As writers, we travel. We travel for research, we travel for conferences, we travel for retreats and speaking engagements. If you are as famous and popular as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, then you don’t need to read this post about reward programs and saving money when you travel for your career. If you're like the rest of us poor Janes, then you can use some help whenever possible—especially in this economy. So, here are some tips and tricks for traveling.
Here is my new mantra:
If the rewards program for a hotel, airline, restaurant, or credit card is free, sign me up!
Please adopt this mantra, too.
I am not encouraging you to recklessly sign up for every program out in this reward-program world, but I am telling you to read over the information, look for any hidden fees or conditions, and then sign thyself up.
Here’s an example of how a one-time user can benefit from a rewards program. On my first stay as a Priority Club Rewards member at a Holiday Inn in Cincinnati, I received points for my stay, a check-out time of 2:00 p.m. instead of noon, free breakfast, and free drinks at happy hour. I think those are some great benefits, especially for writers—free food, free liquor, and a chance to sleep in late. WOW!
Another example is Ruby Tuesday, the chain restaurant. I signed up one day because my nice waitress asked me if I would like to become part of their rewards program. Sure, why not? I thought. So far, I’ve received two coupons for buy one dinner, get one free through e-mail. Their entrees can run anywhere from $10 to $20. Use one of these coupons with a fellow writer when you are at a conference, split the bill, and you just ate a great meal for under ten bucks a piece!
It’s worth it even if you start to lose the points that you earned. With Hilton Honors, I don’t stay in enough Hilton hotels in a year to keep my point total growing. However, last time I stayed at a Hilton in downtown Chicago, I received free parking for my entire stay because I signed up to be a Hilton Honors member. That saved me over $20 a day!
Have I convinced you yet?
TRICK: Even if you have already made reservations for an upcoming conference or book signing, look online to see if your hotel or airline has a rewards program. If it does, sign up. Then call customer service, and ask them to add your new rewards number to the reservation, so you can get credit for your stay when you go.
Credit Card Programs
A friend of mine has a Disney Rewards Visa card. She uses it for everything, and then she pays off the whole balance at the end of each billing cycle. Why? So, she can earn the points for a Disney vacation. You guessed it—her example made me think of how writers could use credit cards to gain points to pay for writer-type things.
For example, many credit cards allow you to use points you earn in their programs to buy gift cards to major stores or to even get cash back. I once received a $25 Visa card by using my Bank of America World Points reward points to “buy” this gift card. I could use that card in any store that accepted Visa—at Walmart to buy envelopes and paper; at Staples to buy a flash drive; at Macy’s to buy a new skirt for my next speaking engagement; at Hertz to pay for my rental car. Do you see where I am going with this?
You have to do two things, though, to take advantage of this type of program:
1. You have to use your card. Use your card when you travel. You know you’ll have a lot of bills to pay at your hotel, at restaurants, and for transportation. You can still pay the balance off at the end of your billing cycle like my Disney friend does. But now you have a good start on accumulated points, and you will soon be able to reap the rewards. If you save up enough points, you might be able to purchase free hotel stays or airline tickets.
2. Research the card’s rewards that you are able to purchase with points. Find the card that offers rewards that writers can use. Ask other writer friends if they are enrolled in a credit card program like this and how they like it or use it.
Traveling is a part of a freelance writer’s job. Often food, shelter, and transportation are not paid for. It’s important to think smart and spend a little bit of time looking for deals. Talk to other writers whom you know travel and ask them for any money-saving tips. If you are staying at a certain hotel because the conference is being held there and you are getting the conference rate, you can still enroll in the rewards program.
So, do you have a new mantra?
Post by Margo L. Dill; Margo teaches online workshops for WOW! about freelance writing, blogging, social networking, and children's writing. If you are interested in taking a class from Margo, click on the link here to see what classes are being offered in the next couple months and sign up!
photo by o5com www.flickr.com