How do some people manage to travel not only often but in business class as well? Being rich helps but we ordinary folks can take to the skies and travel the world too, without spending lots of money. The secret is to use frequent flier points. Here are some brilliant ways to earn points and make the most of them so you can get free flights and comfy upgrades.
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1. Sign Up For Rewards Programs
A good tip from Zero to Travel is to sign up for every reward or frequent flyer program you can, since these are free. You can do this every time you stay at a new hotel or fly with a new airline.
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2. Avoid Flights or Hotels That Don’t Offer Points
Zero to Travel suggests that you avoid flying with airlines or staying in hotels that don’t offer some kind of reward, such as miles or points. Before you book, check the airline or hotel’s website to see what promotions they offer. This may be the perfect excuse to head to one of the most inspiring ancient places you can visit around the planet.
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3. Sign Up for AwardWallet
Keeping track of all your rewards and points can be difficult, so let AwardWallet do the hard work for you. You can join this service for free and they will notify you if your points are about to expire.
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4. Become a Repeat Customer
Once you’ve signed up for an airline or hotel chain’s loyalty program, become a repeat customer if you like them. As Zero to Travel says, this is the purpose of loyalty programs and if you use the same company repeatedly, you’ll earn free travel and hotel stays.
Before your trip, don't miss 10 things travellers pack but never use.
Before your trip, don't miss 10 things travellers pack but never use.
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5. Get Credit Cards
A credit card is one of the easiest ways to earn frequent flyer points. Some cards will give you points simply for signing up, so Nomadic Matt suggests that you look for the cards that offer the highest bonuses. Just don’t overspend on your cards and turn them into a financial regret.
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6. Choose a Card Based on Your Nearest Airport
Zero to Travel says it’s a good idea to choose your credit card based on which airlines fly to your nearest airport. This way you can make sure that you’ll actually be able to reap the rewards if you fly with a certain airline.
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7. Pay Your Taxes by Credit Card
Nomadic Matt says one way to get around the minimum spend requirement that many credit cards have before you can earn your sign-up bonus is to pay your income tax by card. The Canada Revenue Agency accepts plastic (via a third party) so when it’s tax time, sign up for a new credit card and use it to make your payment. You might earn enough points to spend your tax refund in an amazing destination.
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8. Time Big Purchases and Card Sign-ups
Time your big purchases in such a way that you can sign up for a new card when you need to make them. Nomadic Matt signs up for a new card for every big purchase like moving house, joining the gym or buying a computer.
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9. Charge Friends’ Purchases on Your Card
Another point-earning tip from Nomadic Matt is to use your card to pay for friends’ purchases and then let them pay you in cash. One way to do this is to charge an evening out with your friends to your card.
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10. Use the Right Card for the Right Purchase
Different cards give you different numbers of points for certain types of purchases. Some will give you more points for what you spend on groceries while others may give you more points for money spent on flights. Match the card to the purchase to earn more points. This way you can still save money without losing out on the rewards.
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11. Artificially Create Spending
You can artificially create spending to move money around. Nomadic Matt says you can use your credit card to buy pre-paid debit cards or gift cards which you turn into money orders. You then put these in the bank and use them to pay your credit card.
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12. Become a Micro-Lender and Make a Difference
Kiva is a non-profit that lets you micro-lend money to entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken areas, so you can start making a difference before you even start travelling. You can lend your minimum spend amount to earn points. As a safeguard, lend small amounts to many different people rather than a large amount to one person.
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13. Raise Money for Charity
A cool idea from Zero to Travel is to raise money for charity by getting donations from your friends, family and acquaintances. You may even use this as an excuse for a great Canadian adventure, like climbing a mountain or going on an epic hike. Then pay the donations to the charity by using your card.
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14. Have a Card Just for Business Expenses
Business credit cards often have extra generous sign-up bonuses but they also tend to have a bigger minimum spend requirement. Charge every expense related to your job on this card, from office supplies to plane tickets. This will be even easier to do if you have a cool job that lets you travel a lot.
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15. Use Your Card to Pay Off Your Student Loans
Zero to Travel suggests that you use your credit card to pay off your student loans. This doesn’t mean you should exchange one kind of debt for another, though. You’ll still need the funds to pay your credit-card bills once you’ve made the loan repayments.
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16. Buy Through Rewards Malls
Airlines, hotels and other businesses often have online shopping malls where they partner with specific merchants. Buying through these rewards malls rather than in-store will earn you extra points. To keep track of what’s on offer, use a site like Evreward.
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17. Charge Regular Bills to Your Card
According to Zero to Travel, paying regular bills such as the hydro bill, mortgage and insurance with your credit card is a sure way of quickly meeting the minimum spend requirement to earn points, even if you’ll be bleeding money on the bank charges. The rewards will offset the money you lose in fees.
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18. Know When to Buy Miles
According to Airfarewatchdog.com, buying miles can be a really good deal if you time it right. For example, if you only need a few miles to get an award you want, it’s wise to buy the miles. You should also look for bonus offers from your mileage program.
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19. Get an Elite Status Match
Once you’ve racked up enough miles to get elite status from your airline, this doesn’t mean you should fly with that airline for the rest of your life. If you want to fly with another airline, Airfarewatchdog.com suggests that you apply for a status match to still reap the rewards. However, even if you don’t get the status match, you can still fly in comfort for less.
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20. Don’t Redeem Your Miles for Flights Only
Of course you want to use your miles to get free flights in business class but to really make them work for you, use them to help pay for your vacation itself. According to How To Save Money, your air miles will get you great value at hotels, for car rentals and for buying tickets to events and some of Canada’s best attractions, even if they aren’t normally cheap.