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Travel rewards have grown in popularity over the last five years as millennial consumers focus more on experiences over tangible possessions. JohnnyJet.com is among the leaders in online tips and advice for travelers seeking to maximize travel rewards and find ways to enjoy any trip — whether for business or pleasure.
Johnny Jet also regularly contributes to publications like Forbes with timely, concise information on improving your travel plans and reaching your rewards goals.
Recently, CardRates.com had a chance to sit down with JohnnyJet.com contributor Geoff Whitmore to discuss ways consumers can get the most out of their travel rewards points, and share personal tips from his own travel experiences.
What are the first steps for someone looking to begin earning and redeeming travel rewards?
“It’s an obvious one, but signing up for loyalty programs is usually what we recommend first. They’re free and take very little time. With that done, you can put your membership number on your flight, your car, or your hotel stay to maximize your earnings when you travel.
If you’re looking to get into credit cards and earn rewards through different travel products, checking your credit score and doing proper research on credit applications is important.”
With so many credit cards out there, what kinds of features should one specifically look for in a travel card?
“Nowadays, there are so many different travel products to choose from. There really is something for everybody, so it depends on what your travel goals are. Airlines have even started releasing cards with no annual fees that earn airline miles. We saw that last year with Delta and United.
Even if you’re a casual traveler and you don’t want to pay an annual fee, there’s a card for you.
On the other end, there are several premium travel products for the frequent flyer. The Platinum and Reserve comes with benefits like lounge access, travel credits, car rental perks, and travel insurance.
We always recommend that you do a self-inventory of your travel plans and what you’re looking for in a product and then find the right card that suits you.”
What are common traps that people looking to maximize travel rewards often fall into?
“A popular one is people hoarding their miles. I’ve seen some of our readers collect miles because they can be easier to collect than one may think. They accrue balances of hundreds of thousands of miles and never burn them.
Those miles don’t gain interest. With the ways airlines and hotels devalue their programs over time, it makes no sense to hold onto miles for too long. We always preach to ‘Earn and Burn.’ Earn your miles with a specific goal and then go ahead and burn them, because they’re not gaining any interest.
People also have trouble maximizing their value when they do redeem their miles. They either don’t do enough research or don’t fully understand how the redemption process works and all the options available.
We don’t recommend redeeming miles for cash back, statement credits, or gift cards. You’ll get most of the value in travel when you redeem them for travel.”
Any recommendations or best practices for travel reward maximizers you can share?
“I always tell people to earn transferable points. They give you the most flexibility when it comes time to redeem for a reward. That way, you have options because you never know the award availability of an airline, and you don’t want to be tied to one certain airline or hotel.
There is some research that has to go into learning how all of that works. An example of a second level that research can help you with is how to use partner airlines successfully to book rewards. For example, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Reward Points to British Airways and from British Airways you can book American Airlines flights.
Understanding how partner airlines work is a big key to understanding the value of your points.”
What are your personal favorite travel reward programs?
“To stay in line with earning the transferable points, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are two of the most popular and for good reasons. They have the best transfer partners and AMEX gives bonuses every once in a while, although they don’t do it as much as they used to for transferring points out. Those are the two programs that I use the most, personally.”
In what ways can JohnnyJet help travel-savvy folks?
“JohnnyJet focuses on travel tips. He shares tips to cover a range of topics from how not to get scammed at an ATM while traveling, reviews of different travel products, and how to get the most out of your travel rewards.
There’s a little something for everyone who travels, whether you’re looking for budget travel or if you’re looking to redeem for a first-class award flight.”