Using Travel Loyalty to Make the Most of the Rio Summer Games

From the opening and closing ceremonies to the competition between top athletes from more than 200 different countries, the 2016 Summer Games promise to make Rio de Janeiro a top travel destination this August. In fact, the International Olympic Committee predicts nearly 500,000 tourists will travel to the city to take in the games. Having talked to some of my friends about the amazing experiences they had while visiting London during the 2012 Summer Games, seeing the action live and in person  – either at the Summer Games or Winter Games – is definitely on my bucket list.

Why wait another four years for your chance?

By following the following three tips for tapping into your travel loyalty rewards during the 2016 Summer Games, you can enjoy the glitz and glamour of the world’s biggest sporting spectacle without breaking the bank.

Book ahead of time

By the time August rolls around, hotel prices in Rio de Janeiro are expected to be about three times higher than the same period last year. If you haven’t already, book your travel plans as soon as possible to avoid additional price spikes in the coming weeks and months.

Most airlines make mileage tickets available months ahead of time – allowing you to save hundreds of dollars in the process. With American Airlines AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles, you can secure an award seat 331 days in advance. The same policy applies to hotel travel rewards programs such as the Hyatt Gold Passport, which gives you the opportunity to book a room 13 months – or 395 days – before your stay. While it’s already weeks away from the 2016 Summer Games, the earlier you book, the better when it comes to securing reasonable prices on airfares and hotel stays.

Setting your exact itinerary for a trip months in advance can be tough, but the savings will more than make up for it.

Add a stopover

Travel loyalty rewards are all about seeing the world while saving as much money or redeeming as many rewards as possible. Stopovers can help you do just that. Rather than flying directly to Rio de Janeiro, a stopover gives you the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of another city for at least 24 hours before traveling to your final destination. Best of all, stopovers are often free or at the very least heavily discounted.

Members of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program can include one complimentary stopover for both the outbound and return portions of their award travel on international itineraries. Just be sure the stopover is booked with Alaska Airlines or one of its many partners. Yet another way you can extend your trip for little to no cost is by booking through Singapore Airlines. Not only do you receive a free stopover with each round trip ticket, but you can also purchase additional stopovers for only $100.

Keep your transportation options open

Once you’ve finally landed in Rio de Janeiro, the next step is finding your way around the Summer Games. From taxis to trains, there are a number of different options you can choose between to collect loyalty rewards as you travel. With a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can earn twice as many Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a wide range of travel expenses, including rental cars and public transportation.

In a similar fashion, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card will reward you with three ThankYou points for every dollar you spend on gas, car rental agencies, railways, public transportation, tolls, taxis, parking and more. But while the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card doesn’t include any foreign transaction fees, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card will charge you three percent for each transaction.

For those of you who have grown accustomed to using Uber to get from point A to point B, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard will help you earn a five percent miles dividend every time you hop in the ride-sharing service. No foreign transaction fees means you won’t have to worry about losing valuable miles that can go toward a free flight or hotel stay.

By following one or more of these tips, you’ll have a golden opportunity to enjoy a memorable vacation in Rio.

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The Unofficial Guide to Buying Airline Miles

While there are many creative ways to stock up on frequent flyer miles, I go about collecting them in two pretty common ways: purchasing plane tickets and signing up for rewards credit cards. But one of the best, alternative ways to add miles to your account is to buy your frequent flyer miles.

For many people, buying frequent flyer miles is something they’d never consider. Why pay for something you can get for free? But for many collectors, there are times when it makes perfectly good sense to buy. Yes, there is a small outlay of cash involved but the benefits –both to your lifestyle and finances– are more than worth it.

Here are a few scenarios for when it’s best to buy, as well as a few tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of each of your purchases.

To Top off Your Account

Purchasing frequent flyer miles can be done directly on your loyalty program’s website by look for the “Buy, Gift & Transfer” tab. The price of a mile varies from airline to airline, but on average the cost is about 2.5 to 3.5 cents per mile. If you’ve got your eye on a reward, are close to redeeming but are not quite there yet, considering topping up your account with a quick purchase. Buy enough to reach your goal, redeem and enjoy your reward. That’s what loyalty is about.

