Special Promotions Can Really Add Up

30.11.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course Travel hacking: Earn frequent flyer miles without flying by Chris Guillebeau


Hey, traveler! You look good over there. :)

Welcome to the fourth lesson, where you’ll learn how you can take advantage of special promotions offered by airlines, hotels, and banks.

Any mileage deal that offers you more than 5,000 miles for completing a one-time activity is a bonus worth pursuing. Just a few of these special promotions each month can add up to get you anywhere in the world within a year.

Some big mileage bonuses may require you to complete a one-time activity. Service providers and retailers often partner with airlines to provide points and miles for completing a particular action. I’ve earned a whopping 20,000 Delta SkyMiles for visiting a hair loss clinic for a free 20-minute consultation (hey, it was free miles!).

My friend and travel hacking companion, Stephanie Zito, has even earned points for testing out headphones at a Bose store and test driving a car at her local Cadillac dealership.

Consultations aside, here are two examples of other recent large bonus deals that dealt out 10,000–20,000 miles at once:

Etihad Airways offered 20,000 bonus miles for Etihad Guest members who registered in their Business Connect corporate mileage program. The steps were simple and didn’t require any flying: complete an online form, connect two Etihad mileage numbers to the business account, and email the airline with your business information. Fifteen minutes of work and viola: 10,000 miles in my personal account and 10,000 miles in my new corporate mileage account.
Lufthansa offered a bonus of 10,000 Miles & More points to new subscribers for home delivery of the Economist. Though the subscription cost $160, these 10,000 miles can be used for flights that would cost much more than this.

Big bonuses like these are often seasonal—announced before holidays or during any major airline transitions or announcements, such as routings to new destinations.

How you keep up with available and upcoming bonuses will depend on how serious you are about earning miles. If you don’t want to miss a single thing, you can subscribe to receive email updates from individual airlines, you can follow forums on sites like FlyerTalk or InsideFlyer, or you can also keep up with your choice of travel hacking bloggers on BoardingArea.com and check them frequently.

If you’re looking for deals outside of the U.S., some countries have their own forums—like Australia’s Frequent Flyer Community. In addition, you can find bloggers who write about deals specific to their country or national airline, such as Canada Free Flyers or Head for Points, which covers all things British Airways Avios. Search “miles blog + <name of airline in your country>” to find someone who writes about the deals where you live.

Deals and bonuses provided by airlines and hotels tend to be unpredictable. Special offers come and go—here today and gone tomorrow. It’s hard to know when to pay attention and when to cat nap so you don’t miss anything.

There’s one big exception to this rule—the single type of deal you can always count on four times a year: the Seasonal Bonus. Based on the actual seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall—nearly every hotel property group offers a big promotion that lasts for several months. Even though the deals are in accordance with the Northern Hemisphere season, they are generally valid worldwide.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for these every quarter, because they usually require registration and often have great benefits—like free nights as an award for completing a number of stays or big chunks of bonus points for completing a specific hotel chain-related task.

To keep up to date with season bonuses, be sure you’re subscribed to the email updates of your favorite hotel group or check in with a service like the Travel Hacking Cartel that consolidates all the best of Seasonal Hotel Bonuses into an update for its members each quarter.


Action Items:

Determine which airline and hotel awards programs work best for your travel goals and make these your primary carriers when you have the choice.
Review your mileage statement each month to ensure you’ve been fully credited for the miles you earn while flying—especially miles from partner airlines.
Write down your membership number for each membership program you’ve enrolled in, and keep this list handy for easy access. Some examples of electronic apps that can be helpful in this regard include Evernote, Dropbox, or Notes.
Register to receive email offer alerts from your most active airline and hotel group programs.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the biggest (and most lucrative) bonuses of them all—credit card signup bonuses—that can earn you between 20,000-100,000 points in a single promotion!

To your success,
Chris Guillebeau


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