Easy ways to rack up travel rewardsLifestyle
Travel is one of the activities that pre-retirees most look forward to enjoying in retirement. If you've already created your wish list of must-see spots, now is the perfect time to set yourself up for big savings by choosing the right travel rewards programs. To help demystify the process, we turned to Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel. From credit cards and loyalty points to online deals, this travel pro knows what to sign up for—and how to get the most out of each one. He also shares some advice for retirees and empty nesters, no matter what their reward status: "Save big and enjoy the elbow room by traveling when school is in session. The months of May, June, September, and October are beautiful, as well as cheaper," he says. Play your cards right and you could even be traveling for free.
Top Credit Cards for Travelers
With so many credit cards on the market, it can be tough deciding which one is going to serve you best. Here's a checklist of what to look for in a card:
- An airline rewards or loyalty component. If you prefer to fly a specific airline, a loyalty card is a good choice. However, if you like to keep your flight options open, choose a card that offers flexible redemption.
- No foreign transaction fees. "This can save you around 3 percent, which adds up if you plan to travel outside the United States," says Firpo-Cappiello.
- Bonus miles for signing up. This perk sometimes requires a minimum initial booking within the first few months of card membership, so read that fine print.
- Free baggage check. You'll definitely want this for yourself, and you might be able to get it for additional people in your traveling party.
- No annual fee. Look for a fee-free first year (or even longer).
Pro-tip. Be diligent in managing your points and be aware of when they expire. Hold on to them by making a minimal purchase, whether it's airfare or an item from the program's online store.
How-to's for Hotel Loyalty Programs
The travel industry is always competitive, and if you have a favorite chain with locations in your top destinations, a hotel loyalty program can be a great idea. "Major chains—like Hilton, Holiday Inn, and Choice—are all making an effort to entice customers to become regulars," says Firpo-Cappiello. When you're narrowing down your choice of chain, check out the fees and how the points work, as well as how prices compare on average with booking sites, like Expedia and Kayak.
Sign Up and Seriously Save
Whether it's through email or social media, digital deals are where it's at. To maximize your chances of scoring savings, register for e-newsletters from all of the major airlines and hotels to stay abreast of sales. But don't stop there—follow all of the big carriers and hotel chains on Facebook and Twitter too.