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The Ultimate Guide to Loyalty Programs

Now, what if I told you that you can travel around the world for very little money?

You will probably think I am crazy! Sure, this is what I thought a few years ago just when I found out that there is so much you can do with loyalty programs.

I mean we all know about them, we get asked to sign up and provide our email for discounts, loyalty points and all sorts. Most of the time, we never do anything with them. Unless of course you book that upcoming economy flight and you start looking for ways to upgrade to the dreamy business class. 🙂 

So here is how it works. You can definitely use and upgrade to business class, as a matter of fact, I have flown more than 10 times this past 3 years in business than ever before! And I have never paid full price.

Loyalty programs work! You just have to know how to make them work for you and your life.

Now you might be wondering why the long speech ?! Well many people don’t believe it is possible or they don’t believe they work and that is ok. In this blog, you will find the best ways to make these work for you as a Muslim traveller. Yes, we are a little different when it comes to loyalty programs too since we need to be careful with riba.

It can be confusing, it can be stressful and it can be “too much work” but if you want to travel more and pay less then it is totally possible.

Yes, it does have a learning curve but I try to make it as easy as possible for you here on the site.

What is possible with Miles & Points

 

Anything is possible with miles and points and travel hacking. Dream holidays and staying in five-star suites are possible for paying only fractions of the cost.

You can read my reviews of:

Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah Hotel

Hyatt Capital Gate Suite

All these amazing hotels cost hundreds of pounds per night and I received them for free or for a fraction of the price.

 

DIY Umrah For Less

10 Must Know Hajj Tips for an easy and spiritual Hajj

I think by far my greatest achievement is helping people have amazing Umrah with loyalty programs for a fraction of the cost. My own Umrah in the last 10 nights in 2015 had a total cost of £20,000 which was in business class and included five-star accommodation. The real out of pocket expenses for two people was £2,000!   

But I am not the only person who has made this a reality. Many of my readers have had the opportunity to put everything into practice and go for a DIY Umrah without breaking the bank.

My students at my DIY Umrah course have amazing results that they can use over and over to go to Umrah for less. 

Anything else you want to experience. The hotel reviews below show you what is possible on points. Both properties were costing hundreds of dollars per night (£500) and I received them for less than (£100). This is just a few examples of what is possible.

You can read my reviews of:

Hyatt Regency Makkah

Hilton Towers Makkah

Anything else is possible as well when you plan it properly and you have a strategy to achieve it with miles and points. The saying, the world is your oyster is definitely true.

 

What are Miles & Points

Miles and Points in a general term referred to when talking about loyalty programs. Miles are usually the airline points you receive whether by flying or by using an airline-branded card for shopping.

Points are referred to a hotel or other loyalty programs but they work on the same principle. You earn points by staying at a hotel or by using a branded credit card for your shopping.

What are Loyalty programs

Many brands have programs to give you incentives to shop or travel with them. The more you travel with Emirates, for example, the more points you accumulate which you can use for a free upgrade to business class or a free flight.

Basically, companies want to reward their most loyal customers for travelling with them again and again. Competition is fierce and they need to keep you with them. They can give you perks such as free breakfast, free upgrades to your flight, lounge access in the airport for a relaxing trip or upgrades to suites instead of a regular room.

Now why we call this hobby travel hacking is because there are ways to cut down the requirements and enjoy these perks faster and for less money.

For example, Hilton Gold which gives you free breakfast in their properties requires 25 nights to stay with them, but there are ways you can bring this down to 4.  This is the essence of travel hacking.

 How you Earn & Spend these points

Many times the confusion for new people starting in this hobby is the fact they want to travel somewhere but don’t know-how. This is because we usually talk mostly about the redemption of points rather than a collection of points.

This miles and points hobby can be easily broken into two.

Collecting points: Which means that you spend for example for your expenses and you pay with a point-accumulating card. This way depending on how much you spend you earn an equivalent amount of points back. With certain credit card sign up bonuses, you can earn more if you spend an x amount in 3 months. This way you can get to your goal faster.

