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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, 09:01 AM
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I am silver elite with Marriott and an MVP with Alska Airlines (they are the parent of our commuter airline). I do redeem for free tickets, but I think the main benefit is better service.

When I check in with any Marriott brand, I get better rooms and a friendlier welcome. Recently I had to buy an Alaska ticket literally as the flight was boarding. When I took out my Alaska visa and MVP card to pay, I not only got bumped to first class, but they also, miraculously, got my bag on the flight.

In addition, I have a citibank card that earns points that can be redeemed for all kinds of things including travel. I have used it for tickets, but usually the routes are really odd so I generally use those points for other things. I did one time get a great bargain though. I flew to Texas on a reward ticket. My flight got cancelled so I got bumped and got a $400 voucher. I used it for a last minute trip to Florida.

In general I think it makes sense to concentrate on getting miles/points with one or two carriers than from everybody.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Yes, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them.

5 round-trips to Europe and 1 round trip to Asia for two people so far, and at least two months of free lodging at InterContinental, Renaissance, Marriott or Holiday Inn Hotels.

I cannot imagine not getting points of some sort for each and every dollar I spend above mortgage, utilities, and real estate taxes.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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Yes...AMEX/Delta is by far the best. AMEX is always offering special bonuses etc so we amass a ton of miles each year buy purchasing items we already would purchase. We have had ours for 8 years and it is well worth it. Now they give you a $99 companion certificate each year on renewel. For us, spending the FF miles taking the family out west skiing can save us $2,000. I would say that is completly worth it.

So for all who don't take advantage of those FF miles...keep on doing doing what your doing, so it free's up the seats for the people who are
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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I love travel awards. The best part for us was for years dh traveled on the company dime and we were able to keep the points. So it really was "free" travel!

I have used and enjoy Marriotts program. Starwoods and Hilton - we are staying two free nights with 2 rooms at the Wardolf Astoria in NYC this summer.

We flew back from Rome in Business class on miles with AA -

We use American Expres and our Citibank AA mastercard for almost everything and pay off each each month.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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We prefer cash rewards--then we can use the money whenever we want for whatever we want without any restrictions, blackout dates, reward seat limits, etc. Depending on what we are buying, we get from 1-5% back on everything we charge. And we charge everything we can.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:22 AM
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I work for a credit union that has a reward programs for its VISA cards. We offer cashback,1% of all purchases,on the platinium and a rewards program on the gold card.I like the cashback because the 1% is guarrenteed. You can get air tickets with your gold card points.It's a good deal if you earn enough. The other rewards appliances etc are not worthwhile.Only about 1/3 of all rewards points are ever claimed by the consumer.
So if you don't put a lot on your credit card go cashback.If you are a flexible traveler and really use your card the airline reward is a good deal. As for the airline programs they don't cost anything so you should participate.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Here's another vote for AMEX/Delta. DH and I just returned from Italy, where we flew business class for miles. We use our AMEX a lot for business an personal use, and we love Delta's Business Elite class for overseas travel. We usually get an upgrade or free ticket every third trip.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 09:54 AM
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I feel that our AA Aadvantage Citibank card is well worth "the effort". Doesn't take much effort -just charge everything and pay it off monthly. Got extra miles with each new card, charge all monthly bills that I can including cellphone, insurance, electric bill (get two miles for each $ spent plus the mile for charging = 3 miles per dollar), and phone/internet/cable/security. Also, charge all food (groceries & restaurants), gas, drugs, doctor's & dentist's bills, major purchases, etc. Since 1998 we've gone to Europe on miles five times and have "paid" for our coming trip to Europe in October, plus trips to New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Phoenix, & Colorado Springs. So I think it's paid off big time for us.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 10:27 AM
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In love? How about addicted to? =) I travel for work several times a month, and actively participate in both Delta and USAirways programs. I'm a Marriott-aholic on the road. In the last four years alone, we've stayed for free for a 8-10 holiday in Key Largo, St. Thomas, Aruba, and Puerto Rico (this year is St. Kitts). I get at least two free tickets/year from either Delta or USAir, depending on who I've flown more (and, frankly, who I want our family to fly come vacation time).
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 10:46 AM
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I charge everything I can on a Starwood Amex and when I can't use Amex, I use an AA Visa card.

