Even if you’re not wandering far right now, you can still use travel points at home by maximizing rewards programs and reaping big benefits!
Hotel points? Surf from your sofa.
All major hotel brands are extending the expiration dates of points you’ve earned, reveals Melanie Lieberman of the Points Guy. “A lot of companies have done this automatically, but if you haven’t seen changes in your account, just give them a call.” Some hotels are also reducing requirements to earn “elite status,” whose perks include room upgrades and late checkouts. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), for example, has reduced the number of stays from 40 to 30 to qualify.
Also smart: Collect points from your couch. Every major hotel allows you to earn points for doing things like switching your cellphone provider or signing up for identity theft protection.
Airline miles? Redeem for later.
Now is a great time to redeem miles, says Lieberman. You’ll likely find steeply discounted business-class award seats, for example, sometimes for half of what they cost this time last year. “Many airlines are also waiving redeposit fees — so if you have to cancel a trip because of travel restrictions, they won’t charge you to return your points.” And several airlines, like American and Southwest, let you earn points for taking online surveys.
Good deed: Miles you don’t need? Donate them! United and other airlines have point-donation programs, as do hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, which let you donate points to organizations like the American Red Cross, Direct Relief and other charities helping during fallout around the pandemic.
Car rental rewards? Pair up. programs
Surprise: You can still continue to earn car rental points, even without renting a car, simply by connecting them to your airline or hotel reward programs. Hertz, for example, pairs up with Delta, United, American, and Marriott; and Southwest “buddies up” with car rental companies Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and National. Linking your programs allows you to pool your points so you can use them wherever it works best for you. So, for instance, if you’ve earned 50 points toward a free car rental and 100 points toward air miles, pairing the programs gives you 150 points you can use for either.
Save on road trips!
- Hit the gas on this day: Fill up on Monday morning for the lowest prices, and try to steer clear of gas stations later in the week, as they tend to raise prices on Thursdays in anticipation of increased weekend travel. Also, consider paying in cash—many gas stations charge 10 cents more per gallon for credit card charges.
- Save on road food: With fast-food prices expected to rise by as much as 3 percent this year, it’s smarter than ever to bag your own snacks. But when you need a refill, use the iExit app, which shows rest stops and eateries for the next 100 exits, letting you pinpoint the cheapest eats.
- Score last-minute hotel deals: Just download the free HotelTonight app, which lists deals on same-day reservations in the area where you wish to stay, for as much as 70 percent off. For longer stays, consider Hotels.com, which lets you earn a free hotel room after every 10 stays booked on the site.