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BOOST YOUR TRAVEL BUDGET - WINNING STRATEGIES
 
(2012 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: JOHN RIDOUT



In BMO’s Fall 2012 Travel Survey, almost 80 per cent of respondents said they collect rewards; about 60 per cent travelling this fall said they will use their rewards to lower travel costs.

Flights are the most popular redemption choice (19 per cent), followed by hotels (15 per cent) and gas (11 per cent). 

Squeezing the most travel out of every loonie is one of my favourite games. And travel rewards programs are my aces in hand. Here are seven winning strategies that work for me.

Limit your loyalty to brands with rich programs and partnerships. If you consolidate all your purchases on a single card, you can accumulate rewards faster, reach your goal sooner and track your transactions more easily.

Capitalize on promotions that offer extra points and bonuses. Register for promotions and ensure your suppliers have your electronic contact information so you get the latest offers immediately. For example, Best Western Rewards® has four major promotions a year in addition to ongoing offers, and communicates with members through electronic and social media.

Take advantage of double- or triple-dipping by using a rewards-earning credit card as well as your rewards cards when making purchases. Buy from merchants who participate in the same rewards program as your credit card, and time those purchases to take advantage of special in-store or online bonus rewards offers. The Capital One Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® now offers two miles for every dollar spent.

Look at the redemption ratio (what the points are actually worth) and the program’s flexibility—does it offer travel, merchandise, cash back, financial services?

Capture your entire spend. Make sure your loyalty program rewards you for all of your day-to-day spending on even small purchases such as coffee, fast food or convenience store items.

Use the travel insurance features of your credit card to reduce travel costs. Certain premium cards like the BMO Rewards World Elite MasterCard and BMO AIR MILES World MasterCard provide travel insurance features, such as trip interruption and/or cancellation insurance, travel medical insurance, rental car collision waivers and other benefits such as airport VIP lounge passes.

Look for opportunities to transfer points among loyalty programs to get more of what you want. For example, the Starwood/Aeroplan partnership allows members to transfer up to 79,999 Starpoints® into Aeroplan miles at a 1:1 ratio, and gives them bonus points for other transactions.

Best Western Rewards®

It’s a hot summer day at the Los Angeles Center Studios. The choreographer of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up TV series is showing a 14-year-old some cool dance moves. Her parents look on in amusement while her sister madly texts their friends back home. OMG—they’ve won the Best Western Rewards Disney summer sweepstakes! The prize includes round-trip transportation, hotel accommodation—and face time with Shake It Up characters CeCe and Rocky.

This is just one example of the lengths to which the Best Western Rewards program goes to make travel exciting for their members. “Our partners not only boost the richness of the rewards, but can also add an engaging human touch,” says Tammy Lucas, Managing Director, Marketing Programs for Best Western International. Other travel partners include CAA, Aeroplan, AIR MILES® and car rental companies.

In addition to travel rewards, about 25 per cent of redemptions are gift card options, especially for the holiday season. Members can choose travel and hotel stays, or dozens of retail products and services.

Piling Up The points

According to Lucas, free nights are the top driver for hotel rewards programs, whether it’s in the business or personal category. “We have fantastic promotions to help members earn free nights quickly, as well as a Best Western Rewards® MasterCard® so customers can double- and triple-dip through their daily purchases.” And, with Best Western hotels in more than 100 countries around the world, members can earn Rewards in most places they travel.

Lucas reports that even the Elite Tiers are easily achievable, and are the most competitive in the marketplace. Members can achieve Gold status with 10-night stays or 10,000 points, Platinum with 15 nights or 15,000 points, and Diamond with 30 nights or 30,000 points. Each level comes with bonus points and perks, and qualifies members for exclusive Elite-only offers such as exciting sweepstakes, additional ways to earn rewards and lower redemption thresholds.

“We will also match your Elite status in any other hotel program,” she says. Members can sign up for the award-winning Status Match . . . No Catch® at BestWesternRewards.com.

Service Above All

No matter how rich the rewards, the most important factors for customers are service and simplicity. “We are more than just a rewards program,” says Lucas. “Our brand vision is to lead the industry in superior customer care, and we live that out through our rewards program.”

Travel Planner

For more information or to join the program, visit BestWesternRewards.com.

 
 
 
 
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