Beginners Guide To Miles and Points: What’s Next?

Beginners Guide To Miles & Points
What’s The Point?
How Loyalty Programs Work
Credit Cards and Credit Scores
Types of Miles & Points
Identifying Your Travel Goals
How Alliances Work
Credit Card Strategy For Beginners
Earning Miles & Points
Hotels Matter Too
What’s Next?

Hopefully this has given you a general overview as to what is possible with miles and points, and how to get started.

To bring this full circle, remember the two couples we talked about earlier, who were planning a trip to Europe?

Given what we’ve learned, does it make more sense how they’d be able to fund a luxury trip for just a fraction of what they might otherwise spend?

If so, you have the basics down, and are well on your way to accomplishing your travel goals!

So What Is Next?

From here, you’ll want to keep collecting miles, learning about the various programs, and ultimately how best to redeem all these points! There’s a ton of vocabulary and jargon, and it’s okay if you don’t pick up on everything right away. We’ll post the best deals and opportunities here on the site, so make sure you’re subscribed to our daily newsletter, and are following along on on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

It won’t necessarily come together all at once, and does take some work.

The important thing is to keep on dreaming, strategizing, and collecting – one mile at a time 😉 .

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips.I have a family of four and we like to travel Africa. Since last time it cost us almost $10,000, we figured we would nor be able to go for another 3to 5 years, but I’m now hopeful we can do this annually.

  2. Hey Lucky

    I read the whole “Beginners Guide To Miles & Points” section; would reflect here.

    My travel goal is: I couldn’t care less about flying back and forth between continents on whichever airline class (what is the point of it, really?), however I am all in for ‘slow travel’ and long hotel stays.

    You entertained this idea, didn’t you? How did you put it into action?

    Here are two inspirations for you:

    1) http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/11/11/vagabonding/

    Video intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1q4QCJ5QH4

    2) http://www.amazon.com/The-Upgrade-Cautionary-Without-Reservations-ebook/dp/B005CI2IUA

    Interview with the author: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2011/5/12/125113/195/hotels/When_You're_Tired_of_Living_in_Hotels,_You're_Tired_of_Life_(Except_in_London)

    Now back to me: I am from Europe and I can confirm there are no hotel credit cards available in my country at all. But you also say they are not that worthwhile for stays, better to use your points on flights, but I can move on any no frills carries every 3 months or so to my next destination for slow travel. 3 months in one place at a time. The maximum you can usually stay without any visa. My style.

    You wrote you make ~1.000.000 miles a year. Even if you spent it all on hotel, 20.000 points give you a pretty mediocre hotel room night, your million miles give you 50 mediocre hotel nights a year at best. But you spend your miles on flights (best practice), not on hotels.

    How do you stay in hotels for the full year? As you stated, you usually don’t pay by your hard earned cash but by miles. I don’t want to look into your wallet but the numbers don’t really add up for me.

    Any chance to live my travel goals? You also run a consulting business, maybe you can upsell me? Or guide me to free resources more suitable to my situation? What’s next?

    Thank you for your work.

  3. @ John — I’m afraid there probably aren’t quite as many tricks as you’re hoping for. A vast majority of my hotel stays are actually revenue, and I just try to maximize promos. There’s no trick to earning points efficiently to live in hotels full time.

  4. @ Lucky

    “A vast majority of my hotel stays are actually revenue”

    As I have only read the beginner part; I have no clue what does it really mean in plain English.

    Thank you for your feedback.

  5. After reading your blog, I am very excited at the new possibilities for travel!
    I am just looking for the best way to travel for two people from the DC area, to Europe. Any suggestions on what cards to get? We do not need business or first class just the cheapest way to get there on points.
    Thank you for your informative blogs!

  6. Great Advice! We decided we wanted a Santorini trip last December. We joined US and AA using the respective cards each. We just booked First/Bus flights to Athens yesterday for 112.5(225 total)k each. All by using the Citi and Barclay rewards points! What would have been 2500.00 for economy only set us back 800.00 for First/Bus Class.

  7. I’m very new to this whole miles and points thing! I’m planning an Australia Vacation and I only have amex gold with 75k miles and Chase sapphire preferred and Ink totaling 76k points. What credit cards work best for me? I looked up AA and realized how redeeming miles ( if I have AA points) only qualifies me for economy. First class was not at all available for the entire November, Dec, Jan 2015-2016 and the business AA Saver changes to Hawaiian airline( Not sure if I have to open a Hawaiian airline card ?) I’ll be flying from San Francisco. your help is kindly appreciated.

