1. Sign up for cards

And enjoy your welcome bonus and bonus points you earn every time you spend. There are credit cards that partner with airlines and there are cards that offer points that can be redeemed with many airlines. There are even some debit cards, if you can find them. Search frequent flyer websites and forums to pick ones that are right for you. Most bloggers will be making money for every card signed up through one of their links. However, that’s not to say these referrals can’t be trusted. After all, these bloggers’ reputations are everything to them and they wouldn’t do very well if they recommended a terrible card. However, you need to be good with your money to handle these cards. If you meet the minimum spending requirements, then you’ll make money from your free points but make sure any profit you make isn’t cancelled out by fines for paying off your balances late, for example. We don’t get paid for referring credit cards (not yet, anyway). What we do know is that the Citi Prestige and Chase Preferred cards are at the top of a lot of lists. But do your own research. Check out One Mile at a Time, The Points Guy, Road Warrior Voices, View From The Wing, Inside Flyer, Mommy Points and Frequent Miler. We don’t get paid for referring these referrers, either, but maybe we should 😉

2. Shop in online portals

Online portals – quite a terrible name for quite cool things – online shopping malls where you earn points for your purchases. These malls are home to your favourite retailers, so it just means getting rewarded better for buying stuff you’d be buying anyway. Most loyalty rewards programs have their own.

3. Sleep in hotels

Not when you could be sleeping in your own bed, but when you sleep in hotels on vacation or on business trips. Sign up to all the hotel loyalty rewards programs affiliated to the hotel chains you stay in (and even those you don’t, in case you do). If you stay in hotels often enough, the miles and points you accrue could add up to a free flight a year. Which isn’t bad considering you’ll earn it while you sleep. And viewing all your programs and miles in Loyalive makes tracking points super easy.

4. Dine out

Earn miles for eating at restaurants? Yes, really. Every major airline has a dining program. And all you have to do is register your credit or debit card to start earning your miles. You’ll get miles per dollar spent, plus bonus miles depending on promotions. Here’s some more info on dining programs from The Points Guy, One Mile At A Time and Million Mile Secrets.

5. Look out for promotions

You just can’t beat a great deal, such as this one. Sign up to airline and frequent flyer website/blog newsletters. Follow the airlines and frequent flyers on Twitter and Facebook. You could even try setting up Google Alerts. You’ll want to hear about these promotions as soon as they break. Some are seasonal and take place before the holidays. All will help you earn miles faster.

6. Rent a car

Airlines partner with car rental companies, meaning that every time you rent a car with them you can collect miles for doing so. Avis, for example, partners, with over 60 airlines.

7. Transfer your miles

The general consensus on transferring miles seems to be ‘don’t’, because it’s so expensive. But it is possible. Here’s some advice on how you can transfer miles between frequent flyer accounts.

Is there a non-flying frequent flyer mile boosting tip we’ve missed?

Let us know in the comments!

Hat tip: Frequent Flyer, Chris Lopinto.

Need a website to book the cheapest flight tickets? Here are a lucky-for-some 13! Or try our bonus tip and speak to a real life travel agent. They accounted for a third of the US travel market as recently as 2011.

You may not want to check all of the following sites, but try to cross check at least three of them.

1. Google Flights

Google purchased the rights to use the ITA Matrix in 2011. A map view helps you drag and drop destinations. A good place to start your research.

2. Google Flight Explorer

Will let you search origin to destination and length of stay and shows you the best deals on a calendar.

3. Flightfox

Flightfox promises to team you up with flight experts who get you the best flights for the lowest prices. Their ‘pay now’ option guarantees the lowest price, while their ‘pay later’ option guarantees to beat your best quote by more than their fee. That, along with their claim that their experts are ‘more obsessed with flight routing, loyalty programs and airfare pricing than anyone on the planet’, is pretty hard to argue with. Flightfox can even help you use your air miles.

So what works best? A real life travel agent? Firefox? Or a comparison site? Check out this head to head to head.

4. Yapta

Yapta is unusual because it will let you know if the ticket you’ve already bought drops below a price that makes it worth paying the airline’s refund fee to cancel and buy again.

