Travel Tips

Loyalty Rewards Programs: Get the Best Bang for Your Travel Buck

Hyatt Centric Park City in Park City, Utah, where we stayed using loyalty rewards points

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As you might expect from a pair of accountants, we are focused on numbers.  We maintain all sorts of geeky spreadsheets to track our future and past travel plans, the associated costs of those trips, and the usage of our loyalty rewards program points and miles.

To give you an idea of how much our travel adventures cost, we will be including a summary with each trip post. For lengthy trips extended over multiple posts, we may combine the costs for the overall trip into one post at the end (like Our Great Australian Adventure).  You can use our experiences to come up with a budget that works for you.

Our goal for this blog

Accountants are stereotypically cheap, and again, we are guilty as charged.  We love to travel, but doing so can be very expensive.  Our goal is to travel as much as we can while keeping the costs manageable. 

Our goal for this blog? To help YOU keep your costs manageable so YOU can travel as much as you can, too!

We lower our costs in a variety of ways, but the biggest savings for us is using hotel points and airline miles. For example, the photo at the top of this post is of the Hyatt Centric Park City in Park City, Utah, where we stayed three nights for free using points in January 2015 (it was called Hyatt Escala Lodge at the time).

Many, many moons ago, we thought it was useless to sign up for loyalty rewards accounts, but we have learned over the years the best ways to build up our loyalty accounts and make those rewards work for us.

How do we earn loyalty rewards?

We earn our points and miles by:

  • Applying for credit card sign up bonuses. These have provided the majority of our loyalty points and miles. Banks will often offer sign up bonuses for airline- and hotel-branded credit cards, which are a great way to jumpstart your foray into the world of points and miles.
  • Putting our spending to work. We put almost all our spending on credit cards that offer some type of benefit, such as loyalty program rewards. BUT—and this is important–we pay off every credit card in full each month. Paying interest on credit card balances defeats the benefits of earning the rewards in the first place.
  • Traveling for work and vacation. We focus on 2-3 hotel loyalty programs for our stays, and we especially take advantage of promotional bonuses.

You might be surprised by how quickly the points and miles accumulate if you use the strategies above.

Holiday Inn Express Springdale, Utah, where we stayed with loyalty rewards
View from Holiday Inn Express Springdale-Zion National Park Area, Utah, where we stayed 4 nights free using loyalty rewards points

Once you’ve built up loyalty rewards, how do you maximize their value?

The key is researching and planning your trip well in advance. That’s often when you encounter airline award flights that require fewer miles or locate hotels offered at special rates. Since hotels (and rental cars) can usually be canceled up until the time of the trip, we book those long in advance and then track lower rates over time.

There are hundreds of bloggers out there that do a great job deep diving into the miles and points world.  Many of them are focused on getting absolute maximum value by redeeming for first class flights or amazing five-star hotels.  While we enjoy a nice beachside resort in Hawaii, we prefer to stretch our points and miles as much as possible.

How do we value our loyalty rewards points and miles?

Since we use miles and points to fund much of our travel, it becomes necessary to come up with values for the various programs to give an idea of what our trips cost.  We have determined these values based on our personal experience; thus, the values are subjective.  As they say, your mileage may vary (YMMV).

Below is a spreadsheet (yay, spreadsheets!) that shows the valuation per mile or point we are using for the various loyalty programs.  This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all programs out there, only the ones we utilize.  We will use these valuations in our trip cost summaries when we use miles or points.

1 point =Per
Hotel Chains
Hilton – Honors$0.0040$40.00$100.00$200.00
Hyatt – World of Hyatt$0.0150$150.00$375.00$750.00
Intercontinental Hotel Group – IHG Rewards Club $0.0060$60.00$150.00$300.00
Marriott – Bonvoy$0.0070$70.00$175.00$350.00
Alaska Airlines – Mileage Plan$0.0160$160.00$400.00$800.00
American Airlines – AAdvantage$0.0140$140.00$350.00$700.00
British Airways – Avios$0.0140$140.00$350.00$700.00
Delta Airlines – Skymiles$0.0140$140.00$350.00$700.00
Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards$0.0150$150.00$375.00$750.00
United Airlines – Mileage Plus$0.0140$140.00$350.00$700.00
Credit Cards
Chase Ultimate Rewards$0.0150$150.00$375.00$750.00

As you can see from the table, some brand’s rewards are more valuable to us than others.

Now work it!

We hope our trip cost summaries and loyalty reward valuations will help you plan and budget your own travels and provide cost-saving tips. Feel free to comment below with any burning questions or comments, and we will respond as soon as we can!

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Traveling Accountants

We are accountants who love to travel.

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