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Do you think travel reward programs are worth the effort?

Do you think travel reward programs are worth the effort?

Old Feb 26th, 2008, 06:56 AM
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Do you think travel reward programs are worth the effort?

<b>Are you in love with your travel reward program?</b>

My current participation in any sort of &quot;rewards&quot; credit card or airline/hotel program is limited to the points I receive when I charge anything to my Capital One credit card. Otherwise, I do not take advantage of any sort of other rewards program. I feel that I'm constantly reading here about folks taking advantage of frequent flier miles to head to Europe and in that moment I'm a convert.

My father, on the other hand, has always been an absolute points/miles nut. After years of traveling for business he has become a complete expert at &quot;working the system&quot;. After I return from a trip, I'll call him up and the first thing out of his mouth (almost) is &quot;did you collect the points?&quot;

I want to say I'm a savvy-traveler and that I use all these miles and hotel stays to my advantage...but I admit that I need to do my homework.

<b>So my question to you--- are you in love with a rewards program?</b>

If you happen to be like me and aren't entirely convinced that rewards programs are worth the fuss, feel free to speak up.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:13 AM
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You don't have to be in love with the program to take advantage of it.

Our AMEX card is affiliated with Delta. We charge everything to our AMEX that we possibly can. We pay off the balance every month. The only &quot;cost&quot; to us is an annual fee ($85 I think). So far we've used FF miles for two trips to Europe, first class/business class, starting in 2005 (made the reservations for the first trip in 2004). We're flying to Paris and home from Nice in May/June this year (business class) on our FF miles.

What's not to like?

Sam
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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Airline frequent flyer programs are DEFINITELY worth the effort, especially if you are informed. Typically, the airlines make seats available ~11 months prior to departure, and if you know the rules, its often simple to secure seats. At the 11-month window, I booked seats for trips this year to:

Easter Island/Tahiti in May -- using 70,000 AA miles and booked last Summer

Azerbaijan and Armenia in August -- using 50,000 Delta SkyMiles and booked last Fall

Micronesia and Philippines in December -- 120,000 Continental miles (I topped off my account with American Express Membership Miles) and booked last month

Those that complain about availability (including my family and friends) typically try to book seats to Hawaii, the Caribbean or Europe in high season, and then only a few weeks before departure.

Frankly, if you travel frequently, you are foolish not to participate in an airline program -- it costs nothing and can yield thousands of dollars in benefits (I calculate that my three trips above would be at least $6,000, maybe more).

Michael
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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Hi Katie, I have Capitol 1 also and have Delta skymiles. Capitol 1 just chnged their reward program and I am not pleased with it. I am looking for a new rewards card and I will watching this thread for tips!
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:24 AM
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Hi K,

Every time I think that I might want to join a rewards program, I calculate that I will get one free ticket to Europe every 8 years.

So I don't bother.

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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:28 AM
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I collect miles using both my credit cards ( one affiliated with USAIR, one with Delta) and with flights on other carriers. I have been extremely happy with the results. I usually fly Business Class on miles to Europe or South America. While it can be difficult to use the miles, taking time to understand the system can alleviate that.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:29 AM
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I have an AA credit card (Citi) and charge all expenses on it (but not the ones with a convenience fee). I applied when they had a special anniversary deal when you got 25K miles; basically a domestic round trip for $85 which was a good deal. I have kept the card and will probably keep it for another couple of years.

My son applied for the same reason but when it came to renewing, he called and told them he was going to cancel as the fee was too much for a student and they cut it in half!
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:30 AM
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I ahve both a Cap One card and two other credit cards tied to specific airline FF programs.

WE've mostly had success redeeming points for trips and are about to do so for a trip to China and other points in February 2009. If we are successful we will save close to $20,000.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:31 AM
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Well Katie, I'm more like your father. I've signed up for credit cards for United, Continental, and Delta, as much to get the sign-up bonus as anything. The bonus miles and a little spending on the Delta card let me &quot;top off&quot; to the 50,000 miles I needed to book a free flight to Paris this May. Now, I will be flying more on Continental and United, so I cancelled the Delta card before the first year (with waived annual fee) expired.

I'm also big on the hotel programs. I will be using Hilton points for seven free nights on that Paris trip, and will be using the Starwood points+cash program in Montreal, Quebec City, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, Chile. Almost all of my Starwood points have come from using the Amex Starwood card.

Whenever I stay at a new hotel chain, I sign up for the loyalty program. Before making my first reservation at a Sofitel (in Venice), I signed up their program and got a nice room upgrade and 3pm checkout.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:33 AM
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ira -

I can finally give you advice rather than the other way around.

&quot;All&quot; you have to do is spend MUCH more money and charge to your credit card/travel reward program. As noted in my earlier post, we will have traveled to Europe 3 times (and to Alaska once) business class since 2005. That's a lot more than once every 8 years!

If I calculate what those tickets would have cost us, it's probably in the neighborhood of $30-40,000. Would I ever actually PAY for first/business class - no way!

KC
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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I'm not in love with a rewards program, but two have worked out well for me.

We flew two trips from Seattle to Europe on Continental, because we got reasonable fares. This, plus a couple of 500-mile bonuses or so, gave us each 25,000 miles more or less. Then Continental offered a 25,000 mile special to Cologne last year. So just by flying these two relatively cheap trips, we got enough miles for a third trip to Europe (total cost was another $40 or so per person, for taxes and fees).