To Keep Your Points From Expiring

It happens to the best of us and can be one of the most demoralizing events for collectors. We save up enough miles for a free flight but wait too long to redeem them for that much-needed vacation. Many frequent flyer programs expire with inactivity, so for a quick and easy solution, buy extra miles to keep your account active and use them before you lose them.

To Take Advantage of Discounts on Mileage

Many airlines routinely offer deals where you can purchase discounted miles or will give you bonuses when you purchase within a certain time frame. Depending on the airline or the deal, these bonuses can significantly decrease the price per mile, making it a great time to buy a handful to fill up your account. For example, when American Airlines celebrated their 35th anniversary they offered AAdvantage members 35 percent off any purchased or gifted miles. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan offers members a  discount of 35 percent or more when they buy miles as they’re booking an upcoming Alaska Airlines flight.

And IHG Rewards Club once launched a buy points campaign offering 100% purchase bonus at all levels for 96 hours, giving members the opportunity to literally double their rewards. I always keep an eye out for these kinds of deals, especially when I’m getting close to reaching my redemption goal.

Before Purchasing Your Miles, Here Are a Few Things to Consider

  1. Get out your calculator. Before you purchase a mile, calculate how much each one will cost you. For a simple formula, subtract the total amount you’ll have to spend on your purchased miles from the dollar value of your ticket and divide that by the number of non-purchased rewards you’re redeeming. Also be sure to take into account taxes and fees on the flight, as fees especially can vary significantly from airline to airline.
  2. Make sure awards seats are available. If you’re redeeming a flight with airline miles, your flight options might be limited, as there are only so many reward seats available on each flight. And keep in mind that availability changes quickly: available reward seats that are available this morning might not be there tomorrow or even this afternoon. Also remember that when you purchase miles, it can take up to 72 hours to get into your account, so plan accordingly, or available rewards seats might be booked before the miles are processed and added to your account.

  1. Purchase miles with your rewards credit card. If you’ve done all the math and it’s worthwhile to buy miles rather than earn them, be sure to purchase the miles with your rewards credit card. That way, in addition to adding those purchase miles to your portfolio, you’ll be rewarded with even more miles for your purchase.

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Your Loyalty Resolutions for 2016

It’s never too late to set resolutions and goals for the rest of the year. When it comes to loyalty programs, set specific goals now to reap the rewards down the road.

Here are six loyalty resolutions you can make this year to get the most out of your rewards.

Sign up for multiple loyalty programs

While you may have a favorite airline or hotel chain that you like to rack up loyalty points with, it’s not always possible to book with those airlines or hotels every time you travel. Consider diversifying your loyalty portfolio to really reap the benefits.

If you’re taking a flight or staying in a hotel that isn’t one of your preferred brands, consider signing up for its loyalty program so you can earn those points as well. If you’re going to be spending money with a hotel or airline, there’s no reason not to join their loyalty program and earn the corresponding points that come with your patronage. Even if you’re not able to accrue enough points for a free night or flight, there’s plenty of ways to use lower levels of points to keep your wallet full and travel experience smoother.

For example, some programs, like JetBlue TrueBlue, give you the flexibility to spend your points on everyday items, like as gas, coffee and magazine subscriptions.

Whip your loyalty points into shape

One of the most common resolutions we make each year is to get into shape, whether it’s by eating healthier or exercising more often. You can take a similar approach by whipping your loyalty points into shape.

Chances are, you likely signed up for a loyalty program a few years ago and have since forgotten about it, or perhaps you have unspent loyalty points weighing you down. Use the New Year as an opportunity to take a full inventory of all loyalty programs you’ve signed up for and the points you’ve earned to date. Without even realizing it, you might have already earned enough points to upgrade your next flight or book a hotel stay free of charge.

Go digital

Once you’ve signed up for additional loyalty programs and accounted for all the points you’ve already earned, you can avoid losing track of your rewards in the future by going digital. Check for programs online or apps on your mobile device that allow you to easily keep track of all your loyalty programs, track your balances, swap between programs online and even make purchases with your hard-earned points.

Donate loyalty points to charity

Is one of your 2016 resolutions to up your charity work or donations? Look no further than your favorite loyalty programs. Southwest Rapid Rewards is just one example of a rewards program that enables its customers to donate points to charity. Southwest Rapid Rewards members can donate points to featured charities to cover that organization’s travel needs. For more charitable ways to use your points, check out my post on using points and miles for good. 

Gift loyalty points

If a friend or family member is celebrating a significant life event this year, like a wedding or milestone anniversary, consider gifting your unspent rewards points.  They can redeem your points can be redeemed for airfare, hotel stays, upgrades and perks. For example, the United MileagePlus program gives members the opportunity to either transfer their loyalty points to another account or buy loyalty points as a gift. In doing so, you can gift something the recipient truly wants while making sure your hard-earned loyalty points don’t get forgotten.

Set a loyalty savings goal

Goal-setting is an important part of your personal, professional and financial life. Why not consider setting a loyalty points goal this year? If you’re planning a getaway in the near future, determine how much money you’ll need to save and how you can offset the costs of the trip by earning and redeeming loyalty points. Earning loyalty points can be as simple as using your airline or hotel credit card while filling up at the gas station or shopping for groceries. Once these points are earned, using a digital loyalty program offers a variety of options to save up and redeem points.

By adding one or more of these tips to your overall list of New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be set up for loyalty success throughout the year and beyond.

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What Happens to Miles and Points after a Merger?

When it comes to the airline and hotel industries, mergers are often making headlines, leaving loyalty program members wondering what will happen to the rewards they’ve collected – and for good reason.

Every airline and hotel merger is different and the status of your rewards varies depending on the merger. What travelers are curious to learn is how long it will take to merge both loyalty programs and what it will mean for earned loyalty points and miles  – and future earning potential.

Given the uncertainty associated with loyalty programs following a merger, earning activity typically slows down as members are reluctant to make further commitments, turning instead to other loyalty programs they are more certain of. Some members rush to redeem their loyalty rewards for fear of losing them all together.

Before you decide what to do with your loyalty rewards, here are my three tips for dealing with an airline or hotel merger.

Wait and See

Even after a merger has been announced, there are still a lot of decisions that need to be made before it’s time for you to take action. Aside from gaining the approval of government regulators, airlines and hotels in the midst of a merger have to also work out a lot of financial and logistical details well before determining which type of loyalty program will best suit their customers.

Despite completing a merger in December 2013, American Airlines and US Airways waited almost two years before consolidating their loyalty programs. Marriott opted for a similar plan of action, following its acquisition of Canada-based Delta Hotels in early 2015. Rather than absorbing Delta’s loyalty program shortly after the deal was finalized, Marriott postponed the changes until the following year to give Delta Privilege members enough time to prepare for their new loyalty program.

Regardless of what’s in store for your loyalty rewards, know that change won’t come overnight so you can continue to earn and redeem as before.

Keep an Eye out for Any Updates​​

Following a merger, most airlines and hotels keep customer service top-of-mind and are quick to pass along any updates regarding loyalty program changes coming down the pike. Try to avoid jumping to any conclusions as you wait to hear more about the fate of your loyalty program.

By keeping close tabs on your loyalty program’s website and social media accounts, you can get information about the merger directly from the airlines or hotels themselves. Updates on where things stand may even be sent to your inbox, so make sure those emails don’t end up in your spam folder.

I’d also suggest setting up Google Alerts, which can help you stay on top of breaking news about your loyalty program. Simply enter the words you want to get email notifications for, indicate how often you want to receive alerts and then narrow down what type of results you want (blogs, videos, news sites etc.).

Weigh the Pros and Cons​​

Loyalty program mergers can either help or hinder your travel plans. In a best-case scenario, a merger may retain the most beloved features from each of your favorite loyalty programs, creating a consolidated loyalty program that offers members with a new and improved user experience. Better yet, additional travel destinations provide loyalty program members with more opportunities to rack up rewards.

In the worst-case scenario, the value of rewards you’ve already gathered could be at stake. While you certainly won’t lose your loyalty rewards altogether, the value proposition of your rewards may alter slightly. The merger may also result in lost tier levels, perks and other benefits that were offered in your original loyalty program.

As with any decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of a consolidated loyalty program before developing a new strategy to reach your travel rewards goals.

With mergers popping up left and right in the travel space, chances are at least one of your favorite loyalty programs will be involved in a merger at some point. As you wait for more news on the future of your loyalty program, stay on top of and updates and keep an open mind to ensure you know how to manage your miles and points when the time comes.

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What You Need To Know About Spend-Based Loyalty Programs

Traditionally, airlines have rewarded their customers through loyalty programs that awarded points or miles based on the distance traveled during a flight. But more and more airlines are shifting towards spend-based programs that allow members to accumulate rewards and earn status through the amount of money spent on the ticket as opposed to the distance flown. Here’s what you need to know about this shift towards spend-based loyalty.

The evolution of spend-based loyalty

To understand why more companies are going spend-based, let’s look into why retailers and airlines have rewards programs in the first place. Repeat customers are a valuable asset to any business, and by offering discounts or free goods and services, customers are encouraged to remain faithful to one retailer or company.

But when it comes to airlines, not all customers are created equal. Flier A that pays $4,000 for one first-class flight from New York City to San Francisco spends the same amount as Flier B that buys 10 $400 economy flights on the same route. But between baggage handling, customer service time and in-flight services, Flier A is definitely more profitable to the airline. Yet, under a mileage-based rewards scheme, Flier A and Flier B are earning the same number of miles per ticket. To retain more profitable customers like Flier A, it makes sense for airlines to reward them differently.

The solution is spend-based loyalty programs.

How am I affected by spend-based loyalty?

Under spend-based loyalty programs, airlines are rewarding their highest-spending customers. Travelers who spend more, earn more. If a customer is paying more for fewer flights, they will work their way up the airline’s rewards tiers faster, reaching elite status sooner to earn perks like lounge access, early boarding or additional checked baggage allowances. Elite customers will also earn more points when purchasing the same value of fares as an unaffiliated or non-elite flier.

The move to spend-based loyalty benefits schedule-pressed business travelers with deep enough pockets to buy expensive last-minute flights. These types of flyers will earn miles much quicker than in the traditional mileage-based setup. But spend-based programs make it more difficult for those that purchase deeply-discounted sale fares to earn rewards.

From Southwest to Starbucks

A good way to understand how the move from mileage-based to spend-based loyalty works is by comparing it to a company that’s received considerable press coverage for their loyalty program shift – Starbucks. In February 2016, the world’s most popular coffee chain announced that it was changing its transaction-based rewards program to a spend-based one. Previously, each transaction earned one star, regardless of the beverage size or price. So that meant my morning Venti Vanilla Latte earned me the same reward – one star – as the customer before me that spent half as much as I did on his Tall Blonde Roast.

Yet, once we each accumulated 12 stars, we were both eligible for a free Venti Vanilla Latte, even if those 12 stars were earned through purchasing 12 small, cheap coffees.

Under the new spend-based program, customers earn two stars for every dollar spent. While it’ll take both of us 125 stars to get a free reward, I’ll be able to achieve that reward sooner with my Venti Vanilla Lattes, compared to Mr. Tall Blonde Roast.

Making spend-based loyalty work for you

The move to spend-based loyalty programs has already occurred for most European and U.S. airlines. Delta and United switched over in late 2015 and American Airlines updated their loyalty program to reward flights based on ticket price back in August.

This shift has upset the portion of fliers that are losing out. These are customers that accumulate their points and miles by booking discounted flights, or choosing cheaper multi-stop routes over pricier direct flights. It’s true that overall, customers will be earning slightly fewer miles under spend-based loyalty programs. But the system rewards each airline’s best customers – premium class and last-minute business travelers.

