Restaurants / Hotels / Rewards

I plan to start to step up my game more by doing additional reimbursement shops using my travel credit card to maximize points for discounted travel.

I’d like to hear some success stories of those who do a good job managing rewards points along with mystery shopping.

Looking for tips.

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I use binder clips to organize my various rewards cards, credit cards, gift cards, rebate cards, etc. I also have electronic versions scanned on backup and any apps with rewards as well. For any that has an expiration, I have a specific category in my calendar for 'coupons / free stuff.' Hotel and flight rewards programs are notorious for expirations, but a simple gift card purchase renews the cycle if you don't plan on purchase from that merchant in the foreseeable future.

Rewards programs management is its own beast, but well-worth it, in my opinion.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 30 year old male and willing to travel! Badged for Denver International Airport.
When I was shopping full time, I did not do many reimbursement shops. Now that I am working full time and shopping full time, I can pick and choose my shops for maximum benefit.

A sports bar I shop frequently has a rewards program. Every $200 you spend gets you a $10 reward. I'm on reward #3, all at the MSC's expense.

My debit card offers cash back when you shop certain places. Five Guys is one of those places.

A fast food chain that I shop once a month has rewards. I shop there on the MSC's dime also. I figure in 10 months, I can get a free side!

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
Almost all my rewards programs give buy one get one free, always have a free breakfast at Mimi's with my coupon + another 20% off. Today Red Robin is giving a free milkshake with a 10.00 purchase. BJ's has different rewards daily, look online for your favorite places.

Live consciously....
Hotel rewards are my biggest "money makers."

First of all I sign up for and attempt to maximize every promotion. For instance, my Accelerate promo for IHG was crap this quarter. The Hilton one was great. So I stayed in a ton of Hilton properties the first quarter. Also rewards stays counted for their promotion, which is big for me at the beginning of the year because.....

I also attempt to use rewards when it's smart. I know all of the "cheap" hotels in the areas I travel a lot. For instance I know that the Hampton Inn in Winnie, TX is only 10k points a night and I know the Candlewood Suites in New Iberia, LA is only 5,000 points. Anytime those fit into my travel plans I use them instead of paying.

I also tend to stockpile rewards over the summer and fall and use them the beginning of the year. That worked out great this year because the Hilton promotion included stays from rewards points. It's the middle of April and I have paid for 2 hotel stays this year out of pocket. The rest have been rewards or shops. Not being able to claim the expense for those sucks, but not having to spend the money makes up for it.

I also ensure I do at least 1 shop every year that upgrades me to top tier status for the chains those shops are available for. If I only stay at a chain enough to make silver, that gives a 25% bonus on points, but instead am platinum that gives a 100% bonus on points, then I have boosted rewards for every stay for that year by 62.5%. If you average a free night every 5th stay that drops it down to a free night every 3rd stay.

I keep a spreadsheet with rewards information, including promotions on my OneDrive.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
@Tarantado wrote:

I use binder clips to organize my various rewards cards, credit cards, gift cards, rebate cards, etc. I also have electronic versions scanned on backup and any apps with rewards as well. For any that has an expiration, I have a specific category in my calendar for 'coupons / free stuff.' Hotel and flight rewards programs are notorious for expirations, but a simple gift card purchase renews the cycle if you don't plan on purchase from that merchant in the foreseeable future.

Rewards programs management is its own beast, but well-worth it, in my opinion.
Tarantado is my hero.

ITA, bgriff, about Accelerate. I thought it was just my offer. On the bright side, I picked up about 50k points during the last one. I try to shop Marriott once a year to get bumped up, but you can get automatically bumped up on IHG just by having their credit card. Unfortunately, they have devalued the value of the points AGAIN. Hotels that used to be 10k are now 15k or even 25k in my area.

I'm not as well organized as some of you, but I use one card for mall shops that gives a % back from both the card and the mall. I use a different one for gas that is 5% back. For hotels, I try to use the hotel-branded card. All my utilities and recurring payments are on a card that gives me points (probably could make better use of this, but they're payments I don't think about).

“I am convinced that knowledge is power - to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.” ~Ben Carson


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/17/2018 08:19PM by iShop123.
@iShop123 wrote:

ITA, bgriff, about Accelerate. I thought it was just my offer. On the bright side, I picked up about 50k points during the last one. I try to shop Marriott once a year to get bumped up, but you can get automatically bumped up on IHG just by having their credit card. Unfortunately, they have devalued the value of the points AGAIN. Hotels that used to be 10k are now 15k or even 25k in my area.

Accelerate offers are personalized. I know a shopper buddy who had a very good one. My guess is it's because i had over 100,000 bonus points alone on each of the previous two. My guess was either they wanted to see if my stays were promotion based or not or they were tired of me hitting them for big bonuses.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
The more you stay at IHG the worse your Accelerate offer gets... the first Accelerate offer I ever did I easily maxed out the bonus in like 5 total stays at cheap HIE (and that was back when it wasn't even points you got - it was two free nights stay at any property). Now I have to stay at some sort of crazy amount of hotels (25 + including random things like stay 2 nights over the weekend at some obscure brand like Indigo, in some secondary market).
Yeah but normally they're things that I do anyway. I had 118 nights last year in IHG hotels. I had one Accelerate promo that gave me 115,000 points and one that gave me 150,000 points. Just the promo, not including the actual stay credits. The last one was 40,000 points. I don't care if it was easier. I want the big promos.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Ha! Just got my summer accelerate promo. It'll net me 80,000 points.

