To glam up their reward programs, airlines and hotel chains often run cross-promotions, where travellers can earn frequent flyer miles when booking a hotel. But these promotions tend to come and go quickly, making them hard to track down.
Two new websites – Rocketmiles and PointsHound – have made the process less unpredictable, working directly with selected airlines and hotels to offer promotions in which travellers can receive hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of miles by booking as little as a one-night stay at highly rated properties charging competitive rates.
During a recent search for a one-night, midweek April stay in Chicago, Rocketmiles turned up a deal that offered 5,000 bonus miles in United’s MileagePlus programme for booking one night at Public Chicago or Hotel 71, two centrally located luxury properties. The rate for Public Chicago was $327 after taxes and fees, lower than what was on offer on Hotels.com and Booking.com.
Rocketmiles asserts that 90% of the time the site lists equal or lower prices to what’s available at online travel agencies such as Travelocity. PointsHound touts a similar claim, saying that if you find a lower rate for the same booking, the company will match the price.
When booking through Rocketmiles and PointsHound, travellers are also sometimes able to “double dip”, meaning they earn frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty programme points for the same reservation. The rules for this vary by hotel.
Comparing the sites
Launched in January 2013, Rocketmiles offers, on average, awards of 7,000 miles for a two-night hotel stay. It has partnered with four major US airlines – American, Delta, United and Hawaiian.
The site lists hotels in 13 US cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington DC. Within each city though, the selection is limited because the company will only display hotels that it has vetted as being worthwhile in terms of the luxuriousness of the property. For instance, Rocketmiles never lists more than eight hotels in Boston. Presently the site lacks an international presence, though it says it will expand with foreign airlines and destinations soon.
PointsHound, launched in October 2012, has partnered with seven airlines – AeroMexico, Baltic, Delta, Etihad, Hawaiian, United and Virgin America – and averages 1,200 award miles per night spent. The site stands out for having the broadest array of participating hotels – about 45,000 in the US and 105,000 in the rest of the world. But in each city, only five to 10 of the hotels listed offer generous rewards, typically four frequent flyer miles per dollar spent. PointsHound says that it gives more generous rewards to repeat users.
A word to the wise about these mileage promotions: within a few weeks of your hotel stay, log in to your rewards account to make sure the miles have been properly credited. Both Rocketmiles and PointsHound say their customer service representatives can help clear up any mistakes.
More mileage opportunities
If you’re looking for other ways to accelerate the speed at which you rack up frequent flyer miles and loyalty points, consider joining the Travel Hacking Cartel, which charges a monthly fee (from $15) for email, text and video alerts about various online promotions in which you can earn miles and points for every dollar spent.
The site recently explained how members of the Starwood Preferred Guest programme can earn 1,000 bonus points by booking a room at any of the company’s 1,000 properties worldwide, including Sheraton and Westin, through 31 May 2013. These points can then be converted into miles on more than 350 airlines. About half of the Travel Hacking Cartel’s deals apply only to US residents, but the rest are applicable to a global audience. The site guarantees one free plane ticket worth 25,000 miles every quarter as long as you put in about a half-hour of work each month following its advice – or it will refund your membership fee.