By:  Cacinda Maloney

Points and miles: When I started this website, my intension was to make it a miles and points blog, one that teaches you how to make and spend them.  After only a few short months, I realized that was not my passion.  My passion was to make them and use them but not teach anyone about how that is done, mainly because it is so complicated and not something I enjoy to write about.  Instead I have turned this website into a blog about travel, destination travel, “Value luxury” travel.  It suits me so much more.  I still use points and I still use miles, but I am like you, always collecting them and trying to maximize my value out of them.

Here is a series of posts regarding miles and points, you should realize that some of this material may be dated, since it was written in mid 2012, but that the basic jest of it is accurate.  Let me know if any links are broken are no longer accurate by emailing me at pointsandtravel@gmail.com


Post #1: Getting Started  for Beginners 101 (Part 1),

Post #2:  Getting Started for Beginners 101 (Part 2), 

Post #3: Getting Started for Beginners 101 (Part 3),

Post #4:  Getting Started for Beginners 101 (Part 4)

Getting Started  for Beginners 101 (Part 1)

  • Sign-up for loyalty programs. Sign-up for frequent flyer programs and hotel rewards programs.  I recommend signing up for loyalty programs either as you need them (because you will be utilizing that company’s services) or when they run a good promotion for new members who sign-up. Always check for promotions before signing up by doing a Google search.  Tip:  If you are a family and will be the one primarily managing everyone’s frequent flyer accounts and hotel award points, then I recommend signing up for each program for each family member. For tips on managing this, see Points and Miles Part 2.  I manage our family of four accounts, so you need to be organized and keep a “FAMILY TRAVEL INFORMATION” spreadsheet with everyone’s number and pass codes on it.  I keep a printed out version with me at all times while traveling.  Also, “yes” sign up accounts for your kids (even a two year old, they grow up fast and they should be doing some traveling too!).  You know the main airplane players, but here are some that offer points just for joining:
    Aeroplan (Air Canada) 1,000 Miles for joining and completing your first flight
    Aegean Airlines 2,000 Miles for joining
    Alaska Airlines 500 Miles for joining and completing your profile
    American Airlines 500 Miles for joining and Referencing Promotion Code GO2AA
    Amtrak 500 Points for joining and completing your first trip Within 90 Days
    Czech Airlines 2000 Miles for joining
    Virgin Atlantic 1000 Miles for joining and taking your first flight in Economy Class
    (2000 Miles for Premium Economy / 3000 for Upper Class)
  • SMALL BUSINESSES:  In order to earn a 5,000 Delta point bonus, your eligible company/small business can enroll by November 30, 2013 and then have an employee fly within the first 60 days of enrollment.  For this you can sign up at Delta.com/SkyBonus and be use promo code: AXOPEN13 (limited time only).
  •  Sign up to get airline and hotel emails (mailing lists).  I always watch out for emails when they are offering bonuses for purchasing miles or sharing miles among accounts.  Most all airlines also have credit card affiliates with their programs which is an easy way to earn extra miles.
  • Think about your travel goals. Inexpensive travel is fantastic, and you don’t always have to know how you are going to use your points in order for them to be valuable to collect, but when you are first starting out it is often much easier to have a specific travel goal in mind for your miles and points than to just seemingly collect points at random. For example, if you want to go to Europe from the USA and you want to stay at a high end hotel for several nights, you aren’t going to focus on Southwest Airlines (a small airline carrier that doesn’t go to Europe) points to get there. You may want to focus on United or American Airlines miles for your flights.  The type of points you need to get to Southern California  from some other state in the USA will be different that the points you need to get to Europe or Australia from the USA. Spend some time looking at airline and hotel redemption miles and point spend amounts to see how many points a flight or night at the hotel will cost you. Tip:  As you go along collecting and redeeming points, over time, you will have visited a large portion of your dream list.  So eventually the points will take you where they want to go, in other words,  there are times when I just search for the dates we have available for 4 award tickets to a million places we might “want to go” and eventually one will work with our dates and so we will go there!  We just never know where we might end up, but the adventure is always fun!
  •  Track your rewards using AwardWallet.com. Once you start earning points in multiple programs, it can be hard to keep track of everything. I highly recommend using AwardWallet.com to help make keeping track of everything easier. Award Wallet can not only track the rewards you have in various programs, but it can alert you to when the points will expire and can also store your passwords so that you can log into many of your programs with just the click of a mouse.  It support American Airlines, but for say Southwest Airlines or Wyndham Rewards, you will have to go in individually and log in with each of  your pass codes. Heard this promo code will help you get an upgrade on Awardwallet.com:  1sttimeusersawplus  but I don’t know for sure, so let me know it if does or doesn’t work.
  • TIP:  I always keep a master list of all account numbers and pins or pass codes for each family member. (I get some sort of referral for this link to awardwallet, but I would use this service regardless of the referral.  It really is that good!
  • There are many ways to start collecting frequent flyer miles and hotel points.   The quickest and easiest way to rack up tons of miles and points is by obtaining rewards credit cards.  This is especially lucrative for Americans, Canadians and Australians.  However, that is not the only way to collect points.  I will write a separate posts on other ways to collect miles and points, so stay tuned for this in Part 4.
  • Pay attention to bonuses and promotions. These can come from your rewards credit card companies or hotel loyalty programs.  Most major hotel and airline programs run promotions at various times throughout the year.  Airlines and hotels often come out with promotions several times per year, and those promotions can sometimes be lucrative.  One example might be a hotel run, where it is worth it to make a reservation for the night at a given hotel (even if all you do is check-in and leave) when the hotel is offering a 50,000 points bonus for the night or to fly to some place for the day and return (mileage run) when the airlines is offering double miles on a particular flight.