  8. @ GPark — The points you have right now actually leave you pretty well positioned for such a trip. The only issue is that you’re planning fairly late for a trip in peak season, given that awards to Australia can be really tough to come by. Are you looking to book business class, or just the cheapest award possible in economy?

  9. I’d prefer Business class specially cause it’s a long flight but I’m open to Economy. I found lots of Economy seats on AA for November and December but nothing for January. I’m pretty flexible with my dates so I’m hoping to find something decent with my miles for airfare and hotel. ( I’m planning for applying for SPG CC as well) Thanks a lot for your help 🙂

  10. @ GPark — To be honest it’s going to be really tough to get to Australia in a premium cabin on miles in December/January unless you’re booking way in advance or close to departure. I’d say your best bet would be continuing to rack up Ultimate Rewards points, American miles, or Alaska miles.

  11. Thank you SO much. I’ll probably do the economy then. How about Argentina or Thailand for Mid January? thanks a lot again 🙂

  12. Brand new to this new points endeavor. Currently have discover, Amex Costco, citi thank you preferred. Just retired will travel occasionally. Spend most on food and gas right now. After reading way too much considering CSP, IHG, Marriott, Swa ( to get the companion pass) and Amex blue for 6x on groceries. Open to any suggestions. And does chase have a limit on cards or on time between apps.

    Thanks for any answers

  13. I love this blog and really appreciate everything you shared! Thank you. What kinds of reward cards would you recommend for a family of 3 to travel to Switzerland from San Francisco once a year?

  14. @ Andrea — Thanks for the kind words! Do you have any miles to start with? If so, how many and with which programs?

  15. @ Andrea — Are two of those three people able to apply for credit cards? In which categories is most of your credit card spend (dining, travel, groceries, gas, etc.)?

  16. My husband and I can. We have top credit rating. The third is my 17 year old son.
    Most of our spending is in gorceries, gas, home improvement, travel. Thanks for helping me with this!

  17. Lucky,

    My family, as many as 10, depending on price want to go to Europe to visit family. Our trip is scheduled for next summer, 2016. If we start now do we have time to acquire enough miles/points to have an impact or should we reschedule further down the road? We have been putting it off for awhile and keep making excuses, money excuses.

    I am hoping to employ some of your beginner tips to get started but to say it seems overwhelming would be an understatement. Any extra help would be great. We spend most money on grocery, dining and gas.

    Thanks,

    -Chris

  18. @ Chris — I would say yes, if you’re able to be super aggressive. If there are only two people who can take advantage of sign-up bonuses, or if you don’t have much of a budget to supplement the expenses with it will be tough though. You might also want to keep an eye out for great fare sales (like the $550 fares Ben posted this morning), as even good timing can reduce your costs significantly.

  19. Tiffany,

    Thanks for responding. I will continue to look into it and be as aggressive as possible. New reader and hooked.

  20. About 6 months ago I got a United Airlines card and got 50,000 miles to sign up. I’m planning on making a trip to Thailand within the next year. I only get one point a dollar though, should I jump ship on using that card?

  21. I read the beginners guide to points.Any tips on how to maximize on miles when an airline only allows to use your miles within a year subsequent to collecting them? I am based in the Netherlands, I usually fly KLM and other skyteam airlines, but I am never able to use my miles as they are expunged after a year or so with the flying blue card( I fly max three times a year. 1 intercontinental and twice within Europe) .. Your tips are more than welcome. 🙂

  22. I read your beginners guide but did not see any mention of combining all these credit card intro point offers to get airline tickets. I am about to spend about $30,000 in the next few months on 2 kids’ college expenses and want to open as many credit card accounts as possible to cash in on the points but would need to combine them to get family of 5 to Hawaii. Is it easy to combine Chase Sapphire, Capital One, American AAvantage, barclay MC and AMex Premier Rewards Gold to actually get airline tix?

    Thanks so much! Love your websites and I signed up for a couple of these cards straight from your sight.

  23. I was recently pointed in this direction by an older and wiser friend. Thanks for writing such a great and comprehensive intro guide! One question–I’m a student, and so I generally spend fairly little every year (typically a couple thousand or less). Does it make sense to get one of your recommended credit cards at all when I’m not paying living expenses like food and gas? Or should I open one or two (like the Chase Sapphire) so I can accumulate points and credit?

