Mr TTR and I are semi-retired, and we travel a lot !!
We are always looking for ways to benefit while on vacation, as well as to accumulate freebies towards vacations when we are at home living our day-to-day lives.
Here in Canada, NOTHING can beat the Air Miles Reward Card (Canada’s extremely popular Blue / Gold Cards). They are truly amazing when it comes to accumulating points, travel & cash rewards (cannot comprehend folks who don’t have one… think it is because some people think they are only for Airmiles / Flights … which they are not… although their travel awards are awesome… ALL Airlines, Train, Bus, Car Rentals, Cruises, Hotels and virtually no restrictions)
Unfortunately, the Air Miles Program isn’t available to Non-Canadians, and for whatever reason, when it was launched in the USA didn’t catch on (for the life of me I cannot understand why not… here out of 35 Million Canadians, they say that about 10 Million of us are Air Miles Members… a pretty high number, when you take into consideration that you have to be 18+ to have one). Air Miles is a points for purchase program… when you shop at a particular retailer you get points… and there is a long list of stores to choose from including Canada’s most popular stores (and a bunch of US ones accessible on-line). Along with Gasoline, Drugstores, Hotels, Car Rentals, Car Repairs, Home Repairs, Home Heating & AC, Real Estate Agents, etc etc etc Which makes using it so easy (and probably why it is so successful here in Canada)
Mr TTR and I also have a wallet full of Hotel Reward Cards… these are also a highly overlooked. Many people don’t get them because they assume they’ll never accumulate enough stays for a FREE Night. BUT that is just a small reason for carrying a Hotel’s Loyalty Card. First and foremost, Hotel’s give their best customers (those who have Loyalty Cards) their best rooms… when you check in, you present that card, and they’ll give you the best room for the category you’ve booked… so chances are you won’t get the crappy room next to the Elevator, Ice Machine, etc. Also, oftentimes you’ll get upgraded for FREE just because you have the card in hand… booked a room with 2 Doubles at a low price, but they have a Queen or King Room (which online was listed for more). Mr TTR and I have gotten many such “unannounced” upgrades… of course there are usually other perks to membership as well… oftentimes, Complimentary Newspapers, Shoeshines, Parking, Internet, Welcome Bags, etc. And lastly, almost all the Hotel Loyalty Programs are linked up to other Reward Programs (so one can earn air miles with Airlines too)… you can just transfer your points from one to the other (ie Hilton Points to say American Airlines)… and many Hotels WANT you to stay with them (especially Business Travellers), so they’ll offer DOUBLE Points to those who are linked with an Airline Loyalty Program. And most of the Hotels also run BONUS Points (or FREE Stays) Promotions at different times during the year… November & December are one such time, as they are trying to attract the many Travellers who are on the road during the Christmas Season.
The only thing you have to be aware of when you have a Hotel Loyalty Card, is which Hotels have “points expiry” vs those who’s points never expire. This is when, trading in one’s points for OTHER items is a good idea… be that transferring to a Airline Loyalty Program, or taking a “Retail Partner Award” (we’ve done that… for example a Gas Company Gift Card)
As others have mentioned, there are also Credit Cards that offer Rewards, be they a percentage of cash back, or Airmiles with a specific Airline.
The trick to finding which of the various Loyalty Programs works best for you, can be complicated with so many airlines and so many variables.
I know in Canada we have a website that can do the calculations for you (and there are even websites that can help you keep track of your cards and track their usage etc) … there is probably something similar in the USA(and overseas for those in the UK, Australia, New Zealand etc). Just GOOGLE the Question – Which Airline Rewards Program is best – and you should get some info.
Hope this helps,
PS… As is the case with all Reward Cards, you have to use them to their full advantage. No good to have one in your wallet, if you forget to use it to book Hotel Rooms, make purchases at associated Retailers etc. It has to be a conscious thing you do each and every time there is a place where you can accumulate points.