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.
(Promotions are listed in alphabetical order.)
1. Fall and Winter Hotel Offers
Over the past two years, the hotels have launched wave after wave of robust bonus offers, creating the longest period of sustained promotional activity in memory. While that flood of offers appears to be abating somewhat, there are still plenty of promotions worth taking advantage of. Among them:
- Through February 18, members of the Choice Privileges program will earn triple airline miles or hotel points for the second and subsequent stays at Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, Ascend, MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge, and Rodeway Inn hotels.
- Through January 31, Hyatt Gold Passport members have their choice between two bonuses: one free night after every two stays, or 3,000 bonus points on every stay, starting with the second stay. Plus, every stay during the promotional period will count double toward earning tier status.
- Between September 15, 2009, and January 15, 2010, Marriott is reprising its MegaBonus offer: 2,500 points for the second and every subsequent stay at Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn, and TownePlace Suites hotels. Qualifying stays must be charged to a Visa card, and there's a maximum of 25,000 points that can be earned during the promotion.
- Omni is offering members of its Select Guest program triple American or United miles for qualifying stays through December 31.
- Through December 18, members of Starwood's Preferred Guest program can earn 500 or 1,000 points per stay, depending on the property, at most participating Starwood hotels. (Registration must have been completed by November 30, so this is moot if you aren't already signed up.)
- And through December 31, members of Wyndham's Rewards program can earn triple Southwest credits for every second stay at Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel Inn & Suites, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Wingate, and Wyndham hotels.
2. Bonuses for Holiday Shopping
With the holiday shopping season upon us, the larger airline and hotel mileage malls are offering bonuses for purchases at retailers participating in their mileage malls. A sampling:
- First, the most lucrative such offer, from US Airways. Through December 30, Dividend Miles members can earn up to 250 percent more miles for purchases made at more than 20 participating program partners, including FTD.com, Barnes & Noble, ShareBuilder, 21st Century Auto Insurance, Netflix, Bose, SkyMall, and the Dividend Miles Shopping Mall. The size of the bonus depends on the number of different partners members shop at during the promotion period. Make a purchase at one partner to earn a 50 percent bonus; two partners for a 100 percent bonus; three for 150 percent; four for 200 percent; and five to earn a 250 percent bonus.
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can earn double miles for purchases at 10 participating Mileage Plan Shopping merchants. There's no deadline shown.
- Through December 31, American AAdvantage members can earn double miles for purchases at 15 eShopping mall merchants, including Diamond.com, Foot Locker, Golfsmith, Hammacher Schlemmer, HP, JCPenney, Jos. A. Bank, Macy's, Omaha Steaks, Piperlime, QVC, Sally, Sears, Sunglass Hut, and ThinkPad. Also on offer: a $25 gift card after using a registered MasterCard credit or debit card to spend $250 or more.
- Members of Delta's SkyMiles program can earn up to triple miles at various SkyMiles Shopping retailers, including Harry & David, Barnes & Noble, Sears, and Kmart. Most offers remain in place through December.
- Midwest is offering members of its Midwest Miles program double miles for all purchases made via its mall, through December 31.
- Through December 31, members of the Priority Club Rewards program can earn triple points when shopping at Dell Home and ICE.COM, and double points at Athleta, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble.com, gap.com, gapkids.com, gapmaternity.com, Harry and David, The Home Depot, HP Home Store, Kmart.com, Macys.com, Nordstrom, oldnavy.com, OmahaSteaks.com, Overstock.com, Piperlime, Sears.com, Smartbargains.com, and Uncommon Goods.
- And United is offering Mileage Plus members more miles for shopping at any of 20 participating retailers, plus up to 2,000 additional bonus miles: 1,000 bonus miles for spending $500; 1,500 bonus miles for $750; and 2,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 or more.
3. Southwest's Winter Bonusland Promotion
Through February 15, members of Southwest's Rapid Rewards program can earn as many as 16 credits—enough for a free flight—by completing transactions with designated program partners.
For specifics, click on the link above and sign in using your Rapid Rewards membership number.
4. Three Free Flights From Spirit
The headline for Spirit's new credit card offer is an attention-getter: "Three free round-trip flights after your first qualifying purchase with the Free Spirit onyx World MasterCard."
Specifically, the bonus is 15,000 miles, enough for three off-peak award flights less than 1,250 miles each way, offered exclusively to cardholders for 5,000 miles per ticket. But even with the limitations, sign-up bonuses sufficient for three tickets are few and far between.
The card carries an annual fee of $69, waived for the first year. Cardholders earn one mile per dollar charged, and three miles for every dollar spent on Spirit tickets.
5. From US Airways: Buy Miles, Earn Miles
Through December 31, US Airways Dividend Miles members will receive a 100 percent bonus on miles bought, gifted, or shared, up to a maximum of 50,000 miles, not including the bonus.
The effective discount makes purchasing miles for a free domestic ticket (25,000 miles for $342.50) a decent deal, and purchasing enough for a business-class international ticket (80,000 miles for $1,030) a downright winner.