Get the most out of your loyalty points

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Posted July 16, 2016 by Adrian Brijbassi in Business Travel
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Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is one of the premier loyalty programs in the country. It allows you to use your points towards a range of items, including hotel stays and car rentals. (Julia Pelish file photo/Vacay.ca)

Vacay.ca has teamed with Choice Hotels Canada to create a series of articles highlighting the best bargain hotel travel experiences in the country. Vacay.ca Managing Partner and Choice Hotels Canada travel consultant Adrian Brijbassi shares his tips for getting the most out of your loyalty cards.

Column by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor

More than 1 trillion loyalty points have gone unredeemed since 2010. That recently released statistic is credited to Switchfly, a travel-commerce and loyalty platform whose application is used by such airlines as American Airlines, JetBlue and Emirates to track points’ usage of their members.

Although it is unclear why so many consumers do not use their points, what’s obvious is people remain attracted to loyalty programs.

Here is some advice for getting the most out of your loyalty rewards and savings programs.

Research – not all loyalty programs are the same

So many people join loyalty programs just for the sake of joining loyalty programs. In my experience, it is most effective to limit your loyalty programs to as few as possible. I use Aeroplan, the Fairmont President’s Club program and National Car Rental’s Emerald Club.

Of those, the Aeroplan program is the most rewarding because it allows you a range of other amenities, depending on your level of status in the Aeroplan program. In addition, with status in the Aeroplan program, you also get benefits such as bonus mile offers with select partners and better value on Market Fare Flight Rewards.

Only buy things you need

Points are as good as cash. One of the dangers of acquiring tens of thousands of points and not spending them is the temptation to use them on impulse. Are you someone who would normally upgrade to a business-class seat from economy? If the answer is yes, then great — go ahead and use your points to do so. But if you are a person who is generally comfortable in economy, then use your points on your hotel stay or car rental instead. Remember, those points were earned, use them wisely.

Buy everything you can with a points-associated credit card

Almost every purchase I make is completed with one credit card. That card gives me 1.25 Aeroplan Miles for every $1 I spend. In each of the past seven years, I have always gained enough points — through flights and purchases on my credit card — to qualify for an elite-level status. Those miles have accumulated so much that they’ve helped me secure flights to destinations in Canada, the United States, and Europe in 2016 alone.

Make sure you use them before they expire

As the study by Switchfly indicates, loyalty points can disappear. Remember if you don’t use your loyalty points by a certain date, they will be taken away. Many people who have acquired many points often complain of their points being unilaterally devalued.

According to data from rewards research company Colloquy, the value of rewards miles issued in the U.S. last year was $48 billion, of which almost $16 billion went unused.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a non-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests, published a report in 2013 urging oversight of Air Miles, Shoppers Optimum, Canadian Tire ‘Money’, Aeroplan and the other rewards programs in the country.

“Consumers have very little recourse when loyalty program providers unilaterally decide to do things such as devalue loyalty points or currency and change other terms and conditions of their programs,” Jonathan Bishop, a research analyst with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said in a CBC News report.

With that in mind, some final advice: Pay attention to your loyalty points, read the fine print, and don’t hold onto those points indefinitely.

MORE ABOUT CHOICE PRIVILEGES

Choice Privileges Expands Your Extras: The guest-loyalty program for Choice Hotels International, Inc. announced it has added a series of new partners to its midweek travel “Your Extras” benefit. In the U.S Choice Privileges members will now have the opportunity to earn Uber rides.  In addition, Choice Privileges expanded local earning partners in Canada, where Canadian members may elect to earn additional, instant rewards from Amazon.caand Tim Hortons.

As part of its program redesign, Choice Privileges launched the new “Your Extras” benefit that offers weekday travellers an extra, instant reward delivered right at check in. For more information, click here.


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and his articles are frequently syndicated by the Huffington Post and appear in the Globe & Mail. He makes regular appearances on CTV News, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction, and has visited more than 30 countries. He is also a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in April 2012.

 
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