| Real Life Strategies for Building Wealth

With the cost of vacations constantly rising, it can be difficult to know how you’ll be able to take the entire family away during the summer months. But thankfully, there are a number of ways you can start saving up points so you can enjoy the vacation of a lifetime and without breaking the bank.

Below you’ll find some top tips on how you can earn points through your credit card company, how you can earn air miles and where you can stay in hotels for free (yes, free!):

Before You Start, You Need to Plan Your Trip

As soon as you start looking at all of the available plans there are, it’s easy to get carried away and you may soon feel overwhelmed by the choices there are available. That’s why it’s important that you’ve decided exactly where you want to go before you start shopping around for the best reward schemes.

The points available with each credit card and holiday provider will differ dramatically depending on where you’re going. So, before you start planning, make sure you discuss with the family what your top destinations are. This will enable you to narrow down your search results so you can carefully filter through the available options without getting too distracted by other exotic locations!

Opt for Convertible Reward Schemes

Some credit card programs will only provide you with one reward program, so try to find one that’s convertible and offers you more than one scheme. A lot of leading credit card companies like AMEX offer a number of different programs (learn how to redeem AMEX points for maximum value here) which will give you much more scope when planning future vacations as well as this one.

And don’t forget to get your partner to sign up to these schemes too. You’re both entitled to them!

Pay for your Bills with Your Rewards Card

To rack up those points as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to set up an autopay system with your credit card for all of your bills. Those bills that come out of your account once a month, e.g. cable, cell phone and electric, can all be set up to automatically come out of your credit card account. A lot of companies will let you do this without charging you any additional fees so it’s a great way of earning points without having to think too much about it. And if your bills amount to $2,000 a month, you’ll have earned enough to get a trip within the US with the points you’ve built up as many cards offer you a point per dollar spent.

Check Out Hotel Loyalty Programs

You may be thinking you’ll have to find budget accommodation in order to take your family to their dream location but think again. A lot of top hotels offer great rewards programs which allow you to cut the costs of your stay dramatically. Some hotels will offer you these schemes on their own but it’s much easier to build up points if you’ve got the rewards card that they’re co-branded with.

For example, you can join the Starwood Preferred Guest program which is in conjunction with American Express. This helps you to get fabulous overnight stays in these hotels with your points, and could even see you upgrading to a prestigious suite without it costing you a dollar!

Go Steady with Your Rewards

As mentioned previously, it can be easy to get carried away with all of the points on offer but this could land you in a whole heap of trouble if you’re not careful. A lot of these rewards come from credit cards and if you go too mad spending on these pieces of plastic, you could end up with a mounting debt that you can’t handle. So, be sensible when you’re using your cards, opting for one or two to start with before you add more, if necessary.

And finally, do your research before you spend your points so you know you’re getting the best value for them. Even though you may be able to travel somewhere with the air miles you’ve accumulated, your points may be worth more if you hold onto them for next year’s trip. Equally, don’t just hold onto your rewards “just in case” because they may start to lose value, expire, roll over with changing schemes and so on.

With a little careful planning and research, you and your family could be enjoying the ultimate trip at a fraction of the price!

Editor’s note: Aimee Archer took a round the world trip when she was 18, and since then has always loved the thrill of travel. Now a Mom, she enjoys planning trips for her family; broadening the kids minds as they discover new cultures and strengthening her relationship with her husband.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Enjoying the winter sun . . via photopin (license)