Win a trip to Australia!

Thanks to the generosity of American Express and Boarding Area, I am pleased to offer this contest to readers of Pearls of Travel Wisdom. You have an excellent chance to win a 7-day trip for two to Down Under. Total value of this contest is about $13,000.

To enter, simply post a comment here answering this question: What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points?

Increase your chances of winning by posting a comment on all of the 20 participating blogs. Each blog offers great content with a different perspective on travel, all worth a regular read. Keep an eye out for their posts about the contest.

Also, you can follow the blogs with an RSS feed. If you use Twitter, a great source to keep up to date on all the Boarding Area blogs is @BoardingArea and feel free to follow me on Twitter, @smartwomentrav.

Please hurry, the last day to enter is Sunday, March 28, 2010.

The contest is open to anyone who is a US resident at least 18 years old.  Very sorry, but this does not apply in Canada, US Territories, or the rest of the planet.

One lucky random winner will be chosen from all qualifying entries. Complete rules and details are here.

Again, many thanks to American Express and Boarding Area for offering this opportunity to my readers. Best of luck to each and every one of you winning what will be the trip of a lifetime!


  1. Have flexibility with your dates, think outside of the box on routings, and be nice to the people helping you on the reservation!

  2. Use a mileage tracking tool for a consolidated view of your portfolio of air, car and hotel accounts. It can be easy to miss expriring miles, etc otherwise.

  3. Nothing beats the Starwood Amex card. Easiest way we’ve found to earn and use points. Starwood also has the excellent cash+points option which I haven’t seen from other loyalty programs.

  4. Don’t let your miles expire! Of course you can EARN some miles to keep them alive, but to avoid outlaying any cash and generate activity in a hurry, remember that in most major programs, both earning and REDEEMING miles resets the expiration counter — redeem a few miles for a magazine or donate a couple of miles.

  5. Use your point earning credit card for EVERYTHING Yes, I mean EVERYTHING (but pay it off at the end of the month of course). I even use it in the soda machine at work. And be sure to sign up for all of the extras such as ‘dining for miles’, special airline promotions, and miles earning surveys. Fun to watch the miles add up.

  6. Check your main airline’s foreign partner airlines for earning miles, not just alliance airlines.

    For example, one can fly direct to Taipei on EVA Airways and earn Continental One Pass miles, even though EVA is not in the star alliance. EVA is cheaper than United and United no longer flies direct.

  7. Mileage cards are often the best bang for the credit card buck, and Amex often does have the better mileage offers than many other cards. I personally prefer to get cash back on my cards, though, and spend it as I choose. (Up to 4%).

    Can’t really come up with anything better for building miles than have already reported on. Choosing an alliance that services your local airport(s) to destinations that you tend to fly to, sticking with that alliance when possible, and picking the longer route if available that’ll still get you there on time.

  8. Add the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card to your wallet and earn 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries. Plus, if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 bonus points. There are more than 140 partners with whom to redeem your points for a wide selection of travel, shopping and dining rewards.

  9. don’t ignore status in hotels. when i started, i collected united miles but still stayed at priceline hotels. after learning a bit more, i started spending a bit more money but also collecting starwood points. now, i might pay a bit more for my hotel stays overall, but instead of the room with the view of the parking lot i’m in a suite with free internet…and for vacations, my room is free! you don’t get that with priceline.

  10. Starwood Preferred Guest points are powerful currency, especially since you can convert them 1:1 into most airline programs, allowing you some of the best flexibility for finding and redeeming awards, depending on which airline may have availability.

  11. Watch out for SPG/Hyatt/Hilton/Marriott/Priority Club free night promos… burn those and save the points! Also, look for the best free night promotions: longer redemption period, less restrictions on hotel categories the free nights can be used for, less nights/stays needed per free night earned.

  12. carefully monitor expiration dates so you don’t lose the miles that you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

  13. If your airline miles or hotel points are expiring, you can order something from a partner vendor to keep your account active (and earn points at the same time).

  14. At the same time that you want to focus your earning on specific programs, remember — you didn’t get married to your primary frequent flier program. Sometimes you will be better off just buying the best available value even if that won’t earn points in your primary program.

  15. As amateurish as it sound, I go through my “travel checklist” before every trip that includes bringing a printout of all my FF and FH account numbers. Just in case I have to switch flights or hotels.

  16. Use a credit card that awards points for money spent on it. It is an easy way to collect points each month without flying.

  17. I use Priority Club PointBreaks when a travel around the country for my photography. Many times my driving itinerary allows a lot of flexibility in where I spend the night. At 5,000 points per night my points go a lot further than they would using them for a standard stay. On a recent four week trip I used PointBreaks fifteen times.

  18. Find several (in our family, three) credit cards that are free or very low cost, and that have good points programs with elite (silver, platinum, etc) bonuses. Then split up your charges (for us, reaching $20K per year on each card does the trick to get elite status.

  19. My tip is to use credit card offers as much as possible. I do that, earning sign-up bonuses, and occassionally retention bonuses. Some cards allow you to get the sign up bonus multiple times. I also transfer some AA miles I earn to Hilton to allow me hotel points also.

