Topguest travel app review: Check in and earn more airline and hotel loyalty points

Are you the type of traveler who checks in on Foursquare when you’re at the airport or your hotel? If so, your social media addiction can now translate into extra loyalty points, thanks to the free Topguest travel app.

Topguest rewards your Foursquare or Facebook Places check-ins by linking your hotel or airline loyalty programs with your social media activity. Nothing is posted publicly without your permission, so you can reap the rewards without worrying about divulging your whereabouts.

While in San Francisco for Thanksgiving, I tested out the Topguest app, which has expanded since its summer debut.

After downloading the free app, I was able to add my membership numbers for Virgin America (25 Elevate points for each check-in to a Virgin America terminal, clubhouse or ticket counter) and Hilton HHonors (50 points for each check-in at a Doubletree). Don’t know the numbers by heart? I was able to easily copy and paste the loyalty numbers from account statements in my e-mail inbox. Once your accounts are linked, you can just check in on Foursquare or Facebook Places like you normally would.Kimpton Hotels are another Topguest partner — you can earn an InTouch loyalty credit after your first check-in at any Kimpton hotel, restaurant, or bar, but you need to enter your loyalty number by visiting on a computer. Unlike the other hotel loyalty programs, the app doesn’t currently let you enter your Kimpton number from a mobile device. (I had to e-mail the support desk to figure this one out — at least my questions were promptly answered even over the holiday weekend.)

Other hotel loyalty programs include Wyndham Rewards and Priority Club Rewards (50 points for check-ins at an InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, or Candlewood Suites). Repeat visitors to luxe hotels like the Standard may earn “elite travel perks” like free drinks and spa passes, according to the website.

So far I only saw Virgin America listed as an airline partner, so it’d be nice if the Topguest program eventually expanded to JetBlue and other major carriers.

Though checking in is just one more thing to remember to do when traveling, using the Topguest app is also a relatively painless way to supplement your loyalty program account balance.

The Topguest app works on the iPhone and Android. Points are capped to one check-in per person per day.

[Photo by Amy Chen]

Hyatt Hotels launches first branded credit card

Hyatt Hotel customers will soon have a new way to earn rewards. The hotel company and Chase Card Services announced the launch of Hyatt Visa credit card. Use the card once and Hyatt members will receive two nights at any Hyatt anywhere in the world, redeemable within one year.

According to the terms, the Hyatt Card will include zero foreign transaction fees, three Hyatt Gold Passport points for every US$1 spent at a Hyatt property, no blackout dates and 15% bonus points for Platinum members. The card carries an annual fee of US$75.

“To further Hyatt’s mission of providing authentic hospitality, we have made significant enhancements and adjustments to our Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program over the past two years to make it best-in-class. The Hyatt Card is another logical step in deepening relationships with our guests and welcoming new travelers into the fold,” said John Wallis, global head of marketing and brand strategy for Hyatt, in a press release.

Club Epoque offers loyalty programs for boutique hotels

You want your loyalty points AND a stay a chic and trendy boutique hotel? What in the world are you thinking?! You’re thinking ahead, my friend, and thanks to a new program by Club Epoque, you can have your loyalty points and your boutique bedroom.

The newest hotel loyalty program from the Epoque collection allows each club member to earn 6 percent of the pre-tax room price toward your account (called “the bank” for members). Once you accrue $50 in bank, you can start applying your earned dollars toward a new reservation.

First thing is first, you must sign up to be a member. Then, every time you make a reservation on, your reservation will end up on your personal profile page where you can track your dollars earned. You can also buy more “money” whenever you want, you can gift your bank to others and you can buy a gift certificate for yourself or someone else.

Like many loyalty programs, there are additional benefits of being a member. You’ll get free WiFi in all hotels, and priority status for early check-in and late check-outs. Epoque reps more than 300 boutique properties in its roster. Among our favorites: The Lenox in Boston; The EPIC in Miami; Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans; and the Dream Hotel in New York.

Summer reminder: keep track of your mileage and points accounts

When on vacation this summer, pay close attention to your mileage and points accounts – despite all the advances in reservation technology, hotels, airlines and rental car firms regularly manage to “forget” crediting your account.

Especially when you are enrolled in promotions, getting correct credit for your stay or flight is very important. Here are some simple tips to be sure you get what you deserve:

  • Always make sure to enter your account number when booking
  • Make sure your account number is listed on your boarding pass and/or reservation email
  • If you change flights, seats, room or car, be sure your account number carries over
  • Always keep copies of your boarding pass and hotel folio if you need retroactive credit
  • Check your mileage account regularly for discrepancies
  • Add your frequent guest and flier accounts to a note on your (smart)phone
  • Sign up for an online mileage tracker like Pageonce or MileTracker

Even if you are not a frequent traveler, hotel and flight credits can add up fairly quickly, and getting credit for missed flights or stays can be tricky if you wait too long.

Are you planning a mileage run? Four reasons to rush to the airport

There are only a few weeks left in 2009, and frequent travelers across the country are staring more intently at their mileage statements than Santa does at the naughty/nice list. The stakes are high: miss the elite cutoff, and a year of upgrades, accelerated check-in and other perks disappear. For passengers who see gold or platinum status levels within reach, year-end “mileage runs” can make a great investment. Pay for a cheap flight, even if it is just for a night or a same-day return, and use this benefit for the next twelve months on upgrades and services that would cost a fortune otherwise.

With the low prices airlines are offering these days to bring passengers back into the cabin, the return on your investment in a “mileage run” is higher than ever. But, it’s not all to the flyer’s benefit … there’s an upside for the airlines, too. They get loyalty.

Randy Petersen, founder of, a website for frequent travelers, told USA Today, “Whenever someone doesn’t requalify for elite status, they become free agents. And in tough times, airlines don’t want to gamble that some of their best customers will leave.” He puts the number of elite-level passengers at 7.3 million of the 210 million passengers who belong to at least one loyalty program.

So, the airlines are rolling out the red carpet for mileage runners. Here are four mileage run deals to kick around with the end of the year approaching.

1. Through December 15, 2009, American, Continental and United are doubling the elite-qualifying miles they give their passengers. So, a shorter mileage run goes a little further.

2. In the middle of next year, Continental and Untied are going to give each other’s elite passengers unlimited upgrades (based on availability) on domestic flights — and premium coach seats, too. So, if you hit the right status on either airline this year, you’ll gain even more for your efforts.

3. Starting in the spring, Delta will let you roll over extra elite-qualifying miles and credits you don’t need to reach a status level to the next year. So, you don’t have to worry about starting from zero when January 1, 2011 rolls around.

4. Delta is also adding a new top level — diamond — that will include even better perks, including free Sky Club membership.

For the frequent business traveler, especially, reaching a high elite level involves so much more than bragging rights. It defines your lifestyle for the next year — from how early you need to get up on Monday morning to your mood when you get home Thursday or Friday night. But, there are better measures to watch than up-ticks in frequent flyer accounts. My friend and former coworker from the road warrior days put it best: “The only thing better [than accumulating airline and hotel status levels] is watching them expire.” Yeah, nothing tops getting off the road for a while when you live that life.