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12 Travel Rewards Programs You Probably Never Knew Existed
Want to save more money while traveling? Consider joining these little-known loyalty programs.
If you want to receive complimentary airport parking or enjoy free train travel, consider enrolling in these under-the-radar programs.(Getty Images)
While most travelers are savvy about frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, travel rewards extend far beyond these two industries. From airport parking programs to train travel rewards programs and even cruise membership programs, there's likely a lesser-known program that affords benefits (think: free travel and priority boarding access) that offer a high return for your loyalty. Read on to discover underrated programs that can help you earn free travel perks and privileges.
Airport Parking Services
If you travel frequently and often leave your car at the airport, using the same parking service can help you score significant savings over time. For example, The Parking Spot, the nation's largest near-airport parking company with locations at more than 20 airports, offers a membership program called The Spot Club. As a member, you can earn a free day of parking after paying for seven days. The Club, which has 1 million members, also provides perks such as no reservation fees and access to special deals and discounts.
Frequent cruisers can take advantage of cruise loyalty programs like Royal Caribbean International's Crown & Anchor Society. Guests earn one point for every night sailing with the cruise line or double points when staying in a suite. What's more, members can attain higher membership tiers that afford rewards and benefits such as priority boarding, welcome gifts and access to exclusive lounges. Members also receive discounts onboard the ship, as well as access to special cruise deals. Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines' rewards program, the Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) Club, is similar to Royal Caribbean's membership program in that passengers advance through tiers that offer increasingly generous benefits.
Alternatively, members of Viking Cruises' Viking Explorer Society collect credits of $100 or more when they book a future cruise within one to two years of their last cruise vacation and can attend a members-only cocktail party onboard.
If you travel by train often, take advantage of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program and receive 500 bonus points when traveling within 90 days of joining. Plus, members can earn two points per dollar spent on travel with Amtrak with a 25 to 50 percent points bonus for business- and first-class bookings. Amtrak points can be used for free train trips, starting at 800 points, as well as for hotel stays, car rentals or gift cards from retailers and restaurants.
Online Travel Agency Loyalty Programs
Online booking sites such as Expedia and Priceline, which show you multiple flight and hotel options at once, also have their own travel rewards programs. Expedia+ Rewards lets members earn between one and two points per dollar spent on hotel, flight, cruise and activity bookings, which you can then use to book future travel on the site. While users can't earn both hotel points and Expedia points by booking on Expedia, they can typically earn frequent flyer miles, as well as credit card bonus points, along with Expedia points.
Priceline also offers a rewards program. When booking on Priceline, users earn "bonus cash rewards," which are added on top of the user's offer price to make the offer more attractive or reduce the price of the vacation package.
Rental Car Rewards
Don't forget to check if your favorite rental car company has a rewards program, because you could be missing out on free rental days. For intance, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members can earn one point for every dollar spent on rentals as well as optional service charges and fuel. Benefits start at 550 points for a free weekend day, and points can be used for rentals anytime with no blackout dates. Members also receive premium pick-up and drop-off service, and may choose a car they like better at the time of pick-up.
The Enterprise Plus program is another under-the-radar membership program that enables car renters to earn points at both Enterprise and Nationwide, and redeem them for free rental days with no blackout dates. Members can achieve elite status based on the total number of accumulated points that can be used for a car upgrade.
Airport Loyalty Programs
Did you know some airports have their own rewards programs? At London's Heathrow Airport, for example, Heathrow Rewards members earn points for spending on shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, parking and trains at the airport. Points can be exchanged for shopping vouchers, pre-booked parking and train tickets, or transferred to a variety of airline loyalty programs, like the British Airways Executive Club.
Meanwhile, the Ultimate Road Warriors program available at Gainesville Regional Airport in Florida allows travelers to earn a credit each time they fly round-trip through the hub. At the end of every month, the person with the most credits receives a prize from a program sponsor. And every quarter, there is a random drawing of flyers who have logged at least one round-trip journey. What's more, members also have access to their own private lounge at the airport.
Gambling and Entertainment
You can rack up rewards for gambling by taking advantage of MGM Resorts International's M life rewards program. The program lets members earn points for playing table games(think video poker and slots), as well spending at MGM Grand properties, including accommodations at resorts like the boutique Delano Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, Luxor and New York, New York Hotel & Casino, as well as on-site dining and retail purchases. At different membership tiers, loyalists can net various benefits, from points bonuses to priority hotel check-ins to discounted shows and entertainment.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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