Traveling can be expensive. And as much as you may try to avoid those travel fees that are so annoying, pack items that can save you money, and even try to find ways to travel for free, it can still add up. But if you love travel as much as I do, you don’t want your money to go to waste. There are ways to earn points while traveling which equal free money and more travel. The two main ways to earn points are through reward programs and credit cards with travel rewards. Here’s how to make the most out of your points:

Reward programs

Almost every hotel offers some type of reward program which is free to sign up.  Priority Club includes Holiday Inn and affiliated hotels like Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, and Candlewood, Staybridge. Besides getting points by staying at the hotel, you can earn by signing up for dining rewards program. Hilton Honors includes Hilton, Double Tree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton. Choice Hotels include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, EconoLodge, Rodeway Inn, and more. Individual hotels including Best Western, Red Roof Inn, and La Quinta offer reward programs too.

How it works:

Simply register online with a valid e-mail address at completely no cost. Whenever you stay at one of the hotels, you earn points for every dollar you spend. You can then use your points for free nights. Besides totally free hotel stays, many hotel reward programs offer express check-in, late check-out, a separate reservation line, or a free snack upon arrival. Being a member also allows you to take advantage of certain promotions going on as well. I’ve gotten gas cards and free nights for staying a certain number of consecutive nights at the hotel.

How to earn more:

There are more ways to earn points other than just staying at the hotel. You can earn points by booking a cruise or transportation through the reward program. I received a large amount of points when I used my Priority Club member number while renting a car on my last trip. Some reward programs also offer dining rewards where you register your credit cards and earn points for spending money at participating restaurants.

Credit Cards

Many of the above reward programs also have a correlating credit card. When you use your credit card, you’ll accumulate points that can go towards free hotel stays. Many airlines also offer the same deal. Whether you’re thinking about applying for a hotel, airline, or just general credit card with travel perks, here’s four things to keep in mind.

1. Find a good bonus for signing up.

When you find a credit card you like, be sure you’re getting some type of reward for signing up. Hotel credit cards can give you several free nights just for signing up. The same goes for air line credit cards that offer free flights.

2. Be sure your points match up to your travel style.

If you’re making the commitment to have a new credit card, make it one that you’ll actually use. If you usually take road trips, applying for an airline card or a credit card that earns you flight miles probably isn’t the best idea.

3. Know exactly how the credit card works.

Sometimes you won’t get your bonus or free flights unless you spend a certain amount of money within a specific amount of time. Be sure to know how you’ll be able to score your rewards.

4. Know your perks.

I recently discovered travel perks I didn’t even know I had. My credit card offers insurance for car rentals so I don’t have to spend money on the insurance they company offers. Besides free flights, you may be able to also receive priority boarding, upgrades, and check luggage for free.

What is your favorite travel credit card?

Kristen Kuchar

Kristen Kuchar

Kristen Kuchar is a freelance writer and editor who has learned how to save money without giving up a passion for travel, food, and living a fun life. She has written about personal finance for several years and graduated with a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @KristenKuchar.