Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rewards for Traveling

Are you making plans for a summer holiday?  How’s that going for you?  If you’re like many people I’ve heard discussing the matter, budgets are tight and vacations this year will reflect that.  Whether it’s due to scalping fuel prices, increased air fares, higher accommodation rates, or soaring food costs, many families are feeling the pinch this summer.  There are ways to stretch your travel dollars, though, and one of them is through reward program redemptions.

There are many and varied reward programs you can use – through airlines, department stores, gas stations, and hotel chains – which can help facilitate travel.  My experience with a couple of these has been limited and our points never amounted to enough to apply to our vacations, so the following examples will relate only our experience with Air Miles.
We’ve been collectors since Air Miles inception in 1992 and have used points to cover certain travel expenses on a few occasions.  We don’t make unnecessary purchases just for the rewards, though.  To collect enough points for one 200-point redemption could cost between $3,000 and $4,000 in retail spending.  Special promotional offers (e.g. 20 air miles for the purchase of 2 packages of xyz product) enable us to earn points faster, with less retail cost, however we still don’t buy products unneeded or which we wouldn’t normally use, so those opportunities are limited.  While we don’t spend money just to collect points, we do view the points earned as bonuses on items we were going to buy anyway.  Even with restricted use, we end up collecting enough Air Miles, each year, to help us cover some sundry travel costs.
Our most common use has been to redeem points for fuel certificates:  175 points for $20 worth of fuel.  This year, that could get us eleven fuel certificates (if we choose to redeem most of our points.)  That may not seem like much but it would add $220 to our vacation resources.
Fuel isn’t the only reward we could choose.  Aside from household products and services, points can be redeemed for accommodations, car rentals, air fare, cruises, travel insurance, golfing passes, amusement parks, or any combination of rewards your points-collection affords you.  We know people who fly frequently for business and, by using specific charge cards and certain air lines, they accumulate points 10-20 times faster than we do.  Their redemption options are obviously much greater and more varied.

So, if you’re crunching the numbers, looking for ways to supplement travel funds, don’t forget your own membership and reward programs.  They just might add enough to the coffers to make your summer vacation more affordable.  Check the redemptions carefully, though – we must order our fuel certificates 6-8 weeks prior to travel if they’re to get here in time.  If redeeming points for flights, you’ll find not all destinations are available, and some regions cost more points depending on your place of departure.  With foresight and planning, these rules and restrictions will have little or no effect on your plans.

Yes, travel is rewarding, but you might also find “rewards” for traveling!