Top tips to ensure your travel rewards have you soaring


Words: Deirdré van Zyl Smit

Airmiles and travel rewards programmes have received a fair amount of bad press over the past few years. But don’t write them off just yet. According to eBucks Rewards, travel rewards programmes have evolved dramatically, and you can still benefit from them – if the rewards programme you choose has kept pace with the times.

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Some of the key things to look out for are: how do you earn your rewards, how can you spend your rewards, the choices you are given, and, when do your rewards work harder than your Rands.

Let’s explain.

1. You don't need to spend on travel to earn your travel rewards.
Traditional travel rewards programmes were typically closed loop programmes. You had to travel to earn rewards, and you were restricted to a specific airline, or network of airlines. All very well if you travelled a lot for work, but for most of us, it was a struggle to earn enough points to get us to the next town. Today, rewards programmes allow you to earn rewards much faster by doing everyday things, such as transacting via credit or debit cards, buying groceries, filling up with fuel and topping up your airtime – with the opportunity to spend on anything you like, including travel.

2. Rewards that live forever.
Not only was it often very difficult to earn enough rewards to pay for the trip of your dreams with a traditional programme, but you'd be forced to spend or forfeit your rewards because they’d expired. Competitive rewards programmes should never expire your rewards – you’ve earned them, after all – allowing you to accumulate enough for that trip of a lifetime.

3. Choose when you travel.
Booking block-outs are a thing of the past – or should be, if you’ve chosen a clever travel rewards programme. Booking block-outs meant that you were forced to travel at certain times. That’s not a problem if you can be flexible about when you take your vacation, but not so great if you planned to attend cousin Joe’s wedding in December. Nowadays travel programmes should allow you to choose from the same travel options as everyone else, even in peak times. If there are seats available, you should be able to pay for them using your rewards, and not be forced to travel at odd times of the day, week or year.

4. Make sure R1 = R1, or more.
The harsh reality with traditional airmile programmes is that very often you end up paying more for your ticket when you buy it using rewards. You could be charged more than someone paying cash for the same class of ticket if admin fees come into play. Today though, there are travel rewards programmes that allow you to buy the exact same tickets as the general public, and sometimes, R1 is equal to more than R1 if your rewards programme offers you travel discounts as well.

5. Travel is not just flying.
Today’s rewards programmes now include a range of additional services when it comes to travel. From flights plus car plus accommodation packages, to earning rewards on foreign exchange transactions, public transport, metered taxis and even the luggage you buy to protect your gear while still looking stylish on the go.

6. No more cookie-cutter travelling.
Off-the-shelf cookie-cutter travel packages aren’t what modern travellers are looking for any more. An added bonus of new-look travel rewards programmes is a full-service travel desk that can pull together everything from budget to six-star travel, going off-the-beaten track or taking in the tourist highlights of New York, London, Paris and Rome.

Sounds a bit different to the traditional airmiles programme, right? So, as you start dreaming about warmer weather and planning your next holiday, or even your next weekend getaway, don't overlook the impact the right travel rewards programme can have on making it the trip of your dreams.

More information
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