Business Travel – Part 1, How to Make the Most of Your Travel Rewards
Frequent Flyer Programs
A common denominator of most consulting jobs is the required travel. While managing your travel can be a source of anxiety, a little research beforehand can go a long way. That’s why we’re starting a three-part series geared toward new consultants.
Picking Your Loyalty Program
Gone are the days of accruing miles just so you can cash them in for free or discounted flights. Frequent flyer programs now give you the option to apply your points toward hotel stays, rental cars, and other retail purchases. You can also earn points through purchases besides flights. Airlines have designated partners, which means more of your purchases are eligible for points.
As a new business traveler, it’s important to sign up for a frequent flyer program. However, picking the best one for your travel needs can be a bit of a challenge. Airlines don’t make it easy to understand reward value and seat availability.
Do your homework on programs fees, seat availability, and blackout dates. All airlines have dates that are blocked to frequent flyer redemption. IdeaWorksCompany recently released a survey ranking airlines on best reward seat availability, and for domestic travel, Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program took the cake. Delta Airlines was one of the worst even though many of our consultants remain loyal to them. Some airlines offer few eligible redemption dates, so find out your program’s reward calendar before you start accruing miles.
Gaining elite status can be another big perk for joining a loyalty program. Depending on which elite status you reach, a variety of benefits are made available to you including priority boarding, free Wi-Fi and inflight entertainment, and/or discounted baggage fees.
There are quite a few programs out there, so when deciding on one, try to focus on what benefits are most important to you and how often you travel. If you fly a lot, you may benefit more from a great elite status program. If you fly on the occasional domestic flight, be sure you can apply your miles easily and with minimal restrictions.
For more help deciding on a frequent flyer program, check out this great resource from FindTheBest that compares the top programs, and if you’re a DCS consultant, be sure to provide all loyalty program numbers to your Consultant Services Rep.
Managing Your Points
Now that you’ve signed up for an airline loyalty program, it’s time to maximize your rewards. You can do this by staying organized. According to Howdini, 75% of miles out there don’t ever get used. Keep track of your miles, and be aware of their expiration date. Although hoarding your miles for a big trip may sound like a good idea, beware that airlines are shortening the timeframe of when you can use them in an effort to save money.
Note: Hotels are also getting stingy with their loyalty programs. Be sure to compare prices before assuming that your loyalty of a hotel chain will lead to a reward.