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Why Pay? Cash in on Points for Holiday Travel.

It’s the season of spending, but business travelers aren’t using their rewards points on holiday travel or gifts.

Between holiday shopping and increased travel prices, it would make sense for consumers to take advantage of any opportunity to save a little money this time of year, but they aren’t.

We recently conducted a general public consumer survey of 500 people who traveled for business at least seven days in 2016. While nearly half of those surveyed use rewards points earned through business travel for personal vacations, 62% never use these points to travel during the holidays.

This could be because redeeming points during the holidays is especially difficult due to blackout date or that employees don’t feel comfortable using their business travel rewards as a personal perk. The ownership of business travel rewards has long been debated and the lines between business and pleasure can easily blur. While some employees report points as a commonplace perk for those making frequent work trips, others (particularly employees working in the public sector) have been shamed in the past for using business rewards for personal trips.

As it turns out, rewards points earned through business travel don’t usually inspire generosity either. Sixty one percent of people who travel for business said they don’t use their business travel rewards points to buy gifts or gift cards for others and 17% said they probably won’t.

It’s clear that rewards points are still important however, because more than half of business travelers (56%) look for options that will earn them points, at least some of the time, when booking business travel.

So how are business travelers using their points then? Overall, people are most likely to use rewards points to buy airline tickets. One in three people said that rewards earned through business travel allowed them to take personal trips that they wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

It also depends on your age; of people who said they use rewards points for experiences, 52% were between 25 and 34 years old. Of people who use rewards points for hotel stays, 28% are 45 – 54 years old. As for good-old benjamins, 50% of people who said they simply take cash back for their rewards points are between 25 and 44 years old.

How to Maximize Your Rewards This Holiday Season

Join a flexible rewards program.
Many rewards programs post blackout dates around the holidays that keep you from using your points to book a flight. There are flexible rewards programs though, like ours at TravelBank, that won’t restrict you to certain dates, a single shopping portal or one airline. Another example is the Venture card which allows you to pay for travel up front and then use their purchase eraser so your points cover the balance.

Be flexible.
The most ideal flights typically tend to cost the most due to demand. With the same logic you can guess that the flights closest to the holidays and on the weekend are going to diminish your points quickly. The better award travel deals are likely to be found midweek a bit before or after the holiday.

Look early and look often.
Award travel deals come and go quickly so keep an eye (or set an alert) on your desired flight route. If you are willing to cut it close, some deals usually pop up at the last minute.

Fly business class.
While tons of people are flying around the holiday, it’s mostly in economy. Business class is much less competitive at this time so airlines may open up award travel.

Book one leg with points.
If you can’t find a roundtrip flight, try looking for two one-way flights. It may be the case that one of the legs is actually available for award travel.

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