5. ITA Matrix

This is the software used by many travel agencies and airlines. You can’t buy tickets with it so use it to find the best fare, then visit a site like Expedia, Priceline or Orbitz, or an individual airline.

6. Skiplagged

Skiplagged can help you find the cheapest tickets, including ‘throwaway’ tickets, where you’d only fly one leg of a multi-leg journey, if the overall cost was cheaper. If you were to do this, you obviously wouldn’t be able to check in luggage.

Momondo

7. Momondo

What’s the cheapest time to fly to your destination? What airlines fly there? Momondo will help you weigh all these considerations.

8. Airfare Watchdog

You can also sign up for fare alerts. Particularly useful to follow on Twitter to get news of the very latest sales and deals.

9. Skyscanner

UK-based company offering a powerful and intuitive search engine. Sign up for daily flight alerts to monitor price changes for your trip before you book.

10. The Flight Deal

Publishes mistake fares. Won’t publish any fare that costs more than 6 cents a mile (meaning a nonstop roundtrip flight from New York to Barcelona should never be more than $425). Follow them on Twitter https://twitter.com/theflightdeal for the best up-to-the-minute deals.

11. Adioso

Adioso is different because it lets you conduct vague searches like ‘New York for 7 days in October’.

Hipmunk

12. Hipmunk

Like the ITA Matrix, Hipmunk won’t let you buy tickets directly but lets you compares fares from hundreds of different sites, saving you time. Flights are listed according to agony, a factor that takes flight time into account, as it assumes your time costs money. Is that any different from clicking ‘direct flights only’ on another site? Maybe. Check it out and decide for yourself. They do hide longer flights and there are no ads, unlike a site like Expedia, say. Forbes called Hipmunk the ‘best travel site. Period.’ If you’re interested in why, read this.

13. Mileage run deals forum, FlyerTalk

FlyerTalk is a community for vacation travellers and business frequent fliers. Its mileage fun forum is where people share their best fare finds (a mileage run is an airline trip taken solely to gain maximum frequent-flyer miles or points). You’ll get good tips on best and worst days to book, and how to fast-track yourself to elite status.

Or try a real life travel agent

The Internet changed the travel agent industry of the 90s – with most of us now buying our flight and hotel tickets ourselves online. But travel agents have evolved and accounted for up to a third of the US travel market as recently as 2011. They tend to specialise in the corporate and luxury markets, or in complicated and speciality trips. And it may be worth talking to someone if you really can’t find what you want yourself, or if you simply haven’t got time to do it yourself. You’ll also find travel agents particularly useful in communities linked to the country you want to fly to.

Collecting air miles or points?

Download our free Loyalive app and you’ll be able to track your points, miles and rewards – along with those from any other loyalty rewards program – in one place.

 

 

After regular travel and credit card sign up bonuses, one of the best ways to boost your points and miles balances is to shop in online shopping portals, where you get points for every dollar you spend.

And, of course, if you use a rewards credit card, you’ll earn points from your card and the portal. Are you a member of several of the following loyalty reward programs? Then use an earning rate comparison site like ev reward or EBATES to decide which is best for a particular purchase.

Bonuses

Look out for bonuses that will multiply the number of points you will earn from particular purchases. They tend to occur during peak retail periods, such as Mother’s Day, back to school or Christmas.

Stay active

Not just in real life, but when it comes to your loyalty rewards program. Apart from extra points and bonus promotions, the other great thing about online shopping portals is that using them will keep your accounts active, thereby preventing your miles and points from expiring. It can happen. But not if you shop so your points don’t drop.

The major loyalty rewards online shopping portals

Happy shopping!

Is there an online shopping portal we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

 

Many frequent flyer blogs, such as One Mile at a Time, talk about ‘earning and burning’ points and air miles (in other words, using them as quickly as possible.)

But is it good advice? Greg Davis-Kean over on FrequentMiler recently questioned this wisdom. Here’s why it might be a good idea to hold on to your airmiles.

Airplane Windows - Is this the view you can get with miles?

New deals

First off, it’s important to remember that points and miles do frequently devalue. But deals remain. Examples from British Airways, Hilton and United show that changes to their frequent flyer programs meant that some trips got more expensive, but others got cheaper.

