What’s the best credit card? What airline should I fly? How many credit cards should I sign up for? Isn’t applying for credit cards going to hurt my credit score?
Getting started in mile and points can’t be overwhelming. There are so many questions. However, with a little bit of time and effort (and of course, reading this blog), we’ll have you at guru status in no time.
If I was starting at the beginning, these are the tips I wish someone would’ve told me…
Tip #1: Sign Up For Frequent Flier Programs
If you look in my email, you would see airline marketing emails from around the world. Have I ever flown on these airlines? Some. Do I plan to fly on all of them? Extremely unlikely. But by being enrolled in these programs, you receive communications about fare sales, strategic partnerships, and mileage bonuses which can ultimately take your points game to the next level.
Example: Just a few weeks ago, it was the Christmas season and who wasn’t shopping for presents? Well, if you’re going to buy presents, why not rack up a few thousand miles for completing the same shopping through a shopping portal? Most airlines have shopping portals (Delta, United, American Airlines, etc.), and they will give you, perhaps, thousands of additional miles for buying the same exact items that you were about to go to the store and buy. #easypoints
Tip #2: Take Advantage of Transfer Bonuses
Occasionally, banks will offer opportunities for you to receive a bonus for transferring points to a specific airline program (like THIS or THIS). For example, American Express will offer a 40% bonus for transferring your Amex points to Virgin Atlantic. All of a sudden 65,000 Amex points become 91,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles.
Interested in flying Business class, round-trip on All Nippon Airways (ANA) to Japan? That’ll be 90,000 (or 95k from the east coast). Yes, ROUNDTRIP!!!
Virgin Atlantic may not be one of the mileage programs that you are the most familiar with, but they are definitely worth paying attention to.
Tip #3: Get Points For Every Transaction
I repeat…EVERY TRANSACTION!
You know you’ve reached the pinnacle of points obsession when you’re strategizing how to get points for every transaction, even when you “can’t use a credit card.”
Can’t pay tuition with a credit card at your kid’s school? Think outside the box. There’s a way!
Can’t use a credit card to buy Girl Scout cookies? There’s always a way!
Similar to the shopping portals in mentioned in Tip #1, if you’re going to pay tuition, buy Girl Scout cookies, or complete any of your every day consumer purchases, why not get rewarded (aka points) for those purchases? These were purchases that you were going to make anyway.
Tip #4: Understand the Value of Your Points
Points are not always equal. 50,000 airline points in one program can be worth more than 100,000 points in a hotel program. Do not focus on the number. Understanding the value will keep you from wasting them (hopefully).
For simplicity, many airlines (and credit card companies) will offer you a cash value towards a ticket at a rate of 1 cent per point (thus 50,000 points = $500). However, it is possible to extract far more value from these points.
For example, I exchanged 42,500 American Airlines miles for an amazing ~$2500 flight (READ ABOUT IT HERE). Many airlines/credit card companies will “value” those points at $425. But I was obviously able to extract far more value from those points.
Tip #5: Set Travel Goals
Confession: I have trouble with this tip. I always want to extract the most value from my points so I’m always looking for something “better” which leads to destination paralysis. It’s not a good idea to hoard miles. Over the course of this hobby, points have never gotten more valuable.
If you’re interested in going to your dream destination, find out how many miles it requires to go, and cash out as soon as you reach that number.
Tip 5(b): If it’s your dream destination, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
My wife and I flew ECONOMY from Miami to St. Kitts (MIA-SKB) using British Airways Avios. We paid 20,000 Avios + $30 each to fly roundtrip. You may laugh but the cheapest price for this route is ~$800 round trip. I would say that’s a great redemption. I arrived to beautiful white sand beaches like everyone else on my plane but the difference is I paid $30 while the person next to me on the plane paid $800. Ouch!
You will be amazed how fast points accumulate. When you consider the points you receive from your normal everyday expenses in addition to the welcome bonuses, you could be sitting in the lap of luxury in no time.
This game requires quite a bit of discipline but the rewards are phenomenal!
Rule of Thumb: As I always say, if you can’t pay off your credit card statement by the end of the month, DO NOT put the expense on a credit card. The interest and late fees will immediately erase the value of the points that you are accumulating.