Save on Travel Costs with Hotel Loyalty Programs

If you travel a lot, be sure to tap into hotel loyalty programs. Even if you’re not paying the bill, you can still reap the benefits!

If you travel a lot and don’t take advantage of hotel loyalty programs, you’re missing out on some serious savings. Trust me: there was a time when I was traveling 10 days out of every 14, and at first, I didn’t know how badly I was mistreating myself by ignoring loyalty programs.

Admittedly, my company was paying for the hotel rooms, but when I finally discovered what I was missing, I felt like a huge doofus.

Building Toward Free

Because here’s the thing: most companies don’t give a hoot if you pile up hotel loyalty points in your own name during business travel. All they want is for you to get over there and get your job done.

Which opens up all kinds of possibilities if you’re willing to be savvy. Imagine going on a vacation and being able to swing a few days of free lodging–or at least an upgrade to a better room. Sweet, right? Or should I say… suite?

The Programs

Loyalty programs vary depending upon the hotel chain, of course, so if you have any choice at all about where you stay, it’s worth doing a bit of research first to find the best deal for your situation.

Realize that in this era of grand corporate mergers, most hotel chains are members of larger hotel groups, some of which include up to a dozen chains and thousands of hotels nationwide. For example, the Wyndham group includes all Wyndham hotels, Days Inns, Super 8s, Belmont Suites, Microtels, and more.

Which means that you’re likely to find a participating hotel wherever you end up.

The Rewards

Back when I was wondering the continent, most reward programs offered little more than free days every tenth day you stayed at their hotels–which is pretty good when you work ten days on, four days off. These days, they award points that you can apply to everything from free stays to gifts and airline points.

And chainless “boutique” hotels have even gotten into the groove, banding together to form alliances that offer loyalty programs to discerning customers. Realize, of course, that these tend to be high-priced venues that your expense account may not cover.

The Bottom Line

When you do enroll in one of these programs, keep a sharp eye on expiration dates, if they apply (they don’t always), and blackout dates. Needless to say, try to avoid programs with the latter.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to choose a chain with a wide variety of hotels in most major cities, to make sure you can get a room wherever you end up, and still bank some points. Any hotel loyalty programs that lack these features are less than desirable.