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The Solo Traveler Blog

Making Points Part of Your Saving Plan for travel

Digital path photo computer

I bought this computer on points. Nice!

The computer that I use every day to write my blog, keep up with social media, plan my travels, manage my photos… the computer I use almost every minute of every day, I bought with points.

Nice, right?

Ah, but there’s more.

This computer was on sale on the American Express rewards site. So, not only did I buy it with points but I also got a good deal. And, by applying my points to a necessity that was also a good deal, I saved dollars to spend on travel. Yes, I’m careful to take full advantage of credit cards and other loyalty points programs – though, I must confess, I usually spend the points on travel not things.

Two weeks ago I wrote about my credit cards and how I determine which is my go-to card. The decision is based both on how points are earned and the benefits the cards offer. This time I’m going to focus on how I use my card of choice, the American Express Gold Rewards Card, to get the most value. Using a card with a loyalty program, and sometimes in conjunction with other loyalty programs, is part of my savings plan. First a disclosure: this post was sponsored by American Express however, the experiences, views and opinions expressed in this post are purely my own.

General Tips – maximizing the benefits of credit cards

Before thinking about using points and other benefits for travel, it’s important to understand how to take advantage of credit cards and loyalty programs generally.

  • I carry more than one brand of credit card. I have a primary go-to card, the one that offers the most benefits but, for many reasons, I have a backup card. In a recent American Express study of Canadians’ credit card use only 52% carried more than one credit card in their wallet. From a travel perspective, I think this is a lost opportunity.
  • I review which is my go-to credit card every year as the card offerings change quickly. While I’m at a stage of life where my spending habits are not changing much, other people’s spending patterns do. For these two reasons, the best card for you may change from one year to another. The same study mentioned above showed that most people (59%) have used the same primary card for seven years.
  • I review all the card benefits from the points offered to insurance, point transfer options and what I can spend points on… all factors affect what the best card is for me. This will take a bit of research but it can pay off very well. (The study shows that only 15% of people researched their cards.)
  • I use my credit card for every purchase possible.
  • I monitor my use so that I don’t spend more than I can afford.
  • I pay off my credit card balance (never just the minimum payment!) every month. Not doing so can negate the value of a card.

Travel Tips – maximizing the benefits of credit cards

In the 2013 Reader Survey you told me that money is the number one reason you don’t travel more. Here’s how I use points to stretch my travel dollars.

  • I use a card that is flexible. One that allows me to use points to buy any type of travel from any provider (so, no blackout dates) and allows me to pay fees and taxes with points as well. I’ve not done it yet, but my American Express Gold Rewards Card, also lets me transfer points to many other loyalty programs and to Aeroplan or Avios if I want.
  • I keep an eye on the rewards pages of my loyalty programs’ sites as they often run special deals. This is how I came up with my computer.
  • I like to accumulate my points but I also like to spend them as soon as I have enough that it makes sense. The value of a point can change and it’s rarely for the better. Airlines and hotels especially like to do this.
  • I research my best deal online first. I think outside of the points system. The experts suggest that you start with a site like Expedia or Skyscanner to help define the best deals but then check out the airline directly. Often you’ll find an even better deal when you do.
  • I evaluate my point status with my credit card and frequent flyer program to determine the best way to buy the travel I want.
  • If it makes sense, I transfer points to my frequent flyer program. My American Express Card gives me the option to book a trip through any travel provider or transfer points to their favourite frequent flyer program like Aeroplan and so many others like Delta, British Airways, Starwood, etc.
  • The American Express Gold Travel Rewards Card also allows me to pay for my travel charged to my card up to a year after traveling. This can be great if you have a big expense coming up that will earn you points after you travel.

Canadians: the American Express Gold Rewards Card has a special offer

As just mentioned above, American Express has sponsored this post. I hope the above will encourage you to check out the American Express Gold Rewards Card as part of your research. At the moment, they’re offering some additional benefits:

  • No annual fee for first year – it’s $150/year after that.
  • A Welcome Bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of card membership. (That’s a short-haul flight.)
  • 1 Free Supplementary Gold Rewards Card for a partner (a $50 value) to help you earn points faster.

Related posts:

  • barbara

    I had an American Express card but found that a lot of merchants that I deal with do not accept them I was told American Express has the highest cost to merchants so the opt out. It was very frustrating, so no longer have one.

  • Janice Waugh

    This is great. Thanks for the tips!

  • MarB

    Good article, it is so important to research the benefits of the various cards. While I agree that using points quickly can avoid companies changing values and policies, there are some advantages to saving points for bigger travel purchases. For example Aeroplan points have a much higher dollar value when used on long haul flights business class than for short haul flight. I was able to book a business class ticket to Asia (about 4 times the value of economy ticket) for only about 30% more points than required for an economy ticket. They have since changed the point values slightly but the value per point on business class on long haul flights is worth checking. It is on the long haul flights that you really appreciate the upgrade to business class.

  • Sherry Nash

    I not only travel alone rather I can’t feel to live without my lappy or headphone.

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

I'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>

Tracey Nesbitt I’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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