When planning a big trip, allocating the accommodation budget can be a painful part of the process, often soaking up a significant portion of your travel funds. But it doesn’t have to be.
Leveraging rewards points earned from loyalty programs for free accommodation on the road is one of the most effective ways of reducing accommodation costs and is a subject we’ve touched on before. Whether you’re loyal to one brand or your itinerary dictates multiple hotel chains, you can design a rewards strategy to suit your needs.
An important part of any well-planned rewards strategy is metrics. The ability to monitor loyalty accounts and track points balances. This is where AwardWallet comes into play.
What is AwardWallet?
AwardWallet is a free app for tracking rewards points earned through loyalty programs. With mobile apps available on iOS and Android, and a web-app accessible from your favorite web browser, AwardWallet tracks almost every loyalty program you can think of, over 650 in total.
It’s simple to use. Just sign up for a free account, load up the sign in details for your loyalty program, and AwardWallet will start auto-updating your points balance, even sending an alert when points post to your account. Rewards accounts are grouped by type and display the points balance, account number or username, your elite status with the program, and the date points expire.
If the world of points and miles appears a touch intimidating, don’t worry, you’re not alone! AwardWallet runs a handy educational blog aimed at helping points and miles enthusiasts get the best value from their rewards points. You’ll find the latest rewards promotions, detailed reviews on each loyalty program, and guides to fast-track you to elite status with your favorite rewards program. The big question really, is what rewards program to choose?
Which Is the Best Rewards Program for Road Trips?
If you had to boil it down by the numbers, the best hotel chain for road trips in the US would be Intercontinental Hotel Group and its rewards program IHG Rewards Club. As the parent company behind the iconic Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands, IHG has thousands of hotels spread throughout North America, including most major highways and transit towns/cities.
From a rewards perspective, IHG is one of the best loyalty programs for budget redemptions, and is home to the best quarterly promotion around, IHG PointBreaks (a revolving list of hotels available for points redemptions equal to around $30/night).
IHG points are easy to earn, particularly if you hold the IHG Rewards credit card which allows you to compound your points earning efforts, and automatically grants you Platinum Elite status with IHG.
What If There Are No IHG Hotels Where I’m Going?
The reason for building a portfolio of rewards earning credit cards that earn beyond a single rewards program is simple. It offers you choice. For example, if you build your entire strategy around IHG Rewards Club, you will eventually accumulate a LOT of IHG points, but what do you do when there are no IHG hotels on your route?
There are dozens of different rewards programs and financial products on the market that can help when your chosen loyalty program has no properties nearby; I’ll give two examples below.
- Ultimate Rewards is one of the best programs for travelers. You can redeem points for 1.25¢/points in the Chase Travel Portal on ANY hotel brand, and Chase also has multiple travel partners that you can transfer points to including Marriott, The Ritz-Carton, IHG, and Hyatt hotels. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel and dining expenses, so even when you can’t redeem points for free hotels, you’re earning double points on your accommodation for use down the road.
- When there are no hotels available due to high demand (public holiday’s and events), you can still employ a rewards strategy to pull you through. Points from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® can be redeemed for any travel-related spending over $100, even AirBnB accommodation. So if you can’t find a hotel for rewards points or even cash, you can pay using your Barclaycard Arrival Plus, and then redeem the expense back using rewards points.
Although sticking to one brand has its advantages, factoring in times when there will be no hotels is an essential part of a well-laid rewards plan.
AwardWallet Tracks Your Points and Miles So You Don’t Have To
The world of loyalty programs can appear complicated at first glance, but with AwardWallet tracking your points and a bit of online education, you’ll be redeeming points for free hotel nights on your next road trip!
© 2016, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.