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Avoid Making Travel Reward Mistakes
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As compelling as cheap travel options, such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages are, free travel earned by redeeming miles or points can be even more satisfying.
The trick is getting the greatest possible value when redeeming your travel rewards. Determining the real value in your mile and point redemptions requires only basic math.
Points and airline miles in particular should be valued between one to two cents each. Unless what you are receiving when cashing in a reward is at least in that range, then you should reconsider how to make the best use of those miles or points.
The following are common mistakes you should avoid when deciding whether to trade in miles or points, according to Jake Redman:
• “Free” (as in no cash trades hands) over valued merchandise for point exchange. If you are going to trade in 50,000 frequent flyer miles for merchandise make certain that item has a dollar value of between $500 to $1,000.
• Transferring miles to someone else is usually a very poor way to spend those miles. Unless your airline is offering a very meaningful mileage bonus when you transfer your miles, it is almost always a bad transaction. Be ready to do simple math before spending or transferring miles. Also remember that airline’s charge a range of service fees when transferring miles. A 75 percent to 100 percent transfer bonus might make a transfer worthwhile, but such bonus offers are far and few between.
• Forgetting is the single worst way to “spend” (i.e., lose) your miles. While there are a few programs that offer miles that never expire, most only give you a certain amount of time (often only 12 months) to use them before they are forfeited. Most programs keep miles/points alive when customers make purchases that earn additional rewards through the travel program in question.
• Customers who do not plan to fly before their miles will expire should look on their airlines’ websites to see if there is a shopping link that will generate additional miles for any purchases made via that site.
• Do the math before being seduced by offers in the mail to redeem your miles/points for “experiences.” A little research often shows that the opportunities to try things like driving a real stock car or going for a hot air balloon ride is valued at one cent per mile. Your goal should be to redeem miles/points for as close as possible to two cents per mile/point and never for less than one cent.
• Do not try to accumulate miles/points in the same manner that you save money at a bank. Miles and points tend to be devalued over time. You will benefit more from redeeming rewards when you come across offers that value your miles/points close to, or above, two cents each.
• Often the best value rewards can be found by looking into seat upgrades on long flights (usually international ones) or hotel rooms that cost much more than you would usually be willing to spend.
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