Are you the ‘go to’ person for clients in analyzing the complex and often confusing travel loyalty programs? If not, then doing a just little bit of homework will position you to leverage knowledge of these programs to create some loyalty of your own. Instead of losing business to ‘free’ mileage tickets, make extra income for yourself – while saving the client time.
A frequently heard request in my office comes from clients needing guidance on when to pay cash for a ticket versus buying it with miles. The math is actually pretty simple. A good return on mileage redemption is 2 cents per…or better. Multiply the price in miles by .02 to get the comparable price in dollars (see ‘MileValue.com’ below for a more detailed method). If the resulting dollar value in miles exceeds the cash price, just pay cash and earn more miles.
Below are some resources and strategies for becoming an indispensable source of up-to-date information and advice on these programs. These websites and blogs provide easy to parse information and valuable insights on the most popular loyalty programs.
AirMilesCalculator.com allows you to quickly determine the number of miles to be earned on a particular itinerary – domestic or international.
MileValue.com displays a fill-in-the-blanks ‘value calculator’ to help with the decision on whether to buy with miles or with cash. Just input the price of the ticket in dollars, the taxes and fees, the miles required if bought with miles and the miles foregone if you purchased the ticket with mileage (you forego earning more miles when you purchase with miles). This site also offers a mileage ticket booking service – at $99 per person.
ExpertFlyer.com is perfect for those wanting to go the extra mile (irony intended) and provide an award seat availability service for clients. This site offers a five day free trial, then a monthly charge kicks in ($4.99 for basic service) – very reasonable and worth every penny if you offer this service with any frequency.
ThePointsGuy.com is probably the most complete and best single source of information on travel and lodging related loyalty programs. The website is easy to navigate and the alphabetical listing of “topics” in the middle column is great for ferreting out expert opinion on any travel reward related subject. For example – you can view a detailed and objective article on how to use ExpertFlyer.com to best advantage, particularly valuable when searching for international award travel.
ThePointsGuy.com also offers an excellent daily newsletter update which I find informative and of great value when advising clients. TPG is the place to go if you want answers to critical questions like which airline program offers the best award seat availability (Southwest) and the worst (a tie between Delta and USAir). TPG also provides in depth coverage on which credit card point programs offer the most value.
Become a Loyalty Points Concierge – Some of my clients are genuine road warriors – with far more miles than time. They are happy to pay a service fee for someone they trust – who is already familiar with their travel preferences – to manage their accounts. My agency charges $50 for a domestic flight and $100 for international whether purchased with mileage or cash (unless the cash purchased ticket is commissionable – in that case fees are waived).
You can never have too much loyalty. It is a bankable commodity.