Redeeming points: Once you have accumulated enough points for a trip you wish to take you can redeem those points and book your hotel or your flights.

 What are the best cards

There are many options when it comes to collecting points. The best option for me and the most Muslim-friendly will be American Express Gold Card. The reason for this is that it’s a charge card and not a credit card. So you must pay it every month and you can use it as a debit card.

The card is available in most countries and it comes with some great perks. Once you collect enough points you can transfer those for flights and hotels.

You can read more on the card here 

See how you can achieve your first trip for (almost) free here

Every large chain and airline have a credit card that gives you points when you shop. There are of course other ways to accumulate them faster as well.

What are loyalty program cards?

These are cards designed by a company to provide you with points for every £1 spent. Many times they are issued by banks in association with the loyalty programs.

For example, You can earn 1 Avios mile for every £1 you spend in your Tesco store for grocery shopping or petrol.

This way you don’t always have to fly British Airways to collect points thus helping you collect more miles for your dream trip faster.

The same principle applies to any other card and option all depending on what you want to achieve.

 Which are the best chains?

Loyalty programs work best for big international hotel chains, such as Hilton, Sheraton, Intercontinental etc and for international airlines. Usually, they are the ones who have the ability to offer incentives and to make them as lucrative and interesting for their customers. Many times the offers and opportunities of how you can spend these points are in luxurious environments making it very attractive.

On MuslimTravelGirl.com I cover and always keep up to date with the sales, promotion, program changes of the most Muslim-friendly chains and programs. I cover those properties who are great for Umrah and dream Muslim holidays.

Also read: Best Properties for Umrah in Makkah 

Many hotel chains are more than one hotel brand under its umbrella. When they run offers they also run offers for all their brands or something for a specific brand. For shortage on the name, they are called by the big brand umbrella.

When you earn miles you can earn miles from all of these brands and then use them for a specific brand you want.

 Below are some of the brand hotels you will find here:

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree Hotels by Hilton, Hampton Inn by Hilton, Canopy, Waldorf Astoria, Embassy Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations, Hilton Garden Inn & few more.

IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) -Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental Hotels, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo & few more

Marriott Hotels, Ritz Carlton, Courtyard, JW Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Executive Apartments etc.

Hyatt Hotels – Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Ziva & more

  Glossary

I have created a “glossary” for you to understand the terms used on this website and other loyalty program sites. Sometimes reading terms you don’t get can be frustrating. I have been there and can’t tell you how many hours of annoyance it would save me.

Positioning flights

You will read this term on the blog quite often. Position flight is a flight you take in order to start your trip from another country.

For example, I live in the UK. I have found a cheap flight from Paris to New York so I need to get to Paris to start my trip. The flight I will take from London to Paris is called a positioning flight.

Watch this video here: How to save money on flights 

Error Fare

An error fare is what the terms really says, it is a mistake that happens when an airline forgets to add something to the ticket component. This happens more often than you would imagine but these don’t last very long because they get pulled by the airline. I do publish some of these error fares I find on my social media, so make sure to follow there and take advantage of them.

I have flown on a ticket from New York to Europe and Tokyo for £130 per person, so this is real!

Note of Advice

 

The loyalty points blogosphere is very heavy on credit cards and interest, sometimes I consider a lot of the things a grey zone. Here I share the best options you have for a more moderate use without the fear of getting into “haram options”.

As Muslims, we should definitely be more cautious. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy some of the perks that come with this type of travel hacking.

I believe that my MSc in Islamic Finance is a catalyst to knowing how much you can push to make these work for you without getting into the “grey zone” and that is why MuslimTravelGirl is the best choice of reading when it comes to Muslim friendly travel hacking.

Some more articles you can read below: 

Using Avios in the USA

Your Almost free holiday

Best Rate Guarantee hotels options

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