Points & miles sales

Another reason to keep hold of your miles and points are sales. Delta, British Airways and AA have all recently held unannounced award sales that you wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of if you’d have burned all your points.

Watch out for expiry dates

Choice Privileges points, for example, expire after a certain amount of time, regardless of activity in your account. Obviously, in cases like this, you’ll want to burn these points as their expiration date looms.

Don’t wait for the perfect trip

Greg at FrequentMiler also advises against waiting for the perfect trip. It may never happen. Consider short trips to use some points, rather than longer ones that will use them all.

Devaluation is relative

We’re very glad we came across an article entitled ‘I can see for miles: The definitive guide to using your travel rewards correctly‘. Author, economist and writer, Allison Schrager, is a self confessed pension geek who writes about retirement and how to hedge risk in more unconventional situations. So she approaches air miles and points from an investment/risk perspective.

One of the interesting points Alison makes is that while points may devalue, they still may devalue ‘less’ than real world costs, such as that of an airline ticket or a hotel room. She also notes that points can increase in value (The Points Guy found Starwood Preferred Guest points rose in value over the last year.)

Luxury bedroom with sea view - Hotel points as well as miles can help

Are airfares rising?

If you believe that they are then your points may hold good value, despite the odd devaluation every few years. If you believe that airfares may reduce (due to lower oil costs, for example), then your points may be less valuable.

Whatever happens to prices, here’s the advice

Alison’s advice is to use your points to book well in advance, on expensive, popular routes.

But we can’t say it any better

With more people flying and fewer seats available, it’s harder to cash out your awards. Being able to use your points is just as important as the number of points it takes to book a ticket. It tends to be harder to use points when the economy is booming and more people travel. Conversely, Gary Leff observed it was much easier to use award points during the Great Recession. In this sense, award points have what’s called a negative beta, meaning their value improves when most other assets tank. This relationship makes award points quite valuable because they are a great hedge against the rest of your wealth. If you care about taking a vacation or visiting faraway relatives every year—no matter the state of your cash wealth—points hold a valuable place in your portfolio.

Points, in many ways, are one of the hardest assets to manage. Like any investment, the most obvious risks don’t always apply to you, depending on your goals. If you value hotel stays, think airfares will increase, and are willing to take the considerable time and energy to research good point deals, holding on to points may be the best strategy.

H/T: FrequentMiler

Loyalive

We think Loyalive is the best way to manage your loyalty programs and discover your rewards – but don’t take our word for it. Here are some of the nice things people have said about us in the six weeks or so since we’ve launched.

Scroll down to discover coverage in Forbes, The Independent, The Guardian, This is Money, Entrepreneur Country, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday and Mrs. Bargain Hunter. And don’t forget to help us spread the word further still by telling your friends about us.

Continue reading

travelzoo wow 2016

Global travel deal website, Travelzoo, has named its five top deal vacation destinations for 2016. They are Norway, Cuba, NYC, Canada and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Cuba

Packages that cost $3,000 last year have nearly halved in price because vacation companies are keen to attract travelers (travel searches for the country have increased by over 200%). More cruises and more flights also mean lower prices, more choice and greater availability. Why go? The architecture, the rum, the music, the people, the fun and the cars. Read more… And more…

Norway

You can now fly direct to Scandinavia from seven US cities, including Oakland, New York and Baltimore, thanks to Norwegian Air Shuttle. New York to Oslo starts at $144 and legacy carriers have also lowered their fares to compete. Then it’s just a short hop to other European destinations, such as London, Paris or Barcelona. Why go? 2016 marks the end of the 11-year Northern Lights cycle, making it one of the best times to enjoy this spectacle. Read more…

Canada

The strong dollar could effectively mean a 25% discount to Canadian winter resorts, compared to their American counterparts. Why go? Snow, multi-city breaks and asian cuisine. For great deals in 2016, go north.

