Every airline and hotel has a “frequent flyer” account that you can sign up for. A more general term to use would be ‘loyalty program’.
It is very important that you sign up for as many of these accounts as possible. There is no cost to do so and they do not ask for any credit card information (unless you want to keep one on file for faster booking).
The reason it is smart to sign up for these accounts is that the hotels and airlines will frequently send out targeted email offers and promos. Targeted offers are not available to the general public, they are only available to those who receive the email offer. Some of the offers require you to book a flight or require you to stay a night at a hotel first, but others require little to no action.
Just recently I received an email from Starwood Hotels offering 1,000 points if I created a frequent flyer account with Emirates Airlines. I will likely never fly with that airline but it took only 5 minutes of my time and required almost no information on my part. On average, 1 Startwood point is worth 3.33 cents. That one email earned me $33.00 in hotel points.
• 1,000 points will get you 1/3 of the way to a free night in Cancun
Here is another offer I received from Starwood Hotels shortly after I signed up for their free loyalty program.
Stay at any Starwood hotel and earn a free night… then stay at another Starwood hotel and earn another free night (up to a category 5 hotel)! To earn my first free night I stayed at the Aloft Denver airport. That stay only cost me $75 and it was a decent hotel for $75.
After the stay in Denver I received my coupon 3 days later good for one free night at any Starwood hotel up to a category 5. This gives a lot of booking options and category 5 hotels can easily cost $300 a night. For $75 I received a night at the Denver Aloft and a night at a high end hotel, that is a steal!
We decided to use our free night coupon at the W Fort Lauderdale. This resort is normally $250 a night. We used the free night coupon for the first night and used some of my points for the second night. Grand total, ZERO dollars.
Another email offer I received is from American Airlines. They were offering 7,000 points if I sign up for LifeLock (identity protection). American Airlines points are worth about 1.7 cents per point. That means that 7,000 points are worth roughly $119. If you were thinking of signing up for LifeLock anyways, (it does cost money) this would be a great opportunity to make some free money (points)
If you have a Chase credit card be sure to check your email for “refer a friend” offers. Chase Sapphire was offering me 5,000 points per friend that I got to apply (they have to be approved also) for the credit card. Chase Sapphire (AKA Ultimate Rewards) are worth roughly 3.33 cents per point. That means each friend you refer is worth around $160 in points!
I recently used 4,500 British Airways points, that I transferred from my Chase account, to fly my brother on US Airways (a partner of BA) from Phoenix to Reno, one way. That flight was $193 at the time but only cost me 4,500 ultimate rewards points.