    Thanks!

  24. Hey Lucky,

    I’m new and just learning about the Hobby. I know you highly recommend the CSP, and in reality I will most likely end up getting it eventually. But I’m just curios why the Citi ThankYou Premier isn’t better in almost every category in your mind. Better sign up bonus for less money spent, 3x points on travel and gas and 2x on dining and entertainment, compared to only 2x on dining and travel with CSP.

    Am I missing something?

  25. Lucky,

    thanks for all this very helpful beginner info.

    I currently have the Chase Marriott card (due to the recent bonus offering) and the Ink Business. I am hoping to obtain the Chase Sapphire next month. Will lowering my limit on the existing two cards increase my likelihood of being approved for the Sapphire card? My concern is that they are all Chase cards and the amount I’ve bee approved for seems so high already.

  26. I live in Hong Kong, but still have a U.S. address that I use. Is it better to get some of the cards you mention from HK or from the States? I typically fly back and forth once or twice a year plus another trip to London and maybe some short haul flights in Asia. Thanks.

  27. Thanks for putting this out here. I Read through the entire set of articles and am curious abot what all I can achieve. I’m just a grad student as of now; I’m from India and I’ll be moving to Austria this week for my grad studies. We probably be there for about 3 years. In the mean time my girlfriend (who is a grad student in Switzerland) and I would like to travel around Europe and see as many places as possible. I’m not sure which cards we can apply for (and whether or not there are cards we can use to begin with) and how we an go about maximising our Euros! Any pointers you can provide?

    Cheers,
    Akshay

  28. Lucky,

    I am planning to travel to India with my wife and my daughter in Jan 2016. I have 270 K miles in Delta skymiles program. I also have American express Delta platinum card which I think is not that great of a card except it gives me a companion ticket. Could you recommend me a card that would add enough miles for us to travel to India in Business class. Any strategy I should use to book the ticket on Delta. I heard that skymiles program is one of the worst one while redeeming award travel.
    Any insight would be helpful.

    Thanks,
    Nitin

  29. Ben, what are your thoughts on purchasing mileage when your mileage loyalty program has a sale? Is it a good move?

  30. Hi Lucky,

    I have several of the cards you have mentioned – and have collected and used the sign up bonuses. What do you recommend doing with these cards after the bonus has been received? Do you close them, to reopen later on (is that even possible) – or do you keep them open and keep paying the annual fee?

    I’m trying to avoid a situation where 4 credit cards need to be renewed for a fee of ~$100 each.

    Thanks for your help! Freddie

  31. So, my company requires (largely) that I fly on United. But I sense you have a deep and abiding dislike for the carrier, and most of your tips and travel are centered around other airlines.

    Any suggestions for those of us relatively locked into United, which to be fair does go a LOT of places?

  32. After reading about you in rolling stone and your starter guide I did a personal 180, going from fear of traveling alone to a desire to hit 101 countries in a year. I don’t have others depending on me and your experience demonstrates that there’s at least a remote chance I can pull off this goal:
    Travel to at least 2 countries a week, fly first or business class, stay at 4-5 star hotels.
    Are there additional tools, strategies, resources you can advise? Does your consulting service or other business lend itself to taking me on as a client and advising? Thank you for being an inspiration and for all that you do to promote intelligent travel.

  33. Thanks so much for all the info you’ve put on this website! I’m extremely new to this idea of rewards. I am planning on taking a trip to Australia one year from now. I would like to fly business class this time as economy was brutal for me last year. There is just so much info I don’t know where to begin aside from becoming a a member of several programs. Which credit cards should I sign up for to be able to get a Qantas business class upgrade or ticket?

    Also, I have 5,000 points from United that I found randomly about to expire in a week…is there anything I can do to save them?

    Thank you so much!

  34. HI Lucky,

    I from Singapore. I’m gonna start this from scratch & I need recommendation of which credit cards, I should apply / sign up over here. I planning to travel to Europe end of 2016. Could you help me out? Thanks

  35. hey, cool tricks, listen I spend about 9 months of the year travelling in fact I dont even think of it as travelling anymore, I live on between 8-9 thousand usd a year (im from nz), I buy cheap air tickets and know how to look for them but dont employ any tricks, just flying when its cheap and knowing who has the cheapest routes, I dont even save my points because I only tend to use an airline if its cheap although I tend to use airasia and norweigian repeatedly so maybe thats silly of me.
    Anyway my question, when someone lives on a low income is it worth learning the significant amount of stuff involved that youre teaching or do you need to be spending more per year than I spend. Btw it is very possible to travel globally for less than 10 000 usd per year in case any of your readers think they cant do this, just aint first class. cheers, Guy

