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Earning points and miles has become more difficult over the last decade. There are more travel credit cards than ever and many offer massive welcome bonuses. However, banks have implemented rules restricting the number of credit cards you can get approved for. With this being the current reality, you'll want to ensure that when you receive a credit card bonus, you stretch it as far as possible.
You can do this by being savvy with how you redeem points and researching ways to book travel for less. Not all loyalty programs are the same and with a little research and flexibility, you can get farther with fewer miles.
With that said, here are six ways to stretch your points and miles farther for travel redemptions:
As with any purchase, you can save a lot of points just by shopping around. Not all airlines require the same number of miles for a flight. By having miles with multiple programs, you have more options. Meanwhile, hotel loyalty programs have a vast range of redemption rates in the same city (and even the same neighborhood). This is where a well-diversified points portfolio comes into play. It provides options so you can book the cheapest option possible.
By shopping around, you might find cheaper flights and hotels than if you stick to one program. For example, United MileagePlus often charges 60,000 miles one-way for a business class ticket to Europe. Meanwhile, fellow Star Alliance member All Nippon Airways chargers just 88,000 miles round-trip for the same flight. By shopping around, you can save thousands of points and stretch your existing stash further.
Book Longer Hotel Stays
Several loyalty programs offer discounts of up to 33% when you book hotel stays of three nights or longer. Booking longer stays can help you stretch your points further and generate more value out of your stay. For example, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy members get their fifth night free on award stays. So if you're booking a four-night stay, why not add an extra night for free?
The same goes for select IHG credit cardholders, who get their fourth night free on award stays.
You can get the fourth night free on paid stays if you have a Citi Prestige Card (no longer accepting applications). This perk is valid on Citi ThankYou Travel portal bookings only. By lowering the total cash rate, this benefit can enable you to save points for a higher value redemption.
5 Easy Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms
Most loyalty programs have adopted some form of dynamic pricing, raising point rates when demand increases and dropping them when demand lowers. Some programs even publish award charts with clearly-defined travel dates for peak, off-peak and standard awards. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you can save a lot of points and enjoy fewer crowds during your travels.
Off-peak pricing will vary depending on the loyalty program and destination. For example, American Airlines, ANA Mileage Club and World of Hyatt publish award charts that include peak and off-peak pricing. ANA and American even include off-peak travel dates for each region.
Fare-based programs like Southwest Rapid Rewards and JetBlue True Blue offer low-fare calendars so you can get the cheapest point rate possible. You can use these to plan your trips and get the best deal possible.
The difference can be tremendous. For example, a peak award at a Category A all-inclusive Hyatt property costs 18,000 points per night. That's pretty reasonable, but you can save around 33% by booking that same hotel during the off-season.
On the airline front, there are equally terrific deals available. A one-way economy class ticket to Europe typically costs 30,000 miles. But travel between Jan. 10 - Mar. 14, Nov. 1 - Dec.14, 2022 and you'll need just 22,500 miles. You'll save 15,000 miles round-trip, which you can use towards a one-way off-peak economy class ticket to Mexico or the Caribbean (with 2,500 miles to spare).
Discounted Award Tickets
Similar to off-peak pricing, some airlines run award ticket sales that can help you save a lot of miles. The most prominent example is Flying Blue's Promo Rewards, which knock the price of airfare down as low as 50%. A new list of discounted routes gets released every first of the month and can save you miles year-round.
American Airlines doesn't publish a list of Web Special awards, but you can stumble across one-way fares as low as 5,000 miles each way when they go on sale. Delta SkyMiles Deals is another excellent source for discounted award tickets. Simply enter your preferred airport and you'll get a list of discounted routes you can book for as little as 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip.
Delta SkyMiles is a 1:1 Membership Rewards transfer partner. So if you come across an excellent fare on the SkyMiles Deals page, you can transfer points instantly and redeem them quickly.
Traveling solo can be rewarding in many ways: You can go where you want, do what you want and redeem fewer miles. But if you decide to bring a travel companion along, nothing will stretch your miles like a companion pass. You can save as much as 100% on the cost of a companion's airfare by taking advantage of these passes. The most famous one is the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets you fly a designated companion free of charge (plus taxes and fees). This can be incredibly valuable if you fly to popular destinations like Hawaii and the Caribbean during peak travel season.
But Southwest isn't the only airline offering a companion pass. American Airlines and British Airways also have companion passes that you can redeem towards award flights.
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, issues a companion pass every year you spend $30,000 on the card. With the AAdvantage Companion Certificate, you can book a domestic companion fare for just $99 plus taxes and fees. Taxes range from $21.60 to $43.20, depending on the route. So you won't pay more than $142.20.
The Companion Certificate is valid on Main Cabin fares on American Airlines or American Eagle. That's not quite as limiting as you might imagine, since American operates a vast route network within the U.S. You can fly to every major city, as well as many smaller markets.
The great thing about the British Airways Travel Together Ticket is that you can use it for solo travel. You'll save 50% on your award ticket or you can bring a companion and only pay their taxes and fees. You can earn the Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 on your British Airways Visa in a calendar year.
This companion pass is different from the others because you can use it on international travel, rather than being limited to domestic flights.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
The Southwest Companion Pass is perhaps the most well-known companion ticket – and the most coveted. You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass after completing 100 one-way flights or earning 125,000 points. The best part? All points from the Southwest credit cards count towards this requirement, including the welcome bonus.
The Southwest cards are issued by Chase, so you'll want to read up on the 5/24 rule before applying for a card.
A Complete Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass
Redeem Point Redemptions Through Travel Portals
Sometimes, redeeming points through a travel portal is cheaper than transferring them to an airline or hotel loyalty program. For example, an award night at the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa in Miami (a Marriott property) goes for 56,000 points in August.
Meanwhile, the same hotel on the Ultimate Rewards travel site comes to $332 or 26,551 points per night. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points are worth 1.5 cents for travel, so you would only need 22,133 points.
By booking through Chase rather than transferring those points to IHG, you can save 30,000 or more points.
Points and miles can open up a world of travel opportunities. With two years of lockdowns, we're all eager to get out there and see the world again. With the right strategy, you can do that even as travel costs skyrocket over the summer and beyond.
Follow these tips and you'll save your hard-earned points and get to travel more, which is always the goal.
Featured photo courtesy of Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa