Gold panning in Alaska (Photo: Princess)

Best Western's newly announced promotion is a multi-faceted affair, whose value ultimately depends on travelers' luck.

Members of the Best Western Rewards program who complete two or more qualifying hotel stays between April 4 and May 30 can earn the following:

  • 250 bonus points for bookings made online
  • 1,000 bonus points for bookings charged to a Best Western MasterCard
  • Entry into a 100,000-point sweepstakes for bookings made by elite members
  • A $50 Best Western Travel Card

The bonuses can only be earned once, and you must register before the first qualifying stay. more»

Man with laptop (Photo: IndexOpen)

Members of the frequent flyer programs of Midwest and Frontier are in limbo.

Republic, which now owns both airlines, has signaled its intent to merge them into a single carrier, with a single name and a single frequent flyer program. (On a light note: There's already a movement to save the Frontier name and iconic animal-themed tail art.)

It is expected that Republic will make an announcement in mid-April with more details of the consolidation of Midwest and Frontier. But whatever Republic's plan turns out to be, it will take a lot more than a strong brand name and a herd of cuddly animal mascots to keep an airline healthy and flying. more»

Dollar bills on a line (Photo: Index Open)

Miles, points, vouchers, gift cards ... sure, as loyalty program awards, they all have value. But as natural as it's become to think of these incentives as "loyalty currencies," they'll never deliver the convenience and flexibility—and thus the value—of dollars or yen or euros. Cash is king.

Still, with the exception of a few rebate credit cards, cash is rarely used as a loyalty currency (not to be confused with discounting as a short-term sales tactic).

An intriguing exception to that rule is the new program from AmericInn, a chain of more than 220 mid-priced hotels in 22 states. Its Easy Rewards program promises members that you'll "Earn cash for your stays."

The program also claims that it's easy. And it is. more»

Amtrak train, Colorado (Photo: PhotoDisc)

Train trip, anyone?

If you're a member of Amtrak's Guest Rewards program, you can earn double points on all routes between March 22 and May 7, and triple points from May 8 through May 29.

The normal earning rate is two points for every dollar spent on Amtrak tickets, with a 100-point minimum for four one-ways; or 500 points for Acela Express trips between selected cities.

So in a best-case scenario, a Washington-New York Acela trip during the month of May would earn 1,500 points.

On the award side, a free one-way Amtrak trip, on "special routes," is priced at 1,000 points, and goes up from there, to as much as 50,000 points for a bedroom on a trip spanning three geographic zones. more»

Travelers packing up convertible

Even in today's hyper-competitive hotel environment, Hyatt's newly announced "Big Welcome Back" promotion is about as good as frequent-stay incentives get.

During the promotion period—March 26 through June 30—Hyatt Gold Passport members can earn a free night or 5,000 bonus points after every two qualifying stays. There's no limit to the number of free nights that can be earned, but they must be taken between April 1 and August 31. There are no blackout dates.

The offer requires that Gold Passport members register, indicating their choice of free night or bonus points. The registration page should be live later this week—look for a link from the Hyatt Gold Passport homepage. more»

Credit card on keyboard (Photo: Index Open)

American and Citibank co-promote the AAdvantage-affiliated credit cards by offering cardholders discounts on award tickets.

The discounts are route-specific, and change quarterly. And since second-quarter discounts can be booked now, for travel between April 1 and June 30, they're worth a look.

There are four types of consumer AAdvantage credit cards available to U.S. residents: Platinum and Gold, both offered in either Visa or MasterCard versions, and two American Express-branded cards, the Select and regular.

Holders of the more expensive Platinum and Select cards save 15 percent on first-class round-trips, paying 42,500 instead of 50,000 miles. And they save a hefty 30 percent for coach round-trip awards, paying 17,500 instead of 25,000 miles. more»

Frontier planes at the airport (Photo: Airbus S.A.S. )

If you're a member of the loyalty programs of both Midwest and Frontier, keeping track of the differences between the two programs will soon be easier. And longer term, any remaining discrepancies may be rendered moot.

In the run-up to what may eventually be a full merger of the two airlines, changes are being made to bring their mileage programs into closer alignment.

Of course, faced with such a reconciliation project, there are always hard choices to be made: which of two conflicting policies to adopt, which to override?

In the case of the latest changes, there are a couple of moderately positive changes. But where it matters most, the choice was to impose Midwest's less generous award-pricing policies on Frontier's program. more»

Virgin America tail (Photo: Virgin America)

The subject line on Virgin America's email earlier this week was an attention-getter: "Announcing Our Newest Elevate Partner ..."

Another improvement to Virgin America's Elevate program?

So far this year, Virgin America has adopted a significantly more consumer-friendly points-expiration policy; added a mileage mall to allow Elevate members to earn points for purchases at more than 150 online retailers; and tied up with Hilton, awarding Elevate points for stays at more than 3,400 hotels throughout the world.

The newly added partner: the Morgans Hotel Group. more»

Traveler walking in the rain (Photo: IndexOpen)

The Oscar-nominated film, "Up in the Air," has focused a lot of attention on the rarified upper end of the frequent flyer world. There, bathed in silky-soft light and hushed by ultra-plush carpeting, George Clooney-ish road warriors plunk down arcane membership cards that gain them entry into super-secret clubs where they enjoy perks and privileges normally reserved for sheiks and dictators.

In real life, Jim Kennedy was just such traveling royalty.

As a high-level corporate executive, he traveled far and wide on the company dime, racking up the miles and points that go with that high-flying lifestyle. When not on the road, he drove a BMW, lived in a Southern California condo, and collected fine wines.

Now, at 46 years old, he's unemployed and homeless, living on a $5-a-day food budget, and burning through his cache of more than 1 million frequent flyer miles and points to spend his nights in less-than-luxe hotels. more»

Boy looking at an airplane through terminal window (Photo: Mikael Damkier/iStockphoto)

There are many, many promotions. But there are only a few really, really good ones.

In this monthly roundup, we highlight the five most lucrative offers (or categories of offer) currently available to members of airline and hotel loyalty programs.

1. Winter and Spring Hotel Offers

The two-year-long flood of hotel offers continues, extending the longest period of sustained promotional activity in memory. While the torrent of offers appears to be abating somewhat, there are still plenty of promotions worth taking advantage of. Among them: more»