Easy ways to rack up travel rewards

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Travel is one of the activities many people look forward to enjoying in retirement. If you've already created your wish list of must-see spots, now is the perfect time to help set yourself up for big savings by choosing the right travel rewards programs. From credit cards and loyalty points to online deals, following a few tips can help you get the most out of each one. And even if you do not have reward status, you can save money by changing up your travel times. For example, it’s often much cheaper to travel from May to early June and late August through mid-October when you avoid the peak summer travel times. As you dream of your next trip, here are ways to make the most of travel rewards programs.

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.
  • 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. Popular hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt and Marriot all offer rewards programs that can save you quite a bit of money. When you're narrowing down your choice, 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.

If travel comes to mind when you picture retirement, now is the perfect time to meet with your financial professional to ensure those goals are achieved. With a solid strategy that accounts for the lifestyle you envision down the road, you are on the way to having the financial freedom to follow your dreams and retire your way.

This information is brought to you by Athene — where unconventional thinking brings innovative annuity solutions to help make your retirement dreams a reality.