With all the travel I do for work, I accumulate a lot of kinds of points. I get airmiles from four separate programs, and hotel points from just about every chain out there. I then try to recycle those into free travel to pay for all the family trips Paul and I take in a year, to visit our friends and family back East, and in the Northwest. It’s a complicated process that takes a certain amount of effort and time. Not only do I have to track the points to be sure they’re credited correctly (you think I trust USAir, United and Continental to not “lose” my flying credit?), but I have to figure out how to use them most efficiently.
This actually pays off. We are usually able to score several free flights a year. Last year, we picked up half the airfare for the three of us to fly to Pennsylvania for Easter using points, as well as half the airfare for my sister and her husband to come visit us at Christmas. And then there was the big one: the trip to London that Paul and I took, where I paid for all the airfare and hotel using points. That was estimated at three thousand dollars worth of travel we didn’t have to pay for…which was why we felt justified going out to very nice restaurants.
This year, I started using AwardWallet.com to track everything. I use Mint for finances, and this is a similar concept. I put all the account information in, and let the site pull the information. Not only can I now see all my rewards programs at once, but I also don’t forget that I have, say, five thousand Hilton points lying around.
Not only does it tell me the balances of the accounts, but it also lists the last “deposit” to those accounts. See? One glance checking to be sure USAir isn’t trying to get out of crediting my account! (Plus, sometimes our travel coordinator doesn’t put my frequent flyer number on the ticket).
There is also a section for travel plans, which are similarly downloaded from the issuing airline or hotel. For example, here’s one for a business trip I’m going on next week:
By the time I get through my actual work day, and finish being a mom, there is not a lot of energy or brainpower left to track everything else. Having a reliable site to do it for me seriously helps. And for the travelers who are just choosing which plans to participate in, there is also a section for reviews and comments for airlines and their programs. These also show up in star ratings on the main balance page…which is how I know I’m not totally irrational in my general dislike of USAir.