Many companies offer rewards programs — not just airlines, but also gas stations, rental car companies, pharmacies, grocery stores, and coffee shops, just to name a few. In recent years, more and more companies have been jumping on the rewards bandwagon as a way to retain customers, generate loyalty, and gather information on your spending habits.
It’s easy to sign up for all of these programs, but it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Do you know how many Delta miles you have? What about Hertz points? Are you at the Gold level at Starbucks yet? If you don’t know, you’ll be less likely to take advantage of these programs to get discounts, free stuff, prizes, and whatever else is on offer. Here are five tips that will help you make the most of your rewards accounts.
Track Points with AwardWallet
This is one of the most useful web apps for tracking your reward points. All you have to do is enter the login information for your various accounts, and their balances will be kept for you and updated automatically. Just sign in and you’ll see your account balances in one place. They’re even categorized for you so you don’t have to go looking for your different accounts.
As you can see, I’m tracking my British Airways miles, my IHG rewards, my Boots Advantage Card, and my Tesco Clubcard; I also have my Starbucks card, my Costa account, and a few others. You can keep track of miles from just about every airline; loads of hotels, like Marriott, Hilton, Hotels.com, and Wyndham; credit card rewards programs from Chase, Capital One, US Bank, and others; car rental programs; airport parking programs . . . just about everything you can think of! There are over 600 programs that work with AwardWallet.
Best of all, AwardWallet is free. You can, however, upgrade to Plus, which provides a few extra features, like displaying extra account properties and expiration warnings. There’s no set price for Plus status — you get to decide how much you want to pay for it. It’s a great service, and definitely worth at least $25 or $30 twice a year; you’ll probably save at least that much by remembering to use your rewards.
Keep Account Numbers and Passwords with LastPass
AwardWallet is great for letting you know how many miles and points you have, but if you forget your account number, login ID, or password, you might be out of luck. And if you can’t log in to your account, you’ll have to go through the hassle of retrieving your username and password, which can prevent you from using your rewards account.
The easy solution to this is using a secure password manager that will keep all of your account numbers, usernames, and passwords safe, secure, and easy to find. LastPass is a browser extension that automatically fills in your login information when you visit a website. You can download the iOS or Android app so you’ll always have your account numbers, PINs, and passwords handy. The premium version of LastPass offers even more features for $12 a year. That’s only $1 per month — more than worth it for the added security and convenience.
Exchange or Buy Points with Points.com
Points.com is another rewards points tracker, much like AwardWallet. It doesn’t have nearly as many supported programs, but it does have one very interesting advantage: it allows you to trade, exchange, or buy points from other accounts and users. This means that if you don’t have enough SkyMiles to get a free Delta flight, you can trade some of your Speedway Speedy Rewards or Best Buy Reward Zone points in for SkyMiles so you can get that flight.
As you can see above, the exchange rates aren’t great (I’d only get 395 SkyMiles for 5,000 IHG points), but when you really need a few more points, you might be willing to make a trade!
Of course, this comes with some caveats — not all programs allow exchanges, the exchange rates change often, and there’s a trading fee. But if you need those last few points, this might be one of the best ways to get them without buying them outright (which is usually a pretty bad deal).
Subscribe to Head for Points
Whether a blog is a “tool” is debatable, but this is one of the best ways to maximize the number of points that you earn (especially if you’re collecting British Airways or Virgin miles). The writer of the website, Raffles, is an expert on accruing airline miles and hotel points, and shares some of the best tips, offers, and sign-up bonuses around. He’ll even send you referral codes for credit card applications!
If you don’t read this blog regularly, you’re missing out on thousands of miles, many of which are totally free. This is especially good for readers in the UK, but because British Airways partners with a lot of other worldwide airlines, and most of the hotel chains discussed are international, it’s beneficial for everyone.
Get Tips from The Points Guy
Like Head for Points, this is a blog that’s focused on helping you get the most out of your rewards — The Points Guy, teaches you how to maximize your travel miles and reward points; it also includes information you can use on cash back credit cards, which is another great use of rewards points. This is a great resource for deciding which credit card is best for you when you’re applying for a new one.
Earn Your Rewards
Rewards programs offer some really great benefits, but most people sign up and forget about them, losing out on a lot of free stuff. Use the five tools above to keep track of your accounts and learn about the best ways to maximize the returns from all of them, and you’ll be on your way to being a rewards master.