Customers also benefit with more award seats being made available – a common frustration for any traveler flying on points. Since January 2015, Delta has made 50 percent more award tickets available. They’ve also added more awards that can be redeemed at lower mileage levels.

While the shift is making a few loyal customers unhappy, it can be a beneficial scenario if you know the right way to take advantage of it.

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Where to Use Your HHonors Points in New York City

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    Where to Use Your HHonors Points in New York City

    Tripadvisor

    Lots of New York City visitors like to stay in Times Square — the iconic energy and lights, convenient access to Broadway Theaters and easy transportation options for getting into town, as well as getting around make this a very popular choice with tourists.

    For redeeming your Hilton points, you have the option of staying at the Hilton Times Square, which is located right on 42nd Street and is the most upscale Hilton family choice in the neighborhood.

    The Hilton Garden Inn/Times Square Central opened in 2014 on 42nd Street and has some rooms with views of the NYE Ball Drop.

    If you're traveling with your family or just want ​the room to spread out, the DoubleTree Suites Times Square is located on Broadway and 47th Street and all rooms are suites and feature a separate living area with a pull-out bed.

    Room rates at the Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central include breakfast, which can be a great value-add when you're trying to stretch your NYC travel budget. Technically this hotel is located just south of Times Square, on 41st Street between 7th & 8th Avenues.

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    Midtown Manhattan

    Where to Use Your HHonors Points in New York City

    Tripadvisor

    Since Hilton hotels are often business hotels, there are many options in midtown Manhattan where many business travelers want to stay for convenient access to work and meetings. That said, it can also be a convenient location for leisure travelers, with Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and several museums close by, as well as easy access to attractions both uptown and downtown. Unfortunately, the classic Waldorf Astoria is now being converted into luxury condos, but the iconic hotel is still an important part of New York Hilton history.

    The New York Hilton Midtown is located along 6th Avenue — which means it's along the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route. The hotel is one of the largest in New York City, has many wonderful suites and is just a short walk from Fifth Avenue shopping, Rockefeller Center and even Central Park.

    If you're a fan of art deco architecture, consider the Doubletree Metropolitan, which was originally designed by Art-Deco master Morris Lapidus and renovated in 2012. It's Lexington Avenue location gives guests easy subway access and is just a short walk from Bloomingdale's, Fifth Avenue and Rock Center

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    Downtown Manhattan

    Where to Use Your HHonors Points in New York City

    Tripadvisor

    If you're interested in setting up your home base in Lower Manhattan, the Hilton HHonors program has a lot of hotel options to consider. This is a great area of town to stay in if you want to visit the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, South Street Seaport, the financial district or the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The Conrad New York is located in Battery Park City near the Hudson River. Although the location is a bit removed from subway access, the hotel is very upscale and the rooms are all laid out as suites (the hotel used to be an Embassy Suites, so the room layout might feel familiar if you've stayed at one before) but they've been redone with gorgeous rain-head showers and other elegant upgrades.

    The Millenium Hilton is more conveniently located, just steps from transportation, Century 21 and the 9/11 Memorial. This is one of New York City's few hotels with an indoor pool, making it a great option for families visiting NYC.

    If you want a downtown location with free breakfast included with your room, try either the Hampton Inn Manhattan Downtown-Financial District or the Hampton Inn Manhattan Seaport Financial District. Both are located on Pearl Street, though the first is more west and the second is closer to the eastern side of the island.

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    Brooklyn

    Where to Use Your HHonors Points in New York City

    Tripadvisor

    Want to get out of Manhattan and stay in New York City's hippest borough? Head to Brooklyn, where there is both a Hampton Inn and Hilton location (opening December 2016), both in Downtown Brooklyn. Both offer excellent subway service options and easy access to the Brooklyn Bridge. The Hampton Inn is a more budget-friendly option and includes free breakfast and wi-fi with their room rates, while the Hilton is a more upscale property and has an executive lounge.