New York

A strong dollar means more Americans will fly abroad and less tourists will come to the USA, meaning it’ll be cheaper for Americans, too. According to Euromonitor, Americas spend most of their money on accommodation. But the rise in hotel alternatives such as Airbnb, mean NYC hotels and tourist attractions are dropping rates by as much as 60%. In 2013, the city’s average daily hotel room rate was $290. January through March 2016, you can find a 4-star Times Square hotel room for as little as $109. On top of that, 30, 000 hotel rooms have been added in the last seven years. Why go? Fizzy chocolate drinks, the skyline as viewed from boroughs outside Manhattan, shopping, museums and food. Read more…

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

More flights, five new hotels and a strong dollar mean you’ll enjoy an 18% reduction in Puerto Vallarta room rates, compared to 2013. ‘Vallarta’, as it’s affectionately known, offers beaches, margaritas, a historic old town and lush tropical mountains. Why go? If that list wasn’t enough, how about wildlife, two of Mexico’s most luxurious resorts and, yes, you’ve guessed it, food. Read more…

Where would you like to go in 2016 and why?

Let us know in the comments below.

Hat tip: Travelzoo.

 

Live in the USA

That’s right – Loyalive is now available on iPhone and Android in the UK and the USA!

We’ve spent the last few months listening to all our users, making some changes to the app to make things easier and packing in new features like our Target Tracker and the Activity Feed.

We’ve got an amazing 2016 lined up for Loyalive, with some brilliant asked-for features (and a couple you never knew you needed until you see them!) – but this week it’s all about being available in America!

We’ve added over 100 new loyalty program integrations (and we’re not done – we’re adding more every week), thousands of new lines of rewards information, tens of thousands of images, icons and logos. No matter which state you live in, or which programs you add, they all look amazing.

 

 

costco_small_hex@2x kabee_small_hex@2x united_small_hex@2x B&N_small_hex@2x thinkgeek_small_hex@2x Sparks_small_hex@2xkellogs_small_hex@2x
 pepsipass_small_hex@2x tastecard_small_hex@2x aarp_small_hex@2x amc_small_hex@2x americanapparel_small_hex@2x amtrak_small_hex@2x
bestbuy_small_hex@2x bevmo_small_hex@2x chickfila_small_hex@2x Coast_small_hex@2x worldmarket_small_hex@2x fraserworld_small_hex@2x    teleflora_small_hex@2x 

