles that might expire for the latter.

Last year I used up a lot of miles for long distance flights. At the moment, I'm below the amount necessary for a flight in all my accounts.

Last edited by Colibri; 02-08-2020 at 01:43 PM.
Old 02-08-2020, 01:59 PM
OldGuy is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Very east of Foggybog, WI
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Simple, I ignore them. I don't travel enough to make them worthwhile.
Old 02-08-2020, 02:04 PM
dalej42 is online now
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Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
Simple, I ignore them. I don't travel enough to make them worthwhile.
You might keep your eye open for mags for miles promos. Iíve been able to redeem very low numbers of miles for magazine subscriptions. I know magazines are a dying breed and will do anything to keep their circulation numbers up.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:45 AM
Mama Zappa is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Mostly we ignore them, since we rarely travel enough to build up any real miles / points.

Typo Knig did spend about 4 months travelling last year, and got enough points with one large hotel chain that we were able to stay in NYC free for a couple nights; we'll try to use up the rest some time over the next few months just because otherwise we'll forget about them until they expire. He probably has enough airline miles for one free domestic ticket, also (same deal).

The reward programs keep getting devalued. He was renting cars through Budget for that same travel - and they no longer offer direct discounts or class upgrades; instead, they give 25 dollar certificates, good toward a rental booked directly through them.... and his corporate discount (and my Costco discount) are both better than that. So, utterly useless (oh, and they expire after 90 days).

Back in the 90s, when one or the other of us did a fair bit of travelling, we actually got a credit card that gave airline miles. Really, these days that's about the only way to get enough for anything worthwhile unless you travel every week. We got to go round trip to California, first class, due to my American miles, then in 2002 we went round trip first class (us two plus 3 kids) on US Air - in both cases, with the airline miles augmented with a credit card. In both cases, there was an annual fee for the card, so once we use up the miles we cancelled the cards.

Amtrak is similarly tough to get enough points to go anywhere free. I looked at their affiliated credit card and it comes with a whopping 79 dollar annual fee. Dunno if we'd use it anywere near enough to make it worthwhile... though we are considering a major train journey next year.... Hmmmm.....

Last edited by Mama Zappa; 02-11-2020 at 10:45 AM.
Old 02-11-2020, 10:52 AM
Tired and Cranky is offline
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 1,750
I forget about them. I probably travel about 8x per year but I always pick the flights that work best for me so my airline miles would be spread all over the place. The miles expire or the programs change so often, the ones I do accumulate are essentially worthless. I could use a credit card to accrue miles but the miles I'd get aren't actually worth more than the cash and discounts I get with my Amazon and Costco cards.
Old 02-11-2020, 11:05 AM
racer72 is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Auburn, WA
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Signed up for the Wyndham rewards programs about 5 years ago. So far my freebies have included a penthouse in Phoenix, a suite in Spokane and coming up this September, a free night in West Yellowstone and Jackson, Wyoming. The free nights mean we can stay in better rooms and spend the same amount we would have staying at cheaper motels.
Old 02-11-2020, 11:13 AM
Procrustus is offline
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Pacific NW. •
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Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
Simple, I ignore them. I don't travel enough to make them worthwhile.
I think you can donate unused miles to things like, Make a Wish Foundation.
Old 02-11-2020, 12:51 PM
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WildaBeast is offline
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 1,064
Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
Simple, I ignore them. I don't travel enough to make them worthwhile.
I don't travel all that much, maybe once a year, but I have some strategies that make the programs worthwhile. First and foremost, I consolidate miles in as few programs as possible. Many airlines have reciprocal mileage agreements, so I when I flew on Alaska Airlines I used to be able to earn miles in my Delta account (although they have since terminated that agreement). When I stay at a hotel, I choose the option to earn airline miles for my stay rather than points in the hotel's own program. I don't stay at any particular hotel chain often enough to earn a free night any time soon anyway, and this way I get closer to a free flight faster. Also, I signed up, and fill out surveys every so often when I have some spare time. You earn points for taking the surveys, and can redeem them for airline miles. That also accelerates getting enough miles for a free flight, and maintains enough activity to prevent miles from expiring.

It still takes me years to accumulate enough miles on any one airline for a free flight, but I eventually get there. I have over the years flown for free to North Carolina to visit family, Costa Rica, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Hawaii.
Old 02-11-2020, 02:45 PM
Disheavel is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Seattle
Posts: 1,631
I travel a LOT for work (120,000 miles, 25 hotel nights, 10 car rentals last year) and for vacation. Even for work, I fly the cheapest flight and hotel and car 90% of the time and for vacation even more so. That being said, no hotel chain has ever worked out for me to amount to anything substantial. However, works really well. 11th night is free at a room price that is the average of the previous 10 nights. We spent 5 free nights last year and have another 3 banked already.
Cars, I can't figure out the system. I generally rent from Avis (cheap + speed into/out of an airport). But have never gotten the popup for "use points for this rental" even though I theoretically have 10 free days. Apparently the points system effectively omits any place someone wants to actually rent on vacation and only random business trips for me seem to qualify. So car rentals unless you go Hertz, it is not worthwhile to participate exclusively.
Old 02-11-2020, 02:54 PM
Disheavel is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Seattle
Posts: 1,631
Airlines - absolutely worth it. I get more miles from taking new credit cards and mileage accumulation on "3x for restaurants" cards than I ever get flying on some airlines. I get a new United (60,000 miles) and a new Alaska Airlines card (40,000?) every year. It took us several years and offers, but we accumulated 500,000 United miles and spent only 320,000 to take a family of 4 from San Francisco to Nairobi (40,000miles +$5) and then from Lilongwe, Malawi to Seattle (40,000+$11). It just requires shopping for cheap miles flights on random days. And with a new card and 60,000 miles, we are already back up to 280,000 miles and next year we can do it again. Hawaii is often only 20-25,000 miles roundtrip for Thursday-Tuesday flights for instance. So airline miles are absolutely worth accumulating. I can find SFO to Delhi (60k roundtrip) or to Kathmandu Nepal (80k roundtrip). And those have some 8-12 hour layovers in some awesome other cities!!!

I will never use miles for intra-US travel, it is almost never worth it, but to random places in the world via codeshare with African and Asian airlines, those miles are incredible!
Old 02-11-2020, 02:55 PM
Urbanredneck is offline
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 8,177
I once had a Disney credit card which game me a Disney dollar for ever $100 spent. We saved up and it helped pay for a Disney trip.

Later we just used them to buy some stuff from the Disney online store.
Old 02-11-2020, 03:28 PM
Machine Elf is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 12,608
Wife and I have been loyal Marriott customers for years now, including a Marriott-branded credit card which earns points toward free nights. With enough paid hotel stays per year we maintain platinum status, which gets us free fast internet, room upgrades whenever they're available (have had some awesome upgrades this way), and concierge lounge access (which gets you a pretty nice breakfast and dining environment at some of the nicer hotels). Also can check out as late as 4PM, which has been useful on numerous occasions.

We also fly (almost) exclusively on Delta. We run almost all of our everyday purchases through an AmEx Gold card, racking up FF miles. Have enjoyed several free flights to Japan this way. Buying Delta tickets with that Amex card also eliminates the checked-baggage fee, so the card's annual fee gets paid for pretty quickly.


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