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How to Gain Airport Lounge Access

If you’re anything like me, you prefer to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare before each flight, rather than racing to the gate minutes before boarding time. Sometimes I even get to the airport and through security so early that I need to find something to pass the minutes – or in many cases, the hours  – until my flight. The same goes for any time my flight is delayed. Rather than sitting at a crowded gate with fellow passengers  – some of whom are disgruntled about the delay  – I prefer to occasionally unwind and get some work done in the airport lounge.

Lounge access has its perks, such as free food, beverages, Wi-Fi, and entertainment, as well as lounge agents to help you rebook if your flight is delayed or canceled, or if you have a change of plans. If you’re on a layover between a few long, international flights and need to be refreshed before you reach your final destination, some airport lounges even offer showers and spas.

A common misconception is that airport lounges are only for elite travelers. But in reality, if you’re savvy enough, there are several ways for the everyday travel to gain access to most of the airport lounges around the world. If you’re looking to live the life of luxury while waiting for your next flight, follow one or more of the tips and tricks I’ve outlined for you below.

Buy a Day Pass

Annual airport lounge passes can be a bit pricey if you haven’t already earned them as an elite traveler, so if you’d rather indulge in the VIP lounge experience only once or a few times each year, consider buying a day pass only as needed. And if you want to save even more, make sure to plan ahead. Some airlines offer a discounted day pass to their lounge when you purchase your ticket (as opposed to buying the pass once you arrive at the airport). The prices for day passes vary and usually hover around $50.

For example, United Club lounge passes are $59 and Alaska Airlines charges $45 per day.

Join an Independent Lounge Access Program

If you haven’t reached elite status in your favorite airline loyalty program, you have the option to buy annual memberships to U.S. airline lounges for anywhere between $400 and $600. With the average day pass costing around $50, this is a great deal for those who travel at least five times a year (if you take the $50 cost into consideration for each leg of a round-trip flight). However, for those traveling less frequently, there’s the option to bypass airline lounges for more affordable memberships through independent airport lounge networks.

For example, LoungePass starts at only $13.50 per pass and offers a pay-as-you-go model, so infrequent travelers can avoid annual fees. Through LoungePass, you can choose to indulge in the VIP experience at more than 300 lounges in 190 airports worldwide.  Another option is Priority Pass, which offers memberships ranging from pay-as-you-go to all in. The program starts at $99 per year, then costs an additional $27 per lounge visit. The highest level is $399 a year and offers unlimited access with no fee per visit.

Priority Pass includes more than 900 lounges worldwide and also partners with Citi Prestige, American Express Platinum, and HHonors, offering complimentary or discounted memberships to cardholders.

Take Advantage of Travel Credit Card Perks

Many travel rewards credit cards include free or discounted airport lounge access as one of their membership perks. American Express Platinum offers complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges, including The Centurion lounge network, Airspace Lounges, and Delta Sky Club. As an added perk, immediate family or up to two companions can enjoy all the perks and benefits that lounge access has to offer. United MileagePlus® Club cardholders and eligible travel companions can work, relax and enjoy complimentary food and beverages at all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance lounges worldwide.

The Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard not only offers lounge access but also gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases during the first three months.

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5 Tips for Using Loyalty Points to See Your Favorite Sports Teams

As fall is starting to kick in, diehard fans are getting excited about football season! For many, there's nothing better than watching your favorite team play in person. You simply can’t beat the real-life experience of singing your school's fight song or eating a ballpark dog – even if you are in the nosebleed section. Interestingly enough, tapping into hotel and airline loyalty programs can help you get there! 

Tips for Using Loyalty Point and Miles to See Your Favorite Sports Teams

Whether you're heading to Dallas to watch the Cowboys play in AT&T Stadium or going to Ann Arbor to see Michigan in the “Big House,” make sure you follow these tips to save on traveling as you root on your team.

Plan the trip well in advance

Pick up the team's schedule and choose a few locations where you want to see your team play. If your favorite team’s games are constantly sold out – or ticket prices are steep – you might want to take a trip to see your team on the road.