The Starwood MasterCard is also a good deal, even better for Americans than for Canadians. But even so, I got enough &quot;free&quot; points for signing up to pay for a nice 4* room in Germany.

I'm also collecting Aeroplan miles for Star Alliance flights, and I have enough to go somewhere in the US or Canada. With a bit more effort, I can probably get two tickets out of this, or one trip to Europe.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:48 AM
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We have had an American Air lines Advantage Mastercard for several yrs now and charge everything possible to acquire points.

Last year, I used 70k Continental Airlines points that were going to expire for 2 RT tickets to Vancouver.

Also last year, when my husband's uncle died, we used 25k miles on AA for a round trip ticket to Detroit. Saved us $450.

In September last year, we used 25k miles plus $300 each to upgrade to business class on our return flight from Frankfurt to DFW (original RT tickets purchased for $700).

And finally, the cherry on top. AMEX sent me an application for a Gold Rewards card last year. No fee for the first year and if I charged $500 to the card during the first 2 months, I got 50k free reward points.

With those 50k free reward points, we got 2 free nights at the Drury Plaza Hotel in San Antonio and $100 in gift cards for Benihana and PF Chang restaurants!!

Right now, I have about 90k in FF points in my American Advantage account that I am saving for either a free trip to Hawaii or a business class upgrade on our next trip to Europe.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:49 AM
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I use a United airlines' Mileage Plus Visa card. I put everything on it that's possible, even on-line bill paying. It only costs $60 in annual fees, and I pay no interest since I pay it in full each month.

Using this card, we have earned many, many roundtrip tickets to take our family of four to Hawaii and Europe. It's so easy to use, I recommend it.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:49 AM
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The only rewards program that my husband and I (separate credit cards) participate in is United's, because they have a hub at our home airport, and until recently, most of our travel, particularly overseas, was via United.

We don't do anything that means extra work or hassle for us; we accumulate frequent flyer points primarily through use of our credit cards. Every couple of years or so, we use the miles for an upgrade to Business Class or to buy free tickets to Europe. That's perk is definitely worth participation in the program.

We don't stay in hotel chains enough to participate in any of their programs.

I'm not in love with the program, because I'm not in love with United. I use it because I benefit from it. Now that Lufthansa (United partner) and British Airways both fly nonstop to Europe, we've been less likely to fly United.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:50 AM
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I USED to be in love with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program, but no longer. They have watered it down (eliminated double flight credits, no longer allow you to book if there is a single available seat) so much that I am looking to switch to something that can be used overseas.

Having said that, if you don't do another program, you might find SWA's program better than nothing. When you open a new credit card account, they generally give you 8 flight credits. We put our monthly bills on the card, pay it off in full every month and generally receive 5-10 &quot;free&quot; tickets a year.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:53 AM
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I actually have 2 travel rewards programs. One for $25 per year through our credit union (second credit card). Mostly we've ignored this. Recently emptied it with 2 round-trip tickets to Hawaii.

The other is a Chase credit card linked to British Air. Can't remember how long I've had this. Maybe 15 years? Anyway 2 free trips to Europe (World Traveler Plus and Business class) and one upgrade to Business class.

We use credit cards a lot but pay them off every month. We were able to charge our son's tuition and room and board at college. That was a Business class trip to Germany/Austria/Switzerland. Lately we've had tooth issues and charged our implants to the credit card.

That said, we never go to a place we don't want to go or stay at an out-of-the-way hotel just to get points. I don't care if it's free; I don't want to dilute my experience just to save a little money. (It helps to be retired and flexible about when to travel, also to not have expensive tastes.)
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 07:56 AM
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I don't know about being in love with it, but I belong to American Airlines frequent flier program and it has worked out well. My Mastercard is through them, so I charge almost everything and then pay my bill in full every month to avoid interest. I also travel frequently to visit family in Chicago and fly American. Between the two, I have had enough miles for a free ticket almost every year. In 2004 I went to Brazil and Argentina, in 2006 to France, 2007 to Montreal, and this year to Germany. By September I hope to have enough for a ticket to Spain in 2009. The downside is you DEFINITELY need to plan ahead. All of these trips I had to plan almost a year out. The trips I mentioned above were the ones that worked out. There have been several others that I tried to get tickets for but couldn't because all the FF seats were gone (even 11 months out).
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 08:18 AM
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I've had a Citibank AA card since 2003, spend about $20-25K per year on the card. and have earned eight free flights since then: California (twice), Mexico (twice), Peru, Paris, and two tickets to Japan (in April). I have exactly 334 miles right now but I'm not complaining!!! I have never had a problem getting an award ticket (but I mostly travel offpeak - in April and October)
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 08:31 AM
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puttakka, do you do business with other AA affiliated businesses? I ask because I spend $60,000+ to get my free SWA tickets, which can only be used in the continental US unless I want to combine 2 tickets for 1 trip to Hawaii. Yours sounds like a much better deal.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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jcoz23, your AA card is not through American Airlines; it is only affiliated with them. Your card was probably issued by a bank like Citibank.

I recently checked out free American Airline tickets from Houston to Maui in October or November. There were lots of dates available at the 35K reward. And Hawaii is a very popular destination.
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