There are predictable steps when getting into the Travel Hacking hobby. Ideally first you pick your travel destination. Next, you apply for the credit card that makes the best strategic sense for your travel goals. Then, you use that new shiny credit card or two or three (!!) To earn the points you’ll need to cover your travel expenses for your goal destination. It’s the next step that can trip people up when they are first getting started in the hobby. I was a newbie once and I’ve certainly erred along the way. Read on as I teach you to avoid these three mistakes.
The Three Mistakes:
- Making the assumption that there is only one way to redeem points and miles.
- Neglecting to transfer points to airline and hotel partners.
- Missing out on the leverage that Airline Alliances offer when redeeming points.
Mistake Number One
Let’s start with the first mistake. All points and miles are not created equally. Airline miles offer the least amount of flexibility on redemption. However there’s likely more flexibility than you might first think. I’ll explain more about that with Mistake Number three. Points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Points and American Express Membership Rewards give tremendous flexibility but only if you understand how to use them. It’s easiest to redeem the points within the online travel portals but doing so will give you a fixed value per point which can range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.
When starting out, there is nothing wrong with redeeming points in the online travel portals. Know that you may be leaving value on the table. It will take a bit of time and effort to find the best way to maximize your points on redemption. For now, knowing that there are more options for redemption and keeping an open mind is a great start.
Mistake Number Two
Next, with your mind open to new possibilities, here’s how you can avoid Mistake Number Two:
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, American Express Membership Rewards Points and Citibank Thank You Points (to name the three biggest and well known), can be redeemed in the online travel redemption portals. However, each of these points currencies offers the option to be transferred to travel partners for airfare and hotel stays.
Here’s an example of how I transfer Chase points. all it takes is a few clicks on the Chase online travel portal. I transfer Chase points to Southwest Airlines so that I can use those points to fly on Southwest.
I usually redeem for a value of 1.6 cents per point; much more value than the 1.25 cents per point I’d get if I bought my Southwest Airlines tickets through the Chase portal. I hope that the aha light bulbs are going off in your head. I’ve transferred Chase points to Marriott and Hyatt hotels as well in order to book stays. Again, I’ve gotten better value out of my points when I do this.
Mistake Number Three
Finally, we come to Mistake Number Three. Did you know that many airlines are part of airline alliances? Here are just a few examples: American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and British Airways belong to the One World Alliance.
United Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa belong to the Star Alliance. Alaska Airlines is not a member of any alliance but has codeshare (where one airline puts its code and flight number on a flight operated by another airline) with 17 other airlines. Some of the 17 are American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Quantas.
There is also SkyTeam Alliance with 20 airlines including Delta, Aeromexico and AirFrance. What this means is that its possible to use points from one airline to fly on the planes of other airlines within the alliance.
As an example, I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to United Airlines and booked a business class flight on the United Airlines website which I flew on Lufthansa. The amazing part is that I got a value of 10 cents per point by taking advantage of both a transfer partner and an airline alliance! How cool is that?
This can all seem a bit overwhelming but I promise you that once you open your mind to the possibilities, the process makes sense as well as “cents”! For now, it’s best to concentrate on your travel goals. Then apply for your first credit card or two to get that first travel experience booked for pennies on the dollar.
So now that you know how to avoid these three mistakes, I’m sure you’ve got thoughts swirling. Please scroll down and leave a comment or question for me. I’m here to help you learn more.