Since the quickest and easiest way to rack up tons of miles and points is by obtaining rewards credit cards, let’s talk about that first.

  • Check your credit scores and credit reports .  However, before you decide if that route is for you, it is important to get a handle on your credit situation. You can obtain one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually from annualcreditreport.com. I also recommend signing up for  Credit Sesame. It is free and it is a way to monitor your credit daily and/or monthly.  There is no “magic number” for a credit score, but if your credit score isn’t at least 700, I would not recommend applying for rewards credit cards until you can bring your score up.
  • Obtain a few good rewards earning credit card:  I recommend getting a few good rewards-earning credit cards.  I would start slow, as you don’t need a lot of credit cards to get started.  Two good rewards cards that come with a good sign-up bonus would be good to get started.  The best offers change regularly, but a card that has been around for awhile and keeps its value is the AMEX Starwood card for starters.  Also, a sign up bonus of at least 50,000 miles/points of any card would be a great card to begin with.  This typical bonus of 50,000 airline miles is the equivalent to about $1,000 in flying credit (depend on how you use the miles).  Your GOOD credit, and maintaining your GOOD credit, can be a great asset to earn literally millions of frequent flyer points.  *See Points and Miles Part 3 and Part 4 before you begin.
  • This will come later, once you get a credit card, but most likely, you will need to meet the minimum spending requirements for the credit cards you select. Most, but not all, rewards credit cards come with minimum spending limits in order to get the sign-up bonus. Be sure and check the requirement to achieve the reward they will give you and follow that closely.  If they say you need 5 purchases within a 30 day time window, then you need 5 purchases within a 30 day window, not within 31 days and they are sticklers for this kind of thing, so read the T & C and know what is expected of you to receive the miles or points.
  •  Shift your every day spending from cash/debit cards to your rewards credit card. This isn’t for everyone, but many people can successfully shift the majority of their daily spending (groceries, cell phone bill, insurance payments, gas, etc.) to a rewards earning credit card. That way you are meeting minimum spending requirements and earning rewards for virtually everything that you purchase. In general, I do not charge things that charge an extra fee to use a credit card (such as a mortgage), but I do charge virtually everything else, they key is to pay it off at the end of the month.
  • Once you have enough miles and points for your desired trip, redeem them.  . Don’t just sit there and let them collect dust, get out and use them to go on an adventure.  Over time, miles and points generally only go down in value, so use them.   Earn them and use them…then earn some more!

Now go to Points and Miles Part 2