Although points and miles are generally maximized when booking luxury travel, you can redeem your travel rewards for road trips. Road trips can also provide a fantastic opportunity to earn many points and miles for future vacations.
Today, we’ll look at a few ways to maximize your points and miles for a road trip.
Save money on your rental
Unless you use your car, the first step of the road trip planning process is booking your car or RV rental. You can save on rental car bookings using AutoSlash, which notifies you when your car rental price drops. You can also save on your RV by booking a relocation rental, which can cost as little as $1.
By going through a shopping portal and including your frequent flyer number in your booking, you may even be able to earn airline miles on your rentals. Or, in the case of American Airlines, you may earn Loyalty Points, which count toward elite status.
Maximize rewards with the right credit card
Using the right credit card is also important when booking your rental. You’ll want to use a card that provides primary car rental insurance and earns bonus points on travel spending. Some cards that fit these criteria are the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc offers car rental loss or damage coverage.
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Whether you’re using your own car or renting, you’ll want to maximize the points you’ll earn on gas. Some of our favorite credit cards for gas purchases include the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (see rates and fees), the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees).
Spend less on gas
If you fill up at Shell stations, you can join the Fuel Rewards program and save at least five cents per gallon on every fill-up. You can earn more savings using a linked credit card when transacting with partners. Historically, the program has offered 10 cents off per gallon when you shop through the online portal. Sometimes, you can stack your earnings by linking your Dunkin’ Donuts rewards account to earn an additional 10 cents per gallon. Alternatively, you can earn American Airlines miles and Loyalty Points through Fuel Rewards instead of cash back.
There are programs like Pay with GasBuddy, which aren’t linked to a specific chain. Plus, you might even be able to stack programs to stretch your savings further.
Related: Top tips for how to save on gas
Save on accommodations
Accommodations are another major expense on road trips, so your points can go a long way here.
Most major hotel programs now use dynamic pricing, meaning award rates can fluctuate wildly based on demand. However, if you like the predictability of award charts, you can still get that through World of Hyatt (with peak and off-peak pricing, however).
You’ll likely stay at many hotels during a road trip — which can differ from typical vacations. Staying at multiple hotels can be beneficial if your points are spread across different hotel loyalty programs.
You might also consider redeeming your credit card’s annual free night certificate on a road trip. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card and IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offer free night certificates that can be topped off with additional points. Hilton’s free night certificates from cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card can be used at almost any Hilton property worldwide with standard room availability.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you need some inspiration on which points hotels to stay at, check out TPG’s guide to the top American road trips to take with the family.
If you’re paying out of pocket, use a credit card that offers extra points on hotel spending. Or, if you’re booking an Airbnb, you’ll want to pay with a credit card that offers bonus points on general travel purchases. If cash room rates are low, booking your stays through your credit card’s travel portal might make more sense than transferring them to the hotel program. So consider which option is most appealing for your stay.
Use points for activities
Redeeming your points for activities can sometimes be a lucrative redemption.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal allows you to redeem points for all types of travel, including car rentals and activities. If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, each point is worth 1.25 cents (so a $100 activity would cost 8,000 points).
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece, so a $100 activity would only cost around 6,700 points. That’s a lot more generous than most other credit card travel portals. Expedia operates the Chase Travel Portal, so if an activity is available on Expedia, it should be bookable through Chase at the same price.
Most credit card issuers typically do not count sightseeing activities and tourist attractions as travel. So, if you’re not redeeming points and are planning to pay cash, use a card that offers a good return on everyday spending, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.
Points and miles are not just about first-class flights and fancy hotel stays. Even if it doesn’t provide the most appealing redemption on paper, you can use your rewards to have a fun, action-packed summer road trip.
Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.