USA, UK and International Programs now supported by Loyalive

AARP Rewards for Good – New!
AC Moore Rewards – New!
Accor Hotels
Ace Hardware – Ace Rewards – New!
Advance Auto Parts SpeedPerks – New!
Aegean Miles+Bonus – New!
Aer Lingus Gold Circle
AeroMexico Club Premier
Aeroplan Miles (Air Canada)
Air Asia Big Rewards
Air Austral Capricorne
Air Berlin
Air India
Air New Zealand Airports – New!
Air Niugini Destinations
Air Tahiti Nui Club Tiare
Alaska Air Mileage Plan
Alitalia MilleMiglia
AMC Stubs – New!
American Airlines Aadvantage – New!
American Apparel – Le Club – New!
American Eagle Outfitters – New!
Amigos de Paradores
Amtrak Guest Rewards – New!
Asia Miles – New!
Asiana Club
ASKY Club
AutoZone Rewards – New!
Avianca LifeMiles
Avis
B&Q Club
Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus
Barnes & Noble – New!
Bates – New!
Bebe – New!
BeFrugal – New!
Best Buy – New!
Best Loved Hotels
BevMo – New!
Blackwell’s Rewards
Bloomingdale’s – New!
Bob’s Stores – New!
Boost Vibe Club Card
Boots Advantage
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – New!
Brewers Fayre Bonus Club
Brussels Airlines Loop – New!
Calvin Klein – New!
Caribbean Airlines 7th Heaven Rewards
Cathay Pacific – New!
Cayman Airways Sir Turtle Rewards
Cedar Miles
Century 21 C21Status – New!
Chick-Fil-A – New!
ChildrenSalon
ChoiceHotels
Club Carlson
Club H10
Co-Operative Membership
Coast Hotels – New!
Costa Coffee Club
Costco – New!
Cotswold Outdoor Explore More
Crocs Club – New!
CVS/pharmacy ExtraCare – New!
Czech Airlines OK Plus
Dan Hotels
Debenhams Beauty Club
Delta SkyMiles
Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club – New!
drugstore.com Dollars – New!
Dunkin Donuts – New!
Durham Cricket Rewards – New!
Eddie Bauer Friends – New!
Elite Hotels Guest Program – New!
Enterprise Plus
Ethical Superstore – New!
Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles
Europcar Privilege
Eurostar
Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
Expedia (USA)
Fayre and Square
Finnair Plus
Flying Blue
Food Lion MVP – New!
Foyles Foyalty
Frasers Hospitality – Fraser World – New!
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
Fuel Rewards Network – New!
Garuda Indonesia Miles
Giant Food Stores – New!
giftcards.com – New!
GiftHulk – New!
Gilt
Global Hotel Alliance Discovery
GOL Airlines Smiles
Grainger Games Rewards
Gulf Air Falconflyer
Hampshire Cricket Rewards – New!
Harrods Rewards
Hertz Gold Rewards Plus
Hibbett Sports MVP Rewards – New!
Hobbycraft Club
HooplaDoopla – New!
HotelClub – New!
House of Fraser Recognition
Huggies Rewards – New!
Hyatt Gold Passport
IKEA Family
InterContinental Hotels Group
iPrefer
Island Miles
Jaeger Loyalty Card
JCPenny Rewards – New!
Jet Airways
JetBlue TrueBlue
John Lewis
Jurys Inn Rewards
Kabbee – New!
Kelloggs Family Rewards – New!
KFC Colonel’s Club
Kohls Yes2You – New!
Korean Air
L’Oreal Paris Gold Rewards – New!
Liberty Loyalty
Lindner Hotels & Resorts
Loews YouFirst Rewards
Lowes – New!
Lufthansa Miles and More
MacDonald Hotels & Resorts – New!
MainStreetSHARES – New!
Malaysia Airlines Enrich
Marks & Spencer Sparks – New!
Marriot Rewards
MeliaRewards
Memolink – New!
Men’s Warehouse – New!
Meridiana Club
Millennium Hotels M&C Loyalty Club
Monsoon Accessorize Reward
Morrisons Match & More
Mr Rebates – New!
MyPoints – New!
Nectar
Nordic Choice Club – New!
North Face VIPeak – New!
Norwegian Reward
O’Briens Wine Beer & Spirits
Odeon Premiere Club
OfficeDepot – New!
Oman Air Sindbad
Omni Hotels & Resorts
OpenTable
Orchard Supply Hardware – New!
otel.com – New!
Oyster (Top up Balance Only)
Pampers Rewards – New!
Paperchase Treat Me
Pepsi Pass – New!
Petco Pals – New!
Pets at Home VIP
Plenti – New!
Premier Club Rewards – New!
Price Chopper Rewards – New!
Priority GuestRewards
PureHMV
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Qubus Hotel – New!
Quidco
Rakuten Super Points – New!
Raley’s Something Extra Rewards – New!
rewards R us – New!
Rewards4Fishing
Rewards4Golf
Rewards4Racing
RiteAid Wellness+ – New!
Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Riu Class
SAS EuroBonus
SaveUp – New!
Scandic Friends – New!
Sephora Beauty Insider – New!
Shangri-La Hotels Golden Circle
Shell Drivers Club
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Smith’s – New!
South African Airways Voyager
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Space NK N.dulge Rewards
SpaFinder – New!
Speedway Speedy Rewards – New!
Spirit FREE SPIRIT
Sri Lankan Airlines FlySmiLes
Staples
Staples USA – New!
Starbucks Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Stash Hotels Rewards
Stena Line Extra
Subway Subcard
Sun Country Airlines UFly Rewards
Superdrug Health & Beautycard
SwagBucks – New!
Swissotel Circle
Taj Hotels Inner Circle
TAP Portugal Victoria
TasteCard – New!
Teleflora – New!
Tesco Clubcard
Texaco Star Rewards
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
The Children’s Place – New!
The Perfume Shop
The Vitamin Shoppe – New!
The Wine Cellarage Rewards – New!
The Works Together Rewards
Think Geek Rewards – New!
Toys R Us Gold Card
True Value Rewards – New!
Trump Hotels Collection – New!
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
United MileagePlus – New!
uPromise – New!
Ural Airlines Wings
UTAir STATUS
Van Heusen Rewards – New!
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Vueling Airlines Punto
Waitrose
Walmart Savings Catcher – New!
Waterstones
Wegmans Food Market – New!
West Marine Advantage Rewards – New!
World Market Explorer – New!
Wyevale Garden Centres The Garden Club
Wyndham Rewards
Zoom Bucks – New!

