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How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards Benefits

 

Are you travelling for business or for pleasure? Do you use a company credit card? Or do you use your own personal card and submit expenses?

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Regardless of how you travel, there are several ways to take advantage of the many travel rewards available to you.  That being said, there are so many travel rewards programs available on the market that it can be overwhelming and outright confusing to select the programs that work best for you.

If you follow my simple guidelines below, I assure you that you will get the most benefits from your rewards programs.

  1. Keep it Simple: Select One(1) Airline Travel Reward Program

Every airline has its own reward program however they are not all created equal.  The trick here is to stick to a reward program that is associated with an airline AND shops that you frequent (i.e. gas stations, hardware stores, grocery stores etc.). This way, everywhere you go, you are gaining valuable points.  For example, I chose a rewards program which is associated with the airline which I most frequently travel with as well as many other retail partners so that wherever I am shopping, I am gaining travel rewards and getting closer to redeeming my rewards.

If you select a reward program that is associated solely with an airline or general travel rewards, it will take you much longer and/or require that you spend much more money to obtain your rewards.  For example, if you only use a rewards program associated with your airline, you are limited to gaining and using rewards through the purchase of airline tickets and using their rewards based credit card. If you only use a reward program that is associated with retail shops, it will take you YEARS or a spending a significant amount of money to gain any true travel reward.    So unless you spend $100,000 on your credit card every year, these options will not work for you.

 

  1. Choose the Right Credit Cards

Now that you have decided which travel rewards program you will stick to, it is time to select the credit cards which will allow you obtain the most benefits.  This is the most efficient way to double-up or even triple-up on your points.  It is my opinion that everyone should have at least 2 credit cards.  Whether it one for business and one for personal use or one for personal use and one for family expenses, it is always a good idea to have a credit card as a backup in case the other is not accepted or is compromised . When you select your credit cards, make sure that both of them are associated with the same travel rewards program.  This way, whenever you spend any money, you will gain valuable rewards points.   

Furthermore, get out of the habit of paying in cash or with debit.  Use these credit cards for every purchase and then pay off your balance in full each month.  This strategy will not only help you gain maximum travel rewards points but it will also boost your credit score.

  1. Shop Selectively at Recognized Partners

When you enlist in a travel rewards program and receive your rewards based credit card, you will likely receive a list of all of the recognized partners which will provide rewards points on your purchases.  Make a legitimate effort to shop at these places on a regular basis using both your credit card and showing your actual rewards card to double up on points.  For example, the rewards program I use offers rewards at selected gas stations.  These gas stations will prompt you to enter your rewards membership card, then your credit card.  If you use both cards, you will get double the travel points on a single purchase and it doesn’t cost you a dime.

  1. Enlist in Hotel Membership Programs

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, whenever you stay at a hotel, spend the minute or two to sign up for the hotel rewards program.  They are free to join and the points don’t typically expire if you gain them at least once a year (i.e. if you stay at that particular hotel chain once per year).  Even if your company makes your travel arrangements or you have to use a company credit card, you can personally register for these programs and gain valuable points towards your own personal hotel stays.  If you are responsible for making your own travel arrangements, try to select hotels that belong to the same chain or rewards program in order to maximize your points earnings.

  1. Register with Car Rental Agency Membership Programs

Similar to hotel membership rewards programs, car rental agency programs can offer you great rewards if you register personally.  Again, even if your company makes these arrangements for you, sign up on your own time and simply present your membership number when you pick up your vehicle.  Many car rental agencies will give you the option to gain points towards a future rental or to gain points with your favorite travel rewards program.

 

If you follow these simple steps and keep organized, you will be able to take advantage of your travel rewards in no time.  Last year alone I took advantage of 6 flight rewards and 5 days worth of free car rentals.

What will you do with your rewards?

Think of the possibilities fellow travelers!

Bon Voyage!

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Getting to and from the Airport: Taxi, Limo or Park, Stay and Fly?

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal chauffeur to take you to and from the airport?   I sure wish that I did, however that is one luxury I simply cannot afford.  As a business woman, I can expense all of my travel costs but that doesn’t mean that I won’t do my best to keep my expenses to a minimum.  Today I will share with you how I decide the most convenient and cost effective means to get to and from the airport.

Transportation to and from Your Domestic Airport:

When selecting transportation to your domestic airport, you should consider how far away you are from the airport and how long you will be away.

If you live in the same city as the airport, visit the airport website to get an estimate on how much a taxi will cost you. Every major airport website that I have visited has this information.

TIP:  If you are experiencing difficulty finding that information, do a simple internet search using keywords “ [Your airport] taxi fare estimator to downtown [Your city]”.   Another option is to visit websites such as www.taxifarefinder.com  or the like.  Since you will be returning home, don’t forget to factor the cost of your return trip in your calculations.

If you live outside of town, check with your local airport limousine.