  36. Hi
    I am so new to the credit card world. PLEASE HELP, Im 30 y.o and currently working for Delta Airlines as a flight attendant so I get free flight benefits. I have an Amex from Penfed and recently got approved for AMEX Platinum card, I did it so I can have free access to lounges throughout the world. Any recommendations on other cards to earn points for hotels? I like to pay everything using my cards, currently have about 40.000 points with Amex @ Penfed. Any other suggestions?

  37. I live in Switzerland. Typically any credit card here costs the equivalent of 125 Swiss francs (roughly the same in euros or dollars) per year.

    Owning 5-10 credit cards per year, just to get mile benefits therefore is going to cost a minimum of 600 bucks or whatever, and could easily be twice that.

    Are the benefits of your system still there after factoring in the cost for the cards themselves? And how specific are your recommendations to the cards available on the US credit card market?

  38. Ihave 229 000 British Airways points which I accumulated over 10+ years. Have never used any of them. I also have Westjet $650 credit. Am going to Asia this winter and found a deal on Air Canada from Vancouver to Shanghai which was cheaper than trying to use BA miles! So now I also have Aeroplan. Can you please give me some suggestions on multiplying points and cashing in constructively. Any time I have tried to apply BA points to air travel, I have encountered unbelievable obstacles! Want to travel a lot in coming years – recently retired.

  39. Hey Lucky,
    Saw you on youtube and read the entire Beginner’s Guide. Have definitely caught the bug for this Hobby. I have an econ flight booked (from employer) LAX-HK this mid-September, returning late October. I really, really, really want to upgrade to Business Class for this long flight. I have 22k AA miles, will be qualifying soon for the 50k bonus on AA credit card, and will be applying for the highly coveted Chase Sapphire Reserve card tomorrow to get the 100k bonus. Any tips would be so greatly appreciated. I’ve been doing enormous amounts of research – and it seems to be tough to “upgrade” vs start from scratch with an award ticket. Even if I can get one way as business class, starting from scratch that would be amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience.

  40. Hi,
    The more i read Lucky’s newsletter the more i think i do it mostly wrong.
    Is there a service (paid for) that looks at your miles,loyalty programs and credit cards
    and suggests a plan to maximize the whole shebang ?
    I would not mind paying for such a master-plan

    Any help greatly appreciated. rudy

  41. Hey, I just read your whole guide (and a few more posts here and there in this blog and more) and have decided to get into the points game. I wanted to thank you for your awesome guide, it really does a good job of explaining how to do this for a total beginner.

    Anyway, now that I decided to get into the game, I am lost. I currently have some points on my AA account (I live in Dallas, the biggest airline right now is AA but they’re starting to open up to other ones) but I’m not sure where to start. Through reading various posts I think the SPG or the Hyatt would be the best card for me to open (I have a basic CashBack Card right now and that’s it) but I don’t know which, if either, I should open. I want to travel internationally more so it makes sense to get an airline card but at the same time I also travel domestically via roadtrips and the like. I am looking for a way to travel mostly internationally (business class would be ideal but that may take a long time to get there) and hopefully stay in at least 3-4 star hotels if possible (though certainly would love to have a better experience there as well. What would be your recommendation?

  42. Hello Lucky,

    I am not sure if you have time to read this lengthy inquiry but we are hopeful..

    Here’s our family goal, (fly to the Philippines 3 adults 1 infant and 1 6 years old) and use miles to go back and forth mnl-lax lax-mnl
    Is this possible for us? do we need to open a lot of credit to get the needed mileage? our planned trip will be in September 2018.

    I joined loyalty programs for my husband and I separately like the guideline says and just got approved for 1 chase sapphire for my husband.

    Is it wise to keep applying for cards as soon as we get the sign up bonus?

    Thank you so much for your guidance <3

    PS: We are travelling this June to Cancun, but I don't think we have enough time to get enough mileage for this particular trip 🙁 just earning mileage i guess..

    /Micah

  43. Can you compare the value of using the Marriott Rewards Visa Card vs the Starwood Preferred Guest card from Amex?

    Our company has an arrangement with Marriott, so I’m always staying at a Marriott property. Which Card will provide the most benefits? Average of 50 nights a year

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