Not all programs will be available in all area and some may be geography-specific. Not all programs have points or balances you can track, but you can still use Loyalive to store the barcodes for collecting more points. Some programs you might not have heard of – why not see if you can sign up, you may even grab yourself a joining bonus!

We’re adding more loyalty programs all the time, and while some take a little longer to integrate than others, please let us know if we’ve missed your favourite program! Tweet us at @LoyaliveApp or drop us a note on Facebook.

If you’re liking the app, don’t forget to tell your friends about it (we want everyone to get more from their rewards) and we’d love it if you could spend a few seconds leaving us a review on the Apple app store or Google Play store (it helps more people find the app!)

From the entire team here at Loyalive, we wish you the happiest of holidays!

Hotels have a lot of competition these days. Apart from Airbnb, there are dozens of other home stay sites to help you find a room for the night.

But are the rooms these sites offer any cheaper or better than hotels? Shouldn’t you look at both? The answer, if course, is yes and website AllTheRooms will save you hours checking all the different websites, from Booking.com, Expedia and Flipkey, to VRBO, HomeAway and even Couchsurfing.

AllTheRooms connects you to every single type of lodging, from hotels, vacation rentals to couches and hammocks. That’s over 5 million places from over 400 sites, all over the world.

Check out AllTheRooms.

Of course, what you won’t find on AllTheRooms are house swap sites, so here’s a roundup of some of the biggest.

HomeExchange

HomeExchange lets you choose from over 165,000 homes in 150 countries. You simply list your own property and browse others. When you find one you like, you simply contact the owner via a simple messaging system and arrange your dates. You pay an annual fee and exchange as many times as you like. If you don’t exchange in your first year, you get the second free. The site claims its members save an average of 58% on travel every year.

Stay4Free

Stay4free lets you list your desired locations and will notify you when a property matches your preferences. You’ll save $thousands on accommodation and enjoy an authentic experience very different from an hotel. Stay4Free offers a free 14 day trial, after which you’ll pay $12, $14 or $35 a month, depending on what features you want. The most popular program is ‘Plus’, at $14 a month. Considering the $thousands of money you’ll save, that’s probably a pretty wise investment.

Love Home Swap

Take your pick from over 75,000 homes with Love Home Swap, the world’s biggest home exchange club, according to its own blurb. The first two weeks are free then there are silver, gold and platinum plans. You can swap directly with other home owners or earn swap points when someone stays in your property but you don’t stay in theirs (and vice versa).

Determined to stay in a hotel? Here’s how to get the best room rate

We’ve Googled ‘How to get the best room rate’ so you don’t have to. What we found is that all the articles are a couple of years old. Does AllTheRooms mean you don’t have to try any of these tricks any more? The answer is we’re not sure, but if you’re determined to stay in a hotel, then make sure you take the following steps.

  • Check discount sites such as BookIt.com, Hotels.com and Booking.com, plus Hotwire and Priceline.
  • When you find a hotel you like, check the hotel website and call them to find the best deal.
  • If you just want to stay in a particular neighbourhood for the lowest cost, consider bidding on Hotwire and Priceline.
  • You’ve probably read a few websites that show how prices come down at the last minute. This is often true. But this won’t work for popular locations at busy times, so book early for those.
  • Check daily deal sites, such as Groupon and LivingSocial
  • Can you be flexible? If so, travel at a less popular time. Obvious, but worth reminding yourself, you’ll save money for not following the herd.
  • Use travel reward points. Need a new credit card? Many give you points just for signing up. So many that you might be able to get your hotel for free, even you’re going on vacation for a week or two.

If you’re a member of travel rewards programs

Download Loyalive for free and use it to manage your frequent flyer and travel rewards programs. You’ll be able to track all your live points balances and your rewards all in one place, and if you have any shopping rewards cards, such as Plenti, you’ll be able to use Loyalive to manage those, too.

