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Winter Is Peak Season for Frequent Flyer Bonuses

Winter may be off-season for travel but it’s high season for earning airline miles and hotel points.

For those who participate in airline programs, this is a particularly rewarding period to earn miles for dining. And for anyone planning to check into a hotel over the next few months, there are multiple opportunities to bank more miles and points for those stays.

More miles for dining

In recent years, one of the most consistently generous mileage payouts has been through the airlines’ dining-for-miles programs, all of which are operated by Rewards Network. Last year, diners could easily earn 10 miles for every dollar spent, including tax and tip, at thousands of participating restaurants.

For 2008, the typical earning rate has been scaled back to a more modest five miles per dollar spent. But the following four special offers ratchet the earning rate back up to appetizing levels. And the bonuses are even better when combined with a separate bonus for submitting restaurant reviews. All offers require pre-registration.

Through March 31, American AAdvantage members can earn 250 bonus miles for every qualified dine of $25 or more, including tax and tip. The bonus is open to Online and VIP members only. (VIP dining status is awarded for completing at least 12 dines during the calendar year and qualifies the member to earn five miles per dollar spent at most participating restaurants.)

Here’s how the miles would add up for a $25 meal. Assuming the member has VIP dining status, the base earning rate is five miles per dollar, so the $25 check nets 125 miles. Next, there’s an additional 250 miles from the promotion. Then there’s an extra five miles per dollar spent for completing a restaurant survey within 60 days of the qualifying dine. And finally, assuming the meal is charged to a credit card that awards miles in American’s program, the diner earns 25 more miles at the one-mile-per-dollar rate. The total: 525 miles for a $25 meal. That’s a hefty 21 miles per dollar spent.

Members of the Delta SkyMiles program can earn a 2,000-mile bonus for completing $250 or more through March 31. The bonus can only be earned once.

Through March 15, United Mileage Plus members will be rewarded with 500 bonus miles for every $100 spent on qualified dines, up to a maximum of 10,000 bonus miles. The offer is limited to Online and VIP Dining members.

And through March 31, US Airways Dividend Miles members can earn 1,000 bonus miles after completing $250 in qualifying dines. The bonus may only be earned once during the promotion period.

Hotel stays are more rewarding

Among the special hotel offers in place for winter travel are major promotions from two of the largest hotel chains, Marriott and InterContinental Hotels.

Through May 15, Marriott Rewards members can earn 5,000 bonus points (registration required) for every second paid stay at participating Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Courtyard, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn, and SpringHill Suites hotels, up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus points during the promotion period. (Some current Marriott Rewards members will receive personalized offers that are somewhat different.)

And through April 30, Priority Club Rewards members can earn 4,000 bonus points or 1,000 bonus airline miles on every second qualifying stay at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites hotels, up to 40,000 bonus points or 10,000 bonus miles.

A number of smaller hotel networks are offering extra miles for stays through their partnerships in airline programs.

American AAdvantage members can earn triple miles (1,500 instead of the normal 500) for qualifying stays at participating Swissotel hotels through March 31. To earn the bonus, bookings must be made through Swissotel’s AAdvantage page.

And members of the Delta SkyMiles program can earn triple miles for qualifying stays at 36 Grecotel and Classical hotels in Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia through June 30, and double miles for stays at Chateaux & Hotels de France through April 9.

For those who prefer extra status to extra points, members of Hyatt’s Gold Passport program will qualify for elite status twice as fast based on stays through the end of March at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt Summerfield Suites hotels. The offer does not apply to stays at AmeriSuites and Hawthorn Suites hotels.

Finally, while not a promotion per se, it’s worth noting a new Hilton HHonors program policy that took effect on February 1. Members of the HHonors program no longer have to consider blackout dates or capacity controls when redeeming their points for free stays.

So while Hilton customers may not earn more points, the points they do earn have more value because they’re more readily redeemable.

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