There are many credit card rewards programs to take advantage of, the trick is finding the cards and rewards that best fit your personal needs.
Some of the more popular rewards programs include free or discount flights, hotel stays, cash back, and shopping discounts.
Why pay for a hotel room if you don’t need to?
My personal favorite credit card reward is earning hotel points, using my Marriott card.
We don’t go on frequent vacation trips as a family, but we do need hotel rooms many times each year. We often book hotels for travel team sporting events, visiting friends and family, conference attendance and overnight escapes. With all of these trips combined, we often stay 15-30 nights per year.
So why pay for all of those hotel nights if you don’t have to?
How Hotel Rewards Work for My Family
I have a fairly large rewards point balance that I have built up over the last few years. I build up points with hotel stays and card purchases, more on that below. When we need to get a hotel, I can choose to pay for the room and earn more points or use points and pay nothing at all for my room.
Since we are a family of six, we no longer fit in just one hotel room! This means any hotel expense for our family is doubled each stay! This completely messed up any travel budget I may have had, but not anymore!
This is when the Rewards points come in really handy. Each time we stay, I book two hotel rooms but only pay for one of them! By paying for one of the rooms, I am earning points equal to the points I am using for the second hotel room. For a fairly basic stay, the rewards points used for a room are usually 15,000 to 20,000 points. When I pay for a room at the hotel, this is the same amount of points that I earn. Therefore, I am not depleting the points in my account, I keep up the balance.
Essentially, I have created my own BOGO special with my hotel rooms. I pay for one room and book the other using points. For the most part, I earn the same amount of points that I am using for each stay. I use the accumulated points in my account to book my free room and then after my stay, my earned points are credited to my account. This maintains my balance for the next stay.
Often we need just one room for a one-night stay and I take advantage of my banked points to pay nothing at all. I often look to see how many points the room will cost me compared to how many points I will earn if I pay. If the room doesn’t cost too many points, I don’t mind using points from my bank.
On other trips using just one room for multiple nights, I use both options. I pay for some of the nights and then use the points I am earning for the remainder. Again, I don’t usually deplete my point balance since I earn points for every room that is purchased.
Easy Ways to Earn Extra Points
You can increase your reward points by using your Marriott card for anything you would normally pay for using cash. Many cards offer 1, 2 or 3 points for every dollar spent. This helps you accrue a point balance to use for the hotel rooms. Instead of using cash or your debit card for daily purchases, use your reward card to pay for your items. Be sure to pay the balance off immediately so you don’t pay for any expensive finance charges.
Depending on the types of purchases, you can earn double and triple points. It pays to become familiar with all the features of your card so that you can maximize your points with money you would be spending anyway.
Marriott also has Rewards partners that can help you earn more points. These include Hertz car rental, and Cruises only program. You earn more points by enrolling in the Shop My Way program. This helps you earn points for everyday shopping at merchants including Macys.com, Gap.com, Apple and BestBuy.com.
When you stay at a Marriott any purchases you make at the hotel earns extra points. Often we purchase amusement park tickets at the local Marriott for a discount and by using my card I earn additional points. Often the purchases made at the hotel are 2 points per dollar spent.
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If you happen to have a job that requires travel, you should sign up for a rewards program. This way, your company is paying for the trips but you earn all the points. You can use these points for personal use, nice bonus! When I do retire, not too long from now, I will most likely work part time. Choosing a job that involves some travel, has definite advantages to be considered.
Do not rack up credit card debt just for the sake of earning points! Some of your savings on the hotel room would be erased by the money you wasted on paying finance charges.
After using my card for a purchase, I set up an online payment to my rewards credit card so that I know the balance is always paid off. I often pay the balance that night or the next day so there is no chance to forget.
Why Marriott is my Favorite
Marriott Hotel are great and they can be found just about anywhere!
Marriott has convenient phone and tablet apps that make booking rooms simple. My rewards points are connected to my account so I can view them when using the app easily. There is no need to go online or call for a reservation, it is all booked through the app. You get immediate email confirmation and text notifications.
Marriott points are easy to use with minimal restrictions. I don’t even make a phone call anymore, I do most of my booking from my IPad or computer. I have tried in the past to use air travel points but because of the restrictions, it was very difficult and almost not worth the effort. Marriott points have minimal restrictions and can be earned and used easily with every visit.
On the day of your stay, you can also check in with the app on your phone. There is no waiting, you just pick up your key at the desk. This feature is particularly nice if you are arriving late at night.
The Marriott brand has several reasonable options including Residence Inn, Courtyard and SpringHill Suites in the affordable range. Marriott also has more exclusive properties including the Autograph Collection, JW Marriott, Gaylord Hotels and more. Even The Atlantis Bahamas resort is now a Marriott property. Our recent summer vacation earned over 100,000 points that we have been using for free hotel rooms.
By no means am I at the extreme couponing level of some of the pros. If you time all the sign up bonuses and travel purchases correctly, you can get huge discounts on travel, flights and even everyday purchases. I don’t have enough extra time to devote to being a “Extreme Rewards Program User”. This is certainly something I will take more advantage of in retirement!