After you've decided on some fun stadiums, book a flight with your rewards points. This should be done quickly because reward seats can fill up fast! In the case that reward seating is all sold out, consider traveling to the next closest airport from your team’s stadium or arena. It's likely that there are seats still available – and at a more affordable price.

Get your team’s gear

Most major airlines have online earn malls that let you earn miles and points simply by making online purchases. These portals are great platforms for getting gear from your favorite team.

For example, if you want to rack up miles for your trip to Tuscaloosa to watch the University of Alabama play, you can buy a hat at Lids, Jersey at FansEdge and a foam finger at Fanatics – all on United Airline's online shopping portal. American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Air Canada all have similar earn malls where you can get your team's gear – or anything else for that matter!

Refer fellow fans

By referring fellow fans to also fly, you can build up miles and save money on your own flights. Chase gives out generous points through its Refer-a-Friend program. By referring a friend to one of their credit cards, you can rack up travel miles through Southwest, United and British Airways. Depending on the card, you can earn 5,000 or 10,000 bonus points for each referral who is approved for a credit card.

You can invite as many people as you want until you reach the maximum cap of 50,000 bonus points per year. Also, through Alaska Airlines, you can receive 2,500 bonus miles for each referral that gets approved for the Alaska Airlines Visa credit card. In return, your friends will receive up to 30,000 bonus miles on the airline.

Set alerts and watch for flash sales on away-game flights

The NFL season consists of more than 256 games, and that’s not including the thousands of college football games each year – so your options for travel are open! After you've identified a few locations you would like to go to see your team play, set up alerts. Websites like Airfarewatchdog.com or Skyscanner.com allow you to set up alerts for affordable flights to specific locations. 

You might also want to identify specific airlines and sign up for their newsletters. Watch their social media channels for flash sale announcements and keep an eye out for promotional emails. Flash sales are a great way to snag an affordable flight and quickly accumulate miles at a discounted price.  

Earn miles by booking a hotel

When traveling to watch your team play, you will most likely need to find a place to stay. Booking a hotel can be a great way to build up your miles and save money on your flight to see the game. There are multiple platforms that allow you to earn points and miles by booking a hotel.  Kaligo, PointsHound and Rocketmiles all let you can earn miles through a variety of rewards programs including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier and others.

Watching your favorite team play is a great way to explore different places – so don’t be afraid to attend away games and get behind enemy lines to watch them win. While gameday tickets can get expensive, tapping into loyalty programs will help you stay loyal to your favorite franchise.

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3 Ways to Start Earning Loyalty While You're Still in College

The college student lifestyle is unlike any other – running from class to class Monday through Friday and exploring future career opportunities all while mixing in a healthy amount of fun. Yet while it might be not seem like a priority, enrolling in loyalty and rewards programs now can help you get where you want to go in the years ahead. It’s never too early to start racking up loyalty points and miles. And to make it easier, I’ve outlined a couple scenarios you’ve likely encountered and how you can easily integrate loyalty into your daily routine to help save you time and money tomorrow.

Getting your essential daily dose

Get more out of your morning cup of coffee than just caffeine. From mobile apps to punch cards, coffee chains and local shops around the world are known for rewarding their loyal members. Starbucks, in particular, is known for its iconic loyalty program. The recently renovated Starbucks Rewards platform allows coffee drinkers to rack up 2 stars per dollar spent and receive a complimentary item after collecting 300 stars. What makes Starbucks especially unique is that its stars can be transferred and exchanged with other loyalty currencies.

Via Points.com, Rewards Members can track their stars, exchange them for miles and other points, and even gift or transfer them to a friend.

A lot of people want to hear what you have to say!

Got an opinion? Get rewarded for it! Air travelers can accrue miles in exchange for sharing their experiences, conveying opinions and completing surveys. MileagePlus, Flying Blue and Rapid Rewards customers, for example, can participate via United’s Opinion Miles Club, Air France-KLM Opinion Rewards Club and Southwest’s Valued Opinions. Miles are awarded per survey completed, and every mile earned goes directly into your account. Completing surveys on a regular basis keeps your loyalty accounts fresh and your award miles from expiring.

