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Rewards Points-A-Palooza! [Gal About Town: Fashion and Travel at Your Fingertips]

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Passover & Easter weekend. My Husband and I celebrated a very important milestone in our relationship this week. Anniversary? Promotion? New House? No, this week, we reached half a million points for our travel club.  My husband and I have had the opportunity to go to some pretty amazing places with equally amazing perks because of our travel club, and we often get asked by our friends and colleagues how we do it.  We’ve travelled to Bora Bora and stayed for free in amazing suites for 14 days, had free champagne breakfasts in San Francisco, lived the life in a “complimentary upgrade” suite in Las Vegas. In this 3-part blog series, I will tell you how we have “maximized our earnings” in our membership. While I am focusing on the travel aspect of rewards, all of these principles can be applied to any rewards program really, be it gas, groceries, The Loft by Ann Taylor, whatever floats your spending boat.

1.Do your research:

First, you need to find out which platform suits your needs best. Do you fly often, especially for work, or do you tend to drive to your destination and stay in hotels more often? Does your airline go everywhere you need it to, or has miles partners that do? Is the hotel chain you frequent accessible in most places and suits your travel needs? Are blackout dates a concern? Do you need a program flexible to YOUR needs, or are you able to be flexible with your travel?

Many airlines and hotel chains have blackout dates, or points expire within a certain time frame. Some have different “levels” of membership where the more you travel, the more points and perks you are able to earn.  When choosing, what I call, an “Allegiance”, it’s best to do your homework first and read about all of the options out there for you, and then pick which ones suit your needs the best. Choosing a main rewards program, instead of diversifying, will help get you to the free flights or stays you want faster.

While we do fly often, we do not have a consistent international carrier, but we did tend to have our hotel stays within the Intercontinental Hotel brand. I’ve always liked them for their customer service, and 9 times out of 10, we’ve always had a positive stay with them. After carefully checking out their rewards membership program (free on most levels) we decided to choose the IHG brand as our main hotel rewards program.  With IHG, we earn more points, and move up on levels of membership, the more often we stay. Through a variety of methods, we climbed the top of this ladder and for the last two years have been at their highest membership level. Unfortunately, though, this last year we were too busy working and not travelling as much, so we are getting bumped down from “Platinum Royal Ambassador” to just plain ole’ “Platinum Ambassador”. I’m going to miss the “Royal” part, but I’m confident we’ll requalify soon. Regardless, their rewards program has been perfect for our needs, and flexible enough to suit our scattered travel lifestyle.

2. Get credit in every way:

One of the main ways we earn points with them is through their credit card program.  Because we pay off our credit card each month in full, every point we earn on it is sheer profit for us. *Disclaimer: My husband is forcing me to remind everyone that, “As my momma always taught me, never charge more than you can pay off at the end of the month.  Ever.”*  The credit card itself is truly wonderful for us. We actually have a flexible limit (which is great for when I’m designing and need to spend a lot….and then return a lot). We have no international transaction fee. Most credit cards tack on a 3% fee when using the card abroad, and since we both hate carrying cash, not having an extra fee has saved us a great deal of money, and frustration. Points-wise we get 1 point on every dollar we spend, 2 points on gas, groceries, and restaurants, and then 5 points for every dollar we spend at an IHG property (including incidentals). It gets better, we get a gift certificate for a free hotel night at ANY of their properties, worldwide. This honestly can be an $800 value. I know their sign-up bonus varies, but we received 60,000 points when we signed up, which is good for two nights on most of their “higher tier” properties, or a night and a half at the fancier places. The down side is that after your first year, you do need to pay $49 membership fee, BUT the free night each year well makes up for that price. Additionally, there are quarterly points promotions where you can earn more points depending on what you spend. We tend to hold off on big purchases, say a new computer, until “Electronics” earn the bonus points.

Now, this card certainly isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t travel internationally often, you’ll be able to find a card with benefits that better suit your needs. I do suggest though, if you have good credit and are a responsible spender, to look into a rewards membership credit card for the company of your choice. For us, we’ve at least doubled our points earnings. And we use the card for EVERYTHING, even the $3.00 tea from Starbucks. Two years ago we went to Bora Bora, which pretty much wiped out our rewards points, and in less than two years, we are back to half a million points. This translates to 10 free nights at their top tier properties or 50…that’s right…50 nights at their low (but perfectly lovely) tier properties. Right now, we’re saving up for the whole “Up In The Air” million.

Stay tuned for part 2 of maximizing your travel rewards, and for now look into the programs that will work best for you and your travel preferences.

Now Boldy Go!

If you are interested in the Intercontinental “Priority Club” rewards program, here are a few sites to get you started

 General Information about the rewards program

Membership Levels

Priority Club Visa

Fancy Ambassador Rewards Membership