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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Sean O’Neill is
the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel. He recently wrote about a flight search site that maximizes miles.