Answering questions is not the only way to effortlessly rack up points and miles. Sending flowers for your friend’s birthday or donating to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other charitable organizations can help you make someone’s day and bulk up your reward balance.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Planning a semester abroad, a spring break trip or even a weekend getaway out-of-state is wrought with loyalty earning potential. For you world travelers out there, StudentUniverse – a leading travel booking service for student travelers – is a great resource. Through partnerships with transportation and hospitality companies around the world, they empower students to travel more easily without forking over the extra cash. In particular, they’ve teamed up with American Airlines and United Airlines to offer discounted rates and extra amenities like WiFi, free baggage and power outlets.

Moreover American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus reward memberships are free to open, and you can begin earning right away. All that airtime during long trans-Atlantic or cross country flights is an opportunity for you to start building loyalty.

But you don’t have to be in the air to earn loyalty miles. For you roadtrippers, look into gas station reward programs. Speedway Rewards, for example, allows customers to earn points on each visit, redeem them in-store or on future purchases and even play games to win additional rewards.

If you’ve got that roadtripping wanderlust but are in need of a vehicle, rental car agencies have you covered. They offer reward programs, like Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, to accrue loyalty as you cruise in their vehicles. And if driving just isn’t your thing, all you’ve got to do is hop aboard a train. Amtrak and other train operators offer loyalty programs to their travelers.

The key to travel loyalty (and actually, all loyalty for that matter) is earning high-value rewards. The points and miles highlighted above, just like Starbucks stars, are exchangeable and transferable across industries. That way, you never get stuck with heaps of worthless points. They can all work together to get you where you need to go.

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Earning Miles and Points is as Easy as Hailing an Uber

Starwood Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) are two international hotel chains that have paired their loyalty programs with Uber, so members can earn points on the go. Through the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, guests can earn up to 10,000 points per year simply by riding with Uber. Members receive one point per dollar spent through Uber at any given time and receive even more points when using Uber during a Starwood Hotel stay. The good news is the perks of this partnership are available to all members – rather than simply elite members.

 But the points earned during a hotel stay increase depending on your status. Preferred members receive two points per dollar spent, while gold/platinum receive three and platinum members with at least 75 nights on the year receive four points per dollar spent.

For IHG Rewards Club members, points can only be earned when first signing up for Uber, but the reward is valuable nonetheless. First-time users receive a free ride up and earn a bonus 2,000 IHG Rewards Club points once they ride. Additionally, for users who select an Uber ride from the IHG app, the hotel’s address will be automatically populated so they don’t need to mention it manually. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards & Lyft

Similar to the IHG Rewards Club partnership with Uber, Southwest Airlines partnered with Lyft to offer its Southwest Rapid Rewards members bonus rewards exclusively when they first sign up for Lyft. Through a partnership announced in March 2016, Southwest Rapid Rewards members can earn 1,100 Rapid Rewards points once they take their first Lyft ride. As an alternative, Southwest is also currently running a promotion offering all customers  – regardless of Rapid Rewards membership  – the option to receive $15 off their first Lyft ride.

American Airlines & Uber

American Airlines announced a partnership with Uber in February 2016. Through the partnership, American customers can now set a reminder for an Uber ride once they book a flight through AA.com. Once the flight’s e-ticket confirmation is sent, customers have the option to click a “Remind me to Uber” icon. The American app also has updated functionality to guide customers to the nearest Uber pickup location at 11 participating airports across the country, including major hubs such as New York’s JFK International, Los Angeles International and Chicago O’Hare International.

Capital One and Uber

 

In addition to earning miles and points with your favorite hotels and airlines, you can also earn free Uber rides  – even if you’re not a first-time customer – thanks to a recent partnership between Capital One and Uber. The partnership allows Capital One Quicksilver and Quicksilver One cardholders who use their cards as the form of payment for Uber.

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