Plenti

Plenti, the loyalty rewards program powered by American Express, appears to be an easy way to earn a few dollars back on money you were going to spend anyway.

Providing, of course, you spend money with Plenti’s partners. Currently, these include AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, Mobile, Nationwide Insurance, Rite Aid, Direct Energy, Enterprise, Alamo, National and Hulu. With American Express saying it expects to add more partners soon.

Do you shop at one or more of the partners above? If so, singing up for Plenti will mean you can start getting money back for purchases you make already. And it’s free and easy to do so. Just visit the Plenti website or any of its partners’ stores.

Plenti is the first cross-merchant loyalty program coalition in the US, although such schemes are already popular in Canada and the UK.

Having launched in May 2015, Plenti has now been around long enough for some reviews to appear.

Joseph Pisani, Business Writer, Associated Press, says:

“Plenti is worth the minimal effort required to set it up. Even though it doesn’t work many places yet, it is likely to get better as more businesses take part.”

Cutting down on reward cards

In theory, a card like Plenti is a great idea. Not least because you only need one reward card, instead of nine or ten for each partner company. Obviously, there are privacy concerns, with people wondering how much of their personal information is shared  among these businesses.

But a quick look at the privacy section of the Plenti website reveals that, while your name and number may be shared among partners, your specific transactions are not.

Should you be worried?

That depends if you trust American Express. As one of the largest credit card companies in America, as well as one of the most valuable brands in the world, they probably know exactly how important privacy is to its customers.

And if you have a credit card, your information is already being shared with partners. This is why you may receive direct mail you never asked for. As far as Plenti goes, you can opt out of these mailings.

How Plenti works

In most cases, every $1 you spend with a Plenti partner earns you one Plenti point. Exceptions include at Exxon Mobil gas stations, where you’ll earn a point for every gallon of gas you buy. There’s even an American Express Plenti credit card that earns you a point per $1, wherever you use it.

What Plenti points are worth

Once you earn 200 Plenti points, you can spend them as cash at Plenti partners. Each 100 points equals $1, so equivalent to a 1% discount. You’ll have at least two years to spend your points, says FierceWireless.

Boost and save

You’ll also be able to boost your points with special weekly offers, including welcome offers worth at least $100 worth of savings, according to the Plenti website.

It’s worth pointing out that retailers tend to use your data to personalise offers to you, so while businesses won’t share your information with other partners, they will use it to help you save money on the products you usually buy, or those related to the one you normally do. Remember, the point of these schemes is to reward you for shopping at the stores, not creep you out by sharing your details.

The real reason behind Plenti

Tailoring offers just for you isn’t the only reason behind Plenti. American Express is keen to broaden the reach of its brand, which in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was considered prestigious, elitist and expensive. Payments and commerce website PYMNTS caught up with Abeer Bhatia, chief executive of US Loyalty at American Express. He explains:

“One of the things we at American Express want to do is become a much more welcoming brand that appeals to a broader segments and this allows us to do that,” Bhatia said. “We can provide a great product to a wide range of consumers that appeals to them. And I think by not linking it to a card per se, it allows us to reach out to a much broader set of consumers. That’s really what this is about –appealing to the largest base possible.”

 “We think this can really add a lot of value for consumers. Our whole hope is that consumers go, sign up and then really enjoy the program.”

Why is now a good time for Plenti?

Recent research from American Express reveals that 72% of U.S. consumers say they would prefer a rewards program that allows them to shop at many stores versus a single brand, says Mobile Commerce Daily.

Plenti is made possible by American Express’ acquisition of Loyalty Partner in 2011. The company operates Payback, which manages coalition loyalty programs in Germany, Italy, Poland, India and Mexico and has more than 60 million active members.

Go mobile

There’s a Plenti app but we recommend downloading Loyalive and using it to collect your Plenti points and view your live balance. The advantage of using Loyalive is that you’ll be able to manage all of your loyalty cards all in one place, not just your Plenti card, making collecting reward points even easier. Find the download links at the top of this page, on the right hand side.