Starwood has undergone some dilution in recent years in terms of the points required for hotel stays, but there is great availability - if a hotel has a standard room, it will be available on points. Usually you can also get upgraded rooms or suites for additional points. Finally, unlike almost any other currency, Starpoints can be transferred into almost any other airline program 1:1 (with UA being a notable exception) with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

I use AA for my primary airline program because I think they have the best availability for standard level rewards - I have rarely not been able to get where I wanted to go, one way or another.

I charge a lot, and charged even more during the past couple of years when we built a house. We've used these points to do a lot of things that would have cost a lot otherwise.

A year ago Thankgiving we went to London and Amsterdam for 10 days. Transfered Starpoints to BA to upgrade World Traveler Plus tickets to business - only 25,000 miles apiece, a complete bargain. The London hotel was free using some accumulated Hilton points; in Amsterdam, we stayed in an upgraded room at the Pulitzer for free.

We are going to SFO for a five-day weekend in March. Free upgraded room at the Westin St. Francis; both flights upgraded to first on NW with points mostly gained several years ago through a very generous MCI long distance promotion.

In April, I'm taking my partner with me on a business trip to Hawaii - bought his ticket, upgraded it to first with AA miles. Extended the hotel stay by two free nights with Starpoints.

And we're taking a 3 week vacation to China in September. Flying AA international first into Shanghai, free with AA miles - the cash cost would be $22,000 a ticket! All hotels are being booked free with Starpoints - and we're staying in suites the entire time.

If you like to travel and can spare the time to play the game, it can be very profitable.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 10:54 AM
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This is Australia calling. My wife and I will travel to Europe on points in April/May. All of our flights have been paid for using points. We have flown overseas 8 times on points as well as many domestic trips. I am not sure what the situation is like in the USA but using points for accommdation here presents very poor value. I accumulate lots of them using my AMEX primarily and visa card. We pay the card off in full every month so its a case of using the system to our advantage. I use them when I can for all business purchases too. You gotta love a freebee.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 10:57 AM
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Hi Katie. I have the NWA card through US Bank. I have to say I do love the service that US Bank gives their customers.

I was offered the card some years ago. I took the one that does not have an annual fee (I refuse to pay an annual fee for any credit card). I charge everything that I can on that card including all my insurance policies, medical copays, dentist, utilities, groceries, gasoline, misc. etc. I get one FF for each $2.00 I charge. That way if I for some reason do not use the FF miles I am not out any money as again I do not pay an annual fee for the card and I pay the statement in full when received so of course I do not pay any interest.

The FF miles have been used to upgrade to BC when flying to Italy. I don't fly as much as I use to since I am retired. I can get FF miles with NWA when flying to Portland OR on Alaska. And when flying to the SE of the US I get FF miles to my NWA a/c when flying Delta. And in that I like KLM I get NWA FF miles flying with KLM to Italy.

I actually like the service that US Bank gives their customers that I would retain the card even if I didn't receive FF miles.

I have some FF miles with United but I refuse to fly with them anymore, I need to call and have my 6,000 FF miles donated to our service people to use when they fly home from overseas. I keep forgetting to do that!

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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:05 AM
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<font color="olive">
&lt;&lt;Flying AA international first into Shanghai, free with AA miles - the cash cost would be $22,000 a ticket!&gt;&gt;

That's the best I've seen if its for one ticket. If its for a pair, I can top it, albeit barely. In May 2005, I flew from JFK to Madagascar, via Paris on Air France in business class, for 120,000 miles -- the price was $11,700!

