Pretty much every mode of travel will have some sort of rewards program, including trains, rental cars, and cruises.
Your travel entertainment may also have an associated rewards program, such as Audience Rewards for Broadway shows.
If you’re a member of a museum or aquarium, check to see if they are part of a reciprocal program.
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Most of the travel rewards talk out there centers on a few specific programs. For instance, the rewards programs associated with travel rewards credit cards get a lot of coverage. As do their transfer partners, which consist of the most prevalent hotel and airline brands.
But the world of travel rewards programs is actually so much larger than a few big banks or popular brands. There are a ton of smaller travel rewards programs, aimed at specific types of travelers, that can be just as rewarding as their more mainstream counterparts.
Before you hit the road — or the skies — take a look at some of these niche travel rewards programs to see if they may add value to your next trip.
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1. Audience Rewards
If you’re a fan of Broadway — or Off-Broadway, or opera, or cabaret — this program is for you. Audience Rewards offers members the ability to earn and redeem ShowPoints for tickets to all of the most popular productions (and the ones that are less popular, too).
How many points you earn varies a lot by the particular show. At minimum, you’ll earn 2X ShowPoints per dollar on most tickets. Some shows also have bonus ShowPoints, with some offering up to 2,500 extra points per ticket.
You can also redeem your ShowPoints for tickets, with the option to use only points or a combination of points and cash. Only select shows offer award tickets, however, and costs vary quite a bit. At the low end, you could see The Book of Mormon for just 4,500 points. At the high end, you’ll be forking over 25,000 points (or 15,000 points and $120) for each ticket to Sweeney Todd.
2. Amtrak Rewards
Although the U.S. rail system pales in comparison to pretty much any other developed country, you can still have a pretty interesting journey when you travel across the country in an Amtrak train. What’s more, that journey can be rewarding. Amtrak has its own rewards program — aptly called Amtrak Guest Rewards — through which you can earn rewards for every train trip.
Even if you don’t travel by train that often, even a single trip may be worth joining the program. They have a ton of different redemption options, from train tickets to hotel stays and even gift cards for popular retailers.
(Don’t forget that the rewards you earn through the program are separate from any you’ll get with a rewards credit card. So be sure to pay with a card that gives you extra points for travel purchases.)
3. Casino rewards programs
Whether you’re headed to Las Vegas or hitting Atlantic City, if you like to gamble, then a casino rewards program may be worth joining. Most big casinos have their own program, including:
MGM Resorts M Life
Wynn Rewards Red Card
Venetian Resort Grazie Rewards
These programs will reward you for both your gaming activities, as well as any spending you do on eligible hotel rooms, dining, entertainment, and spa services.
The perks you receive will vary depending on the program and your elite status tier. But they can include everything from discounts on slots to priority access to services and events to free cruises.
4. Cruise rewards programs
We love travel rewards programs for the ability to earn free travel. But what if you prefer to sail the high seas instead of fly? These cruise rewards programs may be your answer. Some of the most popular programs include:
Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society
Carnival Cruise Line VIFP Club
Princess Cruise Line Captain Circle
Norwegian Cruise Line Latitudes Rewards
Disney Cruise Line Castaway Club
Celebrity Cruises Captain’s Club
Most programs offer points based on either number of cruises or how many nights you travel on the ship. Unlike other programs, though, you won’t redeem your points. Instead, the points are how you earn your way up the status tiers.
Benefits will depend on your status tier, but they can include a lot of valuable perks. For example, you may enjoy exclusive onboard activities, priority boarding, or even complimentary laundry service.
5. Rental car rewards programs
Unless you’re hitting a big city, rental cars are virtual necessities for domestic travel in the U.S. So it can make a lot of sense to join the loyalty program for your go-to rental car company.
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
National Emerald Club
Each program operates a little differently, but they offer similar benefits. For one, you can usually redeem your rewards towards free rentals. Plus, you’ll earn your way up the status tiers. Higher status can unlock a lot of perks, including free car upgrades and faster checkouts.
If you have a premium travel rewards card, it can be worth checking out your benefits page. Many top travel rewards cards come with complimentary elite status with one or more popular rental car programs. (Some cards also come with free rental car insurance!)
6. Museum, zoo, and aquarium reciprocal programs
Alright, so this one isn’t about rewards programs, per se, as you don’t earn or redeem rewards. But it is something that can save you money on your travels, so it’s worth a mention.
Many museums, zoos, aquariums, and other cultural sites, have reciprocal programs with other similar organizations. These partnerships give you access to free or reduced-price admission to other sites in their program.
For example, if you are a member of a museum that is part of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM), you could visit any participating museum for free (or at a discounted member price). You would also get discounts at the gift shop and on ticketed events.