Don't forget to link you IHG Rewards with Shell Fuel Rewards. Gives you an extra 4 cents per gallon I think.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
I pay $10/year to AwardWallet.com to manage my rewards programs and keep me up to date and organized. They also send notices by email or text about 4 - 5 months in advance of any points expiration, so you can take action to avoid losing them.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/17/2018 11:11PM by BarefootBliss.
Definitely combine hotel stays with their specific cards to maximize benefits. Even if you get the charge reversed, sometimes you keep the bonus program points on the card.

Writing this from one of the nicest hotel suites I have ever stayed in, completely free, while waiting for my also free room service breakfast (think "Lost in Translation"winking smiley.

@MickeyB, now I'm really glad I made the push to do that one extra assignment last year which pushed me into a higher category.....
@BarefootBliss wrote:

I pay $10/year to AwardWallet.com to manage my rewards programs and keep me up to date and organized. They also send notices by email or text about 4 - 5 months in advance of any points expiration, so you can take action to avoid losing them.

It says it is free on the website. What do you get for the $10 a year?
I've been a member for so long that I forget the fee arrangements, but I believe there is a fee-free initial period of 6 months for new participants.

The FAQs on the site are fairly comprehensive in explaining all the benefits, but I find it the biggest time saver for the fee of just about anything I use. As I mentioned, it tracks all my point/reward usage on all the programs I participate with - there is a feed between the program site and AW to send adjustment data, upward or downward based on earnings or usage so at any given moment, I can pull that up, instead of having to maintain my own master spreadsheet. Additionally, they list every current promotion all in one place so I can see how to take advantage of those instead of having to check a dozen blogs or websites - and for me, really it's great that they send the notices out on expirations, because I find it a challenge to track those.
I belong to more than 20 programs, so for me, it's a desert island app lol.
Others who aren't into this "hobby" may not find as much utility as those of us who are heavy users.
I just saw an interesting vacation shop to Jamaica. Reimbursement up to $5300. Would have been great for us but I don't think kids are allowed. Also, the shopper should know scuba diving and snorkelingsad smiley
@Mum wrote:

I just saw an interesting vacation shop to Jamaica. Reimbursement up to $5300. Would have been great for us but I don't think kids are allowed. Also, the shopper should know scuba diving and snorkelingsad smiley

I need to find this. I do a lot of diving! I’m pretty busy though.
I just showed it to my 11 year old and tried to explain to him that it really is for a working vacation. I would learn scuba diving to work that hard if I had the right equipment.
I searched for Kingston, but don't see it. This might be worth digging around -- unless you're willing to give a little help (since you haven't named the vacation company).

“I am convinced that knowledge is power - to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.” ~Ben Carson
@iShop123, it's still on Isecret under web and phone shops. I hope I did not break any rules.
The Jamaica evaluation is an adults-only resort for couples only, so definitely no kids allowed.

It's a bummer to see it now since I already booked a Caribbean trip for end of the month....and am trying to get my GF into scuba, which i will have to foot the bill for on my other assignment. Yet can get an introductory class or one free dive per day there, but it seems like the shop would also be a lot of work and won't allow for diving every day. I got an assignment that comps me the hotel stay for just reviewing the restaurants.

I'm also somewhat hesitant about the food quality at all-inclusive resorts.....
I am writing this by the pool at a ski resort in Geilo Norway after traveling the country for the last week with my wife and kids; all made possible by rewards points, partially earned by hotel shopping but mostly earned by proper credit card management.
If you are on Facebook, I HIGHLY recommend you jump on the page “award travel 101.”
It’s run by a freelance writer for The Points Guy.
TPG’s stuff is trash now. It’s all credit card promotions an no useful information on how to maximize points. AT101 takes over and makes it easy.
Well, not easy, not by a long shot. But doable. Totally doable.

______________________________________________________________________
Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
Thanks for the pointer, Hoju. Is this the one part of awardwallet and requiring a Suckerberg account? I don't do FB. TPG seems to be all about affiliate links these days.

Interesting shop, Mum! The short time-window makes it impossible for us (already have a cruise booked for that time). My other concern is that the employees most likely ARE violating the standards the company has. Jamaica isn't a place I'd want to be outed as the person providing the evidence for someone to lose their job :-X. (I might get over that, though, for the right conditions ;-)).

“I am convinced that knowledge is power - to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.” ~Ben Carson


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2018 04:20PM by iShop123.
Yeah. I think it’s entirely on Facebook, but Richard would be smart to start the transition away. This is the one that’s recently affiliated with AwardWallet.

______________________________________________________________________
Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
@iShop123, I was exactly thinking the same. It could be dangerous carrying a camera and trying to pick out employees violating rules. Besides, I can't even swim let alone scuba dive or snorkel!! I just thought it would be nice if someone takes the shop and share their experience afterwards.
@Mum wrote:

@iShop123, I was exactly thinking the same. It could be dangerous carrying a camera and trying to pick out employees violating rules. Besides, I can't even swim let alone scuba dive or snorkel!! I just thought it would be nice if someone takes the shop and share their experience afterwards.

I can't imagine they want video footage of the scuba assignment.....

I recall a discussion here about this assignment a few years ago when it was offered. A lot of people were applying since there was a bit more advance notice.
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