Again, from what I've read on this thread (and from what I've witnessed first hand), frequent flyer miles are one of the only true perks left to travelers, and i can't think of any reason not to accumulate them.

One point to Katie -- when you start (and I write &quot;when&quot; instead of &quot;if&quot, its best to concentrate on one, and only one, of the three alliances (One World, SkyTeam or Star Alliance) so that you accumulate a large amount of points quickly -- its tough when you fly airlines that belong to different alliances.

Michael </font>
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:07 AM
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Obviously , this question isn't for Europeans
With the money I need to spend here to have enough miles for a trip (inside Europe !) , I have money to buy more tickets than I need
I would be in love with them if they weren't so hard to achieve , though. I think only business travelers can take advantage of them here..and not all, everytime more business trips are made in Ryanair or other low cost carriers.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:09 AM
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In April, we'll be using Amex/Delta FF miles to fly business class to Europe, taking Continental from Newark to Amsterdam and returning from Gatwick to JFK a month later. I liked it even better a couple of ago when Virgin was still a partner airline; their Upper Class seats on the London run out of Newark are super and their lounges in Newark and Heathrow are a treat. We charge all we can to the card and pay it off each month -- our biggest bonus came when they had a triple mile promotion and we charged the entire cost of replacing our home heating system.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:16 AM
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We use AMEX and Starwood points. my only suggestion ,which we have found by default.. is BOOK EARLY!!!!! we are going to London Paris end of May.. wanted to go first class. We spent HOURS on the phone and are now using all of our United MIles,Starwood points and Amex to fly United and then Virgin.. Not the schedule from heaven at all. We should have booked this nine months ago.. Bummer.. But it will still be fine.. Just could have been better for all the points money we are spending..oh yes.. we had to buy a part of a ticket too..
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:18 AM
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I am not in love with it-but I like both Frequent flier miles (Northwest-Hubby and I flying free to Alaska this summer) and Hilton (Diamond level). Also have Marriott and United (not all my flights work on NW and partners). I have had many nice expensive hotel rooms at no cost to me.
Definetly worth the trouble-filling out a form and giving a #.
With Hilton can even get a room a sold out properties.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 11:18 AM
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cobox - that can be the bummer - schedules, etc but it really is worth it in the long run.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for sharing---keep the ideas coming. I've checked out a few today that have been mentioned--including cards for Delta and United. I have always meant to become a more dedicated FF but I tend to swap airlines a lot and plan trips at the last minute.

Reading this has definitely given me some good motivation to get planning...

My flights, sadly, have been limited to destinations that are relatively close to New York. But with longer flights looming (hopefully!), including one to Alaska, I'm really more aware of what I'm missing out on by not being loyal to one airline program.

Michael---thanks for the pointer about the alliances. I think Skyteam might be my best bet.
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Old Feb 26th, 2008, 12:33 PM
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I'm a fan, but I'm not sure it is overly worthwhile if you fly less than 25k miles per year. If you can get to 25k miles, then you can get elite status, which can increase your earnings by 25% to 50%, along with other benefits.

If you earn less than that, then think about what those miles are really worth. Many experts point to a value of around $.01 to $.015 per mile. I would never spend more than this strictly to earn miles. For example, suppose I have a 5k mile roundtrip. I will consider paying up to a $50 premium for a ticket on one of my preferred carriers. If the premium is above that, I won't do it. For redemptions, I try to get value upwards of $.03 per mile. Since this requires redeeming for premium cabins (usually), I only worry about programs where I am going to really rack up the miles.

As for credit cards, nothing beats the Starwood card from Amex. Not only does SPG have what I think is the best hotel program in the industry, but you can transfer points 1:1 to many programs, and they will tack on an extra 5k points for every 20k you transfer.

Among the major FF programs, I would say that AA is the best program, but you should really concentrate on whichever airline or alliance you will fly with. If you live in Minneapolis, for instance, just give in and accrue with Northwest. Ditto Houston and Continental.
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