  20. Make the most of the program participation programs such as Mileage Plus Dining for United, particularly if dining out for a business meal. These points add up quickly when picking up a business dinner tab. Same goes for hotels, groceries and car rentals. They all count 🙂

  21. Want to feel fabulous and sit in First Class?

    Then use your points earning credit card and enjoy your upgrade!

  22. When dining out with a group of friends and the bill comes on one ticket they always choose to pay cash. I take all their cash and then pay the entire bill – along with my portion of course – on my credit card simply to get the miles.

    I’m disciplined enough to put the cash in my banking account and make a payment towards the credit card right away.

  23. Plan in advance to maximize award redemptions. For example, even though AA essentially eliminated stopovers, they still allow stopovers in North American gateway cities for international departures. So, although my base airport is a gateway city, I’ve tacked on what is essentially a one-way from another trip as the “stopover.”

  24. Save. Go in style. If you have “world points” or any sort of airline reward points, use those for big trips. Use smaller trips you can pay for “out of pocket” on your credit card towards more reward points.

  25. When redeeming remember to use partner award travel options. Several times they will not be displayed online and the agent will not list them over the phone. Make sure you know the alliance and non alliance airline partners and try to create your own itinerary using a travel site. Once you have an itinerary call the airline and ask the agent for availability on those flights you’ve selected. Have several options in terms of airlines, dates, and flight times. For earning miles use your credit card for everything. I use my SPG Amex card for something as small as a 99cent purchase. The SPG Amex actually allows you to earn 1.25 miles per dollar as for every 20000 points transferred to an airline you received a 5,000 bonus.

  26. Focus Focus Focus. Two programs, a cc that generates reward points, put your hotel points into your airline program. I never buy anything, including a house, unless I get points.

  27. You don’t need to be a customer of an airline to take advantage of their loyalty programme – think alliances. For example, I am one of BMI’s best customers despite having never flown on one of their flights. The same has been true of Air Canada in the past.

  28. Don’t let your points expire! It’s a great idea to get and hoard as many miles as possible, but make sure to know the rules of your particular program as they can all go to waste if you don’t meet minimum activity requirements…

  29. Know where you are going, research the award chart, get enough miles (a much easier job with Amex MR), finally be flexible and secure the award seat EARLY!

  30. Keep a spreadsheet of all your point activity. That way if the program makes a mistake- and it happens- you can get it corrected.

    In addition, it’s a positive motivator and helps you manage your points (to keep them from expiring for instance.)

  31. Use your miles to travel to exotic places where the tickets are extremely expensive, but you need to plan ahead. Well, sometimes you don’t have to, because not many people know those places 😀

    Also, try to travel in premium cabin.

    These usually yield the best value of miles.

  32. Take advantage of websites that are middle men for purchases (such as MyPoints) and web sites that issue surveys (Harris Polls), as points earned in those programs can be converted to miles or hotel points.

  33. Get yourself a mileage earning credit card!

    If you are going to spend money, then why not spend it and earn something back at the same time?

  34. Be smart about what you use your points for. International tickets and international upgrades tend to be the best uses of points.

  35. Take advantage of low fares to boost up your mileage total. Quick weekend trips can rack up the miles if you pay attention to what you earn versus what the trip costs.

  36. Redeem your miles for premium class tickets to overseas, or Hawaii, and Alaska. These are among the best value of your miles. Always plan ahead, usually you can book your award travels 330 days in advance. Keep that information in mind whenever you are thinking a nice trip. Good luck to us all!

  37. Sign up for all the loyalty programs you can then track the detailed information, membership numbers, benefits, enrollment dates etc. Use this information every time you book travel or stays for frequent upgrades, perks and free stays. There are a lot of programs out there so search and track once you find them.

  38. If you fly a Star Alliance carrier, do your research with the ANA tool and ExpertFlyer. Next, read up on the award rules for your particular airline. Last, when calling be very persistent with the agents as many of them aren’t too familiar with the corner cases of award bookings.

  39. Credit all of your flying in any alliance to one account, which gives you the best chance of scoring high value awards, like Business class to Europe.

  40. Don’t underestimate moving up the “elite status” ladder. The perks tend to get exponentially better the higher you get. (0% bonus miles -> 25% bonus -> 50% bonus -> 100% bonus at the top tier.)

  41. I use my hotel credit card to pay my elderly mother’s
    pharmacy bill each month then have her pay me back.
    I tell her it’s just easier for me to pay with the credit card than getting a check from her to pay the bill :).

  42. Be loyal. Rack up points and bonus points by frequenting sister properties and airlines withing the same loyalty program. Once you move up the line in their loyalty program, you earn more points. Also, see if they have a credit card for which you earn points for each dollar spent. That way, you earn double, sometimes triple, points for your trouble!

  43. The Best use of your miles are international Business/First awards, don’t waste your miles on anything less.

  44. 1 Consider using your airline rewards for upgrades to first class or business class.
    2 Read flyertalk and the blogs like this
    3 Plan ahead for better availability
    4 some good luck

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