5 Easy Ways Students Can Maximize Points & Miles During College Interview Season
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
College interview season is in full swing at many universities across the country. Despite all the sweaty palms, awkward handshakes and confusing questions involved, interviews are an important milestone, offering colleges the chance to get to know their potential pupils and young people the opportunity to investigate the schools they'll be spending the next few years of their lives at. Here are five easy ways to make sure students are making the most of what'll likely be their first-ever business-related trip.
1. Enroll in as Many Loyalty Programs as You Can
This is by far the easiest way to maximize points and miles during the college interview season. Signing up only takes a few seconds and can even be done on your mobile device — in fact, some loyalty programs will even offer bonus rewards just for booking directly through their apps. Use your travel itinerary and this list to locate the airlines and hotels you'll be using during your trip, then create a free account. By signing up, you may even have access to special perks like complimentary Wi-Fi at hotels, priority check-in lines or sometimes, if you're lucky, sign-up bonuses similar to this recent promotion by Fairmont. Although your initial account balance may be small, rest assured it'll grow over time as you continue to travel, whether for business or leisure.
2. Enter Your Account Numbers Whenever You're Booking
Whether you're booking your flights or hotels online, through an app or with the help of a travel agent, making sure your loyalty account number is attached to the reservation is an easy way to ensure you'll be earning points and miles during your trip. Oftentimes, this will also lead to a more personalized experience, since, depending on the brand, you may be given a say in the type of pillows you prefer in a hotel room, where you enjoy sitting on the plane or how you'd like to be notified if your flight is delayed, among other details. If you forget to do this before you go, you can usually add your loyalty number later by speaking with a hotel or airline representative at check-in. Most airlines will also allow you to add your account number up to six months after completing travel, so it never hurts to ask, whether in person, online or over the phone.
3. Become an Authorized User on Someone Else's Credit Card
Just because students are new to the points and miles world doesn't mean they have to start completely from scratch. Ask your friends and family members about the kinds of credit cards they're currently using while traveling — depending on the nature of your relationship, they may consider allowing you to become an authorized user on their account. After paying a small annual fee (or, in some cases, none at all), authorized users are given access to a range of valuable perks including lounge access, travel protection and, in some cases, elite status. Higher-tier cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Platinum Card from American Express and Citi Prestige are ideal cards to get connected with, especially since they have such large annual fees and high credit requirements that most students probably won't be able to meet without some assistance. Keep in mind that most banks enable the primary user to set strict spending limits for authorized users as a precaution against overspending, which should help soothe the nerves of anyone thinking of adding you to their account.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Upgrades
There's always a chance airlines and hotels may be extra nice if you let the staff know that you're new to this whole "business travel" thing and are in town for a college interview — especially if you mention that you're excited to become part of their loyalty program. While doing so might only land you a hearty, "Good Luck," you never know and may suddenly find yourself being offered free drinks, hotel lounge access or scoring a free room upgrade. Airlines are typically pretty stingy when it comes to giving out free perks, but hotels tend to offer upgrades more frequently, especially during non-peak travel times, so give it the old college try just in case.
5. Do Your Homework Before Signing Up For Your First Credit Card
If you've spent any time reading this site, you know that there are plenty of ways to leverage points and miles to travel the world for free. You may be surprised to learn that discussing a strategy for doing so can often be a surprisingly effective conversation starter during an interview — not only will you earn some serious business travel street cred, you'll also begin to see which cards are favored by seasoned professionals in the college, or eventually the company you're interviewing with. As you do your research, start thinking about which perks you value the most, the different ways you spend money and what your personal travel goals are. TPG's Beginner's Guide is always a great place to start.
Best of luck and let us know in the comments if you've had any success with these tips!