TIP: You can find them in the yellow pages or conduct an internet search using keywords “Airport limo [your city]”.

Most companies will allow you to enter your information and provide you with a quote online.  Or you can simply call them and get a quote.  In my case, I reside approximately 120km from the airport I normally fly from.  This option will cost me an average of $100 each way (including taxes and tip), so I will choose this option if I will be away for 2 weeks or longer).

For short trips (1-3 days), I would recommend just parking at the airport.  Even if you park in a premium lot, it will cost you less than $100.  At Pearson International Airport in Toronto, their premium parking lot is $28 per day. If you park in their “Value Parking Lot” by the Alt Hotel near Terminal 3, the cost is $18 per day.  Even though the lot is far from the terminals, there is a free rapid shuttle that runs from the parking lot to both terminals every 4 minutes during peak periods and every 8 minutes during non-peak periods.  Most airports offer this service.  Check your local airport’s website for parking information.

TIP: If you are reading this and you fly out of YYZ (Toronto Pearson) often, I would highly recommend that you invest in an American Express Platinum Card because that will save you 15% off parking rates and you can get valet parking at no additional charge! How is that for a perk?

If you will be away for a few days to 2 weeks, I would highly recommend looking into “park, stay and fly deals”, especially if you have an early morning flight.  I consider these deals to be one of the best kept secrets in the travel industry. Most major airports have hotels physically at the airport in the terminal or in the near vicinity and offer deals to “park, stay and fly”.  This means that you can stay at the hotel (either before your departing flight) and your parking at the airport is included.   This option can save you stress, time and money.  For instance, if you have an early morning flight which departs at 6am, you would otherwise have to wake up at 2 or 3am to get to the airport on time. Every time I take an early morning flight I can’t count the number of travellers I hear complain about how early they had to wake up and they didn’t consider that when they booked their flight.  If you stay at the airport hotel, you can get a few extra hours of sleep and eliminate the stress of travelling to the airport in the middle of the night when you are barely awake.

The last time I did this was in Orlando. My flight departed at 5:30am.  I was driving through the airport at 4am trying to find where I am supposed to drop off my rental car and I went the wrong way. I couldn’t get out of this particular driveway, so I had to drive the wrong way on the road and hope that nobody else was coming the other way and was as tired as myself.  Fortunately I made it out safe but I vowed never to do that again.

Even if you flight leaves at 9 or 10am, you will have to travel to the airport during peak rush hour. How stressful is that?  Will traffic be so bad you will miss your flight? What if there is an accident and the major route is closed? Then what? I certainly don’t need that stress.

In the past, I have stayed at a few airport hotels and taken advantage of their “stay, park and fly” deals.  The Alt Hotel at Toronto Pearson International Airport for example usually offers a deal where you pay approximately $175+tax for a hotel stay and parking of up to 8 nights.  Most hotels have deals for up to 2 weeks of parking as well and it works out to be much cheaper than just parking at the airport, never mind taking an airport limousine.  Not only will it spare you a few hours of sleep, hours of stress you would feel struggling to get to the airport on time but it might also save you money.

If you will be travelling for in excess of two weeks, I would recommend that you hire a local airport limousine.  Parking your car at the airport for this amount of time will surely cost you more unless you find a parking lot far away from the airport that is affordable and there are many of those.  However, if you choose to park in a discount lot, make sure you look up the schedule for transportation to and from the airport as this can usually be in excess of 30 minutes.

TIP: On a side note, if you are travelling for more than 14 days, most credit cards only offer travel insurance for 14 days, so don’t forget to add extra insurance for your trip.

 

Travel to and from Your Destination Airport:

Most major hotels near an airport will offer a free shuttle.  Check with your hotel in advance.  When you arrive at the airport, there is usually a kiosk with a phone so that you can call your hotel and request a pick-up or you can simply ask someone at the ground transportation level that can assist you.

If your hotel is really close to the airport, and your hotel does not offer a free shuttle, a regular taxi will suffice.  If you hotel is some distance to the airport, look into the price for a rental car. Believe it or not, in some cases it is actually cheaper for you to rent a car than it is to pay for a return taxi.  Take Halifax International Airport for example; The  average cab fare (excluding tax and tip )to travel from the airport to downtown Halifax is $55, so that will work out to well over $60 each way.  If you rent a car, you will likely be able to get one for less than $35 per day including taxes and fees.

TIP: To quickly check the price of rental cars, just go to a travel site such as Expedia and it will show you the price for all car rentals in the area.

So even if you are just going for a couple of days and will just use the rental for transportation to and from the airport, it can surely be worth it.  If you’re staying for a longer period of time, it may be cheaper for you to drive your own rental car to explore the area compared to talking taxis everywhere.  Having your own rental car may also encourage you to see sights that you may not have otherwise seen.

So the next time you book your trip be it for business or pleasure, make sure you do your homework when it comes to making your travel arrangements to and from the airport.

Safe Travels.

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