Like pop music, we hear a lot of the same stuff over and over again in the travel world. Of course you've heard of Marriott, British Airways, obviously you know American Airlines, Hilton, but what about the little or less obvious guys? They're fighting for your business! We live in a world offering more reward and loyalty programs than ever, hell, even your morning cup of coffee is a rewards program. Here are some of the most overlooked but useful rewards programs...
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
No plans of going to Japan? Yeah that's why most people overlook this one. You can earn miles to the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank by flying a variety of airlines including British Airways, American, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and more. Why bother you might ask? Because Japan Airlines frequent flyer program offers some of the best rates for free flights on Emirates and other top airlines. You can fly from the US to Europe or vice versa for just 42,000 miles one way in business class or 65,000 round trip! That's a steal that virtually no one knows about! You can even transfer your Starwood Preferred Guest points into the Japan Airlines program...
Leaders Club is the appropriately titled loyalty program for Leading Hotels Of The World, a group of boutique luxury hotels with 375 properties in more than 70 countries. Unlike most loyalty programs, which only reward those who stay most, this particular loyalty scheme is opened up by your wallet. A basic membership runs $150 a year, but includes free wifi, room upgrades, breakfast for two, a welcome gift and exclusive rates on every Leading Hotels stay. Since hotel breakfasts are amongst the most gouging premium in the world, it's easy to see some value in this for those staying more than a couple nights a year. For $1200 a year, they even have a fancier program with free hotel to airport transfers and Priority Pass membership for airport lounges. I'll pass on that one...
CUPS isn't a loyalty program per say, but it can be a brilliant money saver and travel localizer. The app gives you a map of all the most highly rated independent coffee shops in a given city, allowing you to prepay for a drink, or find a shop which offers unlimited coffee for CUPS members. If you're a coffee fiend and prefer local to Starbucks, this can save you money and introduce you to some great brews. Did I mention some cafes offer unlimited refills?!
I certainly prefer to have bigger rooms, free internet, early check in and late check out while traveling. If you share the same sentiment, a quick free sign up is all you need to enjoy meaningful, money saving perks at all iPrefer properties. You'll find quite an array of boutique and unique hotels all over the world, plus the ability to earn points for future stays. You get 10 points for every dollar you spend, and if you earn 50,000 points in any year, you'll move up to the fancy tier, where there's a bottle of wine and a welcome gift waiting for you, not to mention a very high likelihood of a suite upgrade! I'll take it all! Oh, and even if you never earn enough points for a free stay, you can apply them towards food or resort services!
Nothing changes an airport journey like trading an airport terminal for wifi, comfort, food and booze in an airport lounge. Not only do you feel special, you relax much like you do at home, avoiding the chaos of the airport. LoungeBuddy uses a referral program, so without spending a dime of your own money, you can get $10 for everyone you refer to the app who makes a transaction in the app. Essentially, if you have five friends that sign up and grab a lounge visit, your lounge visit up to $50 is free.
Alaska Mileage Plan
Despite recent shortcomings, Alaska Airlines mileage plan remains a swiss army knife of air travel. You can earn Alaska miles by flying on tons of different airlines including American, Delta, British Airways, Emirates, Cathay and more. The kicker is not only that you can earn from so many airlines, but that you can use your miles at exceptional rates on Cathay, Hainan and other luxury carriers. You can fly business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles. That's serious value. Next time you're not sure who to earn miles with for your flight, definitely consider Alaska's Mileage Plan..