Dreaming about the coming year of travel is exciting.

Thinking about the financial side of those travel dreams, how to save the money, negotiate the best deals, and leverage your travel rewards points, is a challenge. Yes, a challenge that is considered a game by some and a chore by others.

What’s your dream trip? Las Vegas? Florida? Paris? Here are some simple tips for saving more rewards points and using them to get you where you want to go for less money.

The unmistakable Paris skyline.

Tips on saving travel reward points

  1. Join a number of rewards programs. There are many ways to save points for travel. For some there is a cost and for others no cost whatsoever. In all cases, the points I have saved have helped me travel more and farther. The rewards programs I focus on include:
    • My go-to credit card. I have a premium cash-back card with which I earn about CAN$650 a year. The card costs $125 so the payback is well worth the fee.
    • The free Airmiles.ca card. I collect points here and there with this free card. I don’t change my buying habits to earn points but I pull it out every time there is an opportunity and those points do add up.
    • The free Expedia.ca membership. The Expedia+ rewards™ is a new program and it looks great. You benefit from both sides of the travel rewards equation – by earning points when you book and by saving on special deals that are only available to members. As you book you accumulate points and as you reach certain points levels you move up from +Blue to +Silver to +Gold. Your rewards are greater as you advance through the levels.
    • Airline loyalty program. Decide on your preferred airline and join their loyalty program. You could even join two but try to book all your travel through one. If you have to book with another airline, check to see whether it is a member of your primary airline’s alliance. If so, you will still be able to earn points.
  2. Use your go-to credit card for every purchase. From a coffee to a bed to the down payment on a car, I try to use my cash-back credit card for everything so that I earn as many points as possible.
  3. Pay off your credit card every month. There’s not much point in earning rewards points if you lose the equivalent value or more in interest payments. Pay off the entire balance of your credit card every month.
  4. Save points even if you don’t think you’ll ever earn enough to use them. You’ll be surprised how they add up over time and how far they’ll go if you apply them to a special deal.
Watching the sun go down in the warmth of Florida - now that's worth spending points on.

Watching the sun go down in the warmth of Florida – now that’s worth spending points on. To know more read  “A Perfect Day in Paradise“.

Tips on using travel reward points

  1. Research your best deal first. Look outside your rewards program and find your best deal so that you have a baseline price for your trip.
  2. Research within the offerings of your rewards partners. Once you have a sense of what your trip will cost, do the same research using your reward partners. Dig around looking at the options. This research can point you in directions you hadn’t considered.
  3. Watch for special deals from your rewards programs. This is one place for the Expedia+ rewards™. When you sign up you’ll receive regular emails pointing you to special deals for members. It’s one of the benefits of membership. Most other rewards programs do the same.
  4. Avoid blackout dates. Blackout dates are most common on airline loyalty programmes and are annoying as they limit when you can travel. You can avoid blackout dates by using the rewards cash earned on your credit card and points earned from your Expedia+ rewards™
  5. Transfer points when it makes sense. Some programs will let you transfer points from one program to another. The points are sometimes discounted when you make a transfer so only do so when you want to consolidate for a specific purchase.
  6. Evaluate and buy. I evaluate my point status with my various rewards programs to determine the best way to buy the travel I want.
  7. Accumulate and spend. While you need to accumulate enough points to make a dent in your travel costs it’s also important to spend your points. If your account is inactive for too long you may lose the points or the value of your points could be reduced. This is most common for airline and hotel programs.

The more you save the more you can travel. For more money saving tips you can read Simple Travel Hacks: Savings for Solo Travellers.

So, how do you make the most of your reward points?