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TravelThese loyalty programs offer free benefits just for signing up

These loyalty programs offer free benefits just for signing up


I’ve heard it dozens of times: “I rarely travel with ___, so I haven’t signed up for an account with them.”

Juggling dozens of user names and loyalty account numbers can be a hassle. Thus, people don’t sign up for rewards programs they don’t expect to use regularly.

Unfortunately, you may be losing out on valuable benefits with this strategy. That’s because many loyalty programs offer free benefits to basic members — no elite status required. Whether it’s avoiding a long line or avoiding fees, these benefits can save time and money during your travels.

Here’s a look at the loyalty programs that benefit everyone with a membership number.

Airline program loyalty perks

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Many airline programs offer discounts on checked bags and seat selection fees for basic members. You may also move ahead of nonmembers in the line when calling customer service or putting your name on the standby list.

Additionally, some airline programs offer a valuable feature to basic members: the ability to combine points or miles. Pooling your points or miles with family and friends allows you to maximize your award redemptions, and most programs offering points or miles pooling don’t require elite status for this benefit.

Related: How to get airline elite status

Here are the benefits you can obtain just by creating a free account with these airline loyalty programs:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage: Get Group 6 boarding (out of nine groups) as a basic member. Basic members earn 5 miles per dollar spent.
  • British Airways Executive Club: Get free seat selection up to 24 hours before departure (except when flying basic economy). Basic members earn 6 Avios per British pound spent and can pool Avios with other members of their household.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: Get priority check-in 48 hours before departure instead of 24 hours before. You can cancel your ticket free of charge within 24 hours after booking. Basic members earn miles based on distance flown and cabin class.
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles: Free Wi-Fi on most domestic mainline jets, with international and regional aircraft coming by the end of 2024. Basic members earn 5 SkyMiles per dollar on all fares in main cabin or above; basic economy tickets do not earn miles.
  • Emirates Skywards: Use chat services (such as WhatsApp and Messenger) via Wi-Fi for free throughout the flight, rather than paying $2.99-$5.99 per flight. Basic members earn miles based on distance flown and fare type, and you can pool your miles with immediate family.
  • Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles: Get 1,000 bonus ShebaMiles when you set up a loyalty account.
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: Members can pool points with friends and relatives, plus you can choose a perk like early boarding or 5,000 bonus points when you earn 10 tiles (elite status starts at 50 tiles). Basic members earn 1 point per dollar on Blue Basic fares and 3 points per dollar on all other fares. You can double these points by purchasing your ticket through the JetBlue website or app, which provides a direct booking bonus of 1 point per dollar on Blue Basic fares and 3 points per dollar on all others.
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: Get free Wi-Fi during your flight (excluding Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft), plus discounts on baggage and seat selection fees. Miles earned depend on route distance and cabin class. There is no pooling program, but parents can transfer miles from their children’s accounts.
  • United Airlines MileagePlus: Basic members can now pool United miles with family and friends (only on United-operated award flights). Basic members earn 5 miles per dollar on all fare types, including basic economy.

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Hotel program loyalty perks

For your next hotel stay, you can access discounted rates and elevated earning rates simply by being a member of that hotel’s rewards program. You’ll also start accruing points and stay credits toward elite status after registering.

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You’ll also enjoy the following benefits as a basic member:

  • Accor Live Limitless: Enjoy priority check-in (only at Fairmont), complimentary Wi-Fi throughout your stay and waived fees for health club/sports facilities. You’ll also receive complimentary access to brand-specific benefits, such as complimentary access to BMW bikes at Fairmont hotels. Basic members earn 5, 10, 12.5 or 25 points per 10 euros spent, depending on the hotel brand.
  • Best Western Rewards: Get a status match if you hold elite membership with another hotel program. Basic members earn 10 points per dollar.
  • Caesars Rewards: Get an extra bet credit of $5 with Caesars Sportsbook during your birthday month. You’ll earn credits depending on your choice of games and bets, and you can earn 1 credit per dollar spent at participating hotels.
  • Hilton Honors: Enjoy waived resort fees on award stays, free Wi-Fi throughout your stay and the ability to choose your room when checking in online or in the app. As a basic member, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar at most brands (5 at Tru and Home2 Suites) and you can pool points with family and friends.
  • IHG One Rewards: Enjoy free Wi-Fi and 2 p.m. late checkout (when available). Basic members earn 10 points per dollar at most properties (5 at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites).
  • Marriott Bonvoy: Receive complimentary Wi-Fi throughout your stay. Basic members earn 5 or 10 points per dollar, depending on the hotel; a few brands earn 2.5 points per dollar.
  • Preferred Hotels & Resorts I Prefer: Early check-in and late checkout when available, space-available room upgrades and complimentary internet access. Basic members earn 10 points per dollar at most hotels; a few properties earn 5 points per dollar.
  • Sonesta Travel Pass: Enjoy complimentary upgraded Wi-Fi at all properties, plus a status match if you’re an elite member with another hotel program. Basic members earn 10 points per dollar at most properties (5 at Simply Suites).
  • World of Hyatt: Enjoy waived resort fees on award stays. Basic members earn 5 points per dollar spent at Hyatt’s portfolio of hotels, including its 700-plus new properties through Mr & Mrs Smith.
  • Wyndham Rewards: Get free Wi-Fi throughout your stay. For each qualifying stay, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar or 1,000 points, whichever is more.

Related: What are hotel and airline status matches, and how do you get one?

Car rental program loyalty perks

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Joining a car rental loyalty program provides one of my favorite perks: skipping the line and going straight to your car when beginning your rental. This is because these programs save your driver’s license information online, so in most cases, all you have to do is show your confirmation when you exit the lot and drive off. This can save you hours of time when renting during peak travel times.

This benefit is available upon joining most programs, as is the ability to save your rental preferences (such as car type) in your account. You’ll also enjoy the following perks as a basic member:

  • Dollar Express Rewards: Add your spouse or domestic partner as a free additional driver, plus you can choose any car in the same class as your reservation without an extra cost. Members earn 1 point per dollar spent.
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards: Choose your preferred car in your assigned section with Ultimate Choice, and add your spouse or domestic partner as a complimentary second driver. Members earn 1 Gold Plus Rewards point per dollar spent.
  • National Car Rental Emerald Club: Add any second driver to your rental for free, and choose from any car in the Emerald aisle at no extra cost if you have a midsize-vehicle reservation (in the U.S. and Canada only). Instead of earning points per dollar, you’ll earn 1 rental credit for each qualifying car rental; it takes 7 credits to redeem a free rental day (up to midsize).

Related: 11 common rental car mistakes — and how to avoid them

Bottom line

These are not jaw-dropping benefits. Basic members (those who’ve joined a program but don’t have elite status) won’t receive flashy perks like suite upgrades or lounge access.

However, you can receive valuable benefits from joining rewards programs. These range from complimentary Wi-Fi and waived fees to benefits during a hotel stay. Whether you’re saving time or money, it’s worth joining these programs before your next trip and adding your loyalty number to your upcoming reservations to enjoy these benefits.

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