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Many people choose the start of a new year to make resolutions, to attempt to change their behaviour in a positive way. For many, this might entail quitting smoking or planning to lose weight (gym owners love January!).
But here at Inside Flyer UK we’re interested in miles and points, so I’ve put together a list of some good habits you might want to consider as a New Year’s Resolution.
1. Sign up for Topcashback and pay attention to other online shopping portals
You hopefully already signed up (during Inside Flyer’s special promotion) before doing your Christmas shopping. But if you’re already going to spend the money, why not earn some cashback that can be converted into Avios or simply deposited into your bank account?
If your preferred online vendor isn’t available through Topcashback, check some of the other online shopping portals. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and avios.com all offer one. Iberia Plus has one aimed at Spanish residents that anybody can use. The major North American Airlines all offer online shopping portals as well.
For a few minutes work and an extra click or two, you can earn “free” miles or cashback. Sometimes we’ll be able to share special promotions where you can earn more in cashback or miles value than the underlying cost of the online transaction.
I find that cashback tracks best when I use a secondary browser not contaminated by my usual web navigation. I can clear cookies regularly, and therefore the affiliate links I’m trying to use should be recognised clearly.
And while I’m on the subject on “free” miles, I really hope that you already have a credit card that offers you miles or hotel points on your day-to-day spending. (And you pay off your balance each month. If not, that should be your one and only resolution!!!)
2. Sign up for Award Wallet
Award Wallet is a free service that tracks your miles and points balances. It even tracks your balances with Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Topcashback and many more.
For $10 per year (increasing to $30 unless you sign up before 1 February 2017), Award Wallet Plus also tracks expiry dates and sends you e-mail warnings well in advance of any miles or points expiring. You can also use it to keep track of flight bookings, useful in case of cancellations or itinerary changes that the airline is slow to inform you of.
Award Wallet keeps your passwords on file if you wish. I’ve never heard of anybody being hacked due to Award Wallet, but I have seen numerous reports of individual BA, Tesco Clubcard or hotel chain accounts being hacked. So rather than set easy-to-remember, easy-to-hack passwords for all of your separate accounts, you can set rather difficult ones. When you forget them, you can just log into your Award Wallet account and be reminded.
Should you be so unlucky as to have an account hacked and some miles or points spent, you will notice when updating your balances through AW (or if you read the weekly email AW send). Should you see any unexpected decreases, you can quickly get in touch with the airline or hotel chain to sort out the problem.
3. Open a new e-mail account for your miles and points business, and accept all e-mail traffic that the companies wish to send you
Anybody in a long-term relationship with me usually ends up with a few airline and hotel chain accounts that they may not care much about. My current girlfriend started to complain about her phone buzzing with too much spam from travel companies. So, I set up a new Gmail account in her name, and directed all of her miles and points related e-mail traffic there. Now all I do is check her accounts every once in a while and she doesn’t have to be bothered.
Most of the major airline and hotel chain promotions will get covered on blogs such as Inside Flyer, but you’d be surprised at the number of individually-targeted promotions that get sent out and require some kind of action on your part. Rather than immediately delete assumed-spam from your phone, spend a few minutes every week or two to go through your special Gmail account and sift through the spam for those gems. Since these emails should be exclusively travel-related, this process should be more appealing than managing the junk in your main inbox!
4. Sign up for all airline and hotel chain promotions as soon as you can
It sounds simple, but many people (including yours truly) occasionally make this mistake. As soon as you read about a hotel chain or airline promotion, make sure to sign up right away. You may not be planning a hotel stay with that chain, but one might pop up on short notice and you could forget to register for the promotion ahead of time.
A couple of years ago, I was planning a long reward stay at a Hilton HHonors property during the time of a triple-points promotion. I forgot to sign up / didn’t bother because it would be a reward stay. Then I discovered upon arrival that the hotel was quite distant from local restaurants, etc. So, I ended up charging a bunch of food to my room, earning the standard 10 Hhonors points per dollar, but no promo bonus because I had neglected to sign up for the promo. Schoolboy error…
Now that you’ve engaged your brain to register for the promotions, you should consider which are the most lucrative for your own personal situation and try to move your hotel stays in the appropriate direction whenever possible.
5. Think about hotel chain status
Unless there are really lucrative promotions on offer, there’s nothing more counter-productive in my mind than a year spent staying 11 times at a Hilton, 7 times at a Crowne Plaza, 9 times at a Sheraton, 5 times at a Hyatt and another handful of independent hotels. You would end up with no status at any hotel chain and a bunch of orphaned hotel points. Perhaps you don’t really care… if you are travelling on company business and can expense account any food/drink or executive floor upgrades. But that still leaves you without any status benefits for your holiday hotel stays.
Spend early January trying to project your hotel stays for the year, and whether you can combine them into your preferred hotel chain(s). I certainly spend some time mapping out how to get to 60 Hyatt nights (for the new top-level Globalist status) and 25 SPG stays (for Platinum). My early stays in 2017 will therefore be focused on getting a good head start on my preferred hotel chain statuses. Later in the year I can decide whether I can afford to add some IHG or HHonors stays should I see a tempting promo.
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to the “best” hotel status to aim for. Some people value free breakfast highest, others prefer room upgrades or bonus points. However a good place to start might be Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. It requires 10 stays in a year and reward stays count. SPG Gold status isn’t actually worth that much, but it allows you to status match across to Marriott Rewards Gold status. Marriott Gold normally requires 50 nights in a year, and comes with much more attractive benefits such as breakfast, room upgrades, etc. So, pick up 10 stays with Starwood Preferred Guest in early 2017, then enjoy Marriott Rewards Gold status for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018…
Alternatively, Hilton HHonors Gold status can be obtained through 20 stays in a year (or through credit card spend). HHonors Gold members receive free breakfast and often receive room upgrades (which can be spectacular in Asia).
Once you have hotel chain status, you will be in a great position to take advantage of any status match opportunities that come along. Each opportunity will come with its own rules, but most of the time you’ll find that the earlier in the year you match status, the longer you’ll enjoy that matched status…
I would love to read comments from readers about the good habits they try to pursue. Regardless, put some thought into kicking off 2017 with some Miles & Points Resolutions…