Accumulating Hotel Airline points can be difficult if you don't have a game plan and understand how the points work especially when you've reached Elite Status.
How would like to travel to Europe, Asia or Latin America for pennies on the dollar?
Give away room nights to family and friends in need?
Have bragging rights about the great vacation you had?
Let's get started earning hotel and airline points!
Pick a major and minor.
You'll spin your wheels and not get any free flights or hotel nights if you don't become specific about one or two hotel and airline points programs.
Your hotel points are based on the number or nights or the number of stays depending on the specific program. Air miles are based on the number of miles that are actually flown.
I'm a big fan of Continental Airlines so I try to get the folks hiring me to use them for my work travel.
Most of the time, companies will work with you and even better, they'll reimburse you for purchasing your own ticket giving you all of the control acquiring your airline points.
I'm within a couple thousand points of a free ticket on Continental so I'll probably be able to buy the airline points if I don't have the opportunity to earn them in the near future.
I also fly Southwest because they're convenient and fun with a great refund policy. I have a free round trip in cue to use with them now as well as with Delta.
I had built up a fair amount of points on Delta Sky Miles but they airline's reputation isn't the greatest. My points had actually expired but was given the opportunity to renew them with a small fee.
I flew out of Puerto Rico on Delta and figured I be that much closer to a free ticket. Here I am flying Delta in First Class out of the West Coast. I still have enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe in Business.
One advantage besides free travel is the possibility of upgrades to business class. The extra leg and shoulder room is important to me on the long flights.
I was upgraded to business class on a flight from the US to Dubai. "Champagne Mr. Cassidy?" "Absolutely!" The seat reclined to a bed and arrived well rested.
Again, pick a major and minor on the airlines depending on the kind of travel you like or need.
For hotels, I've been using Priority Club which is all of the Holiday Inn properties, including Crowne Plazas and Hilton Honors which includes Hampton Inns and Waldorf Astoria Properties.
Holiday Inn's Priority Club didn't start out well with me. I stayed at one of their properties in NJ for 6 weeks. Early the next year, I tried to book a couple of room nights in Ft. Walton, FL but was informed that I didn't have enough points for one night.
Traveling with the State Department's QRF, I stopped at Port Morsby, Papua New Guinnea where I was put up in the Crowne Plaza, a Holiday Inn property, for one night in and one night out on the return from the jungles of Torakina.
I didn't know my Priority Club number but called in after getting back home. Cha-Ching! Crazy points! After 2 nights in the Crown, I had enough points for a week in the States.
Back to UXO work in South Carolina, I stayed at a Holiday Inn for 3 months. Now as a Platinum Elite, I get bonus points on top of the regular points and room upgrades.
This is especially important if you stay in a Holiday Inn Express. The rooms are the size of coffins. I don't worry about that as I get upgraded to a standard room or better.
After South Carolina, I bounced around a bit and landed in Puerto Rico in May of 2010 for 2 weeks and again for 6 1/2 weeks in April and May 2011.
I love the El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria Hilton property. The staff is amazing, there's a Starbucks on property as well as a casino! After being at a resort for 6 weeks, you start seeing the flaws so you need to remember to taper your expectations if you're staying for a while. Again, similar to the Crown Plaza, I'm getting crazy points and climbing the food chain of hotels.
After the stay at the El Con, I am now a Diamond Member with 302,000 Hilton Honors points and have been a Priority Club Platinum for sometime with 84,000 points after dropping about 90,000 for an upcoming vacation with the family to catch an Atlanta Braves game and 6 Flags.
Why put so much effort into hotel airline points and status levels?
Here's why I do it. Our Tuscany vacation we had was priceless and better yet, didn't cost much either!
In September of 2010, we were able to go to Italy for 10 days using our Priority Club points. I received the round trip airfare for building a web site using the same system as this one for a retail intelligence company. There's no better way to build a website than this. Using this system is how you first found us.
We stayed at Holiday Inn properties in Rome, Florence, Genoa and Milan. Because we were Platinum Elite status, we stayed in some incredible rooms that I don't think most traveling Europe, the far East and South America are able to enjoy.
The room upgrades overseas are far more impressive than here in the US. The same is true on airlines which is why you want the elite status to become part of the Star Alliance.
Star Alliance is an organization that allows you, as an elite air member, to pool your points from all of your airlines towards global travel.
Earning points in Europe and the Far East is very difficult so when you're Elite, you really are Elite and they treat you as such.
I've been in Hilton properties most of the year and best part is that I've been using my Priority Club Visa to pay for the rooms. Hilton has an agreement with most airlines to do some kind of points per stay so again, I put those toward Continental. In essence, I'm quadruple dipping the points.
To complete the hacking system, I'm staying at Hilton properties getting my points, receiving bonus points for Elite status, receiving points to the airline of my choice and receiving Holiday Inn points by paying for the Hiltons with my Priority Club Visa.Getting Started with Hotel Airline Points Programs
My suggestion is to register with all of the frequent flier miles, hotel points and even Starbucks and Best Buy rewards. Yes, I have the Starbucks Gold "I'm a pretentious bastard ain't I" card. I didn't think much of the program until a Barista overheard me talking about my points. She asked, "If you like your points so much, why don't you get these too?" OK, I get it. I soon received my Gold card and look forward to all of my free drink coupons that come in the mail.
Best Buy Reward Zone is a good way to go as you'll be buying some travel related gear like Bose Noise canceling headphones, iPods, iPhones, game systems, cameras and computers. I just printed off $90 worth of Reward Zone bucks and headed to Best Buy to buy a new 27 inch monitor for my Macbook.
The monitor I wanted was on sale but was back to regular retail price when I got there. The guy on the floor wasn't any help so I went to the manager to plead my case. She saw that I had $90 in Reward Zone and made the correct assessment: I spend a lot of money at Best Buy. I got the sale price!
If your credit allows, apply for the credit cards of your choice one at a time. (Legal Disclaimer) Although I was a financial consultant for a Fortune 75 Firm, I'm not your financial consultant. I'll give you ideas but ultimately the responsibility is yours. There's a right way to do this and a lot wrong ways.
James was working with me in Puerto Rico this year on our 6 week stay at the El Conquistador. He was already a Hilton Honors member but ran across a special for the Hilton Honors Visa. He makes 6 points for every dollar spent on the card. Our rooms cost $225 per night or about $1600 per week. That's 9600 points per week just to pay for the room! We also billed our drinks and meals to the room.
Again, keep in mind, we were there for work and making $141 in Per Diem. James is very financially conservative and I only take $100 to the casino. When it's gone, it's gone.
As you travel, you'll begin defining what you like in a hotel and an airline. Once you pick your major and minor, try to stay with them until you reach elite status.