The intent behind this Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points is to introduce folks who are new to miles and points to the benefits of collecting miles & points, and using them to travel Big for free, or close to it!! Here, I am assuming that you have no knowledge of airline and hotel frequent traveler programs.
Both me and my wife participate in a number of promotions to earn miles & points, but the primary way we do it is by signing up for credit cards which are offering BIG sign-up bonuses.
Below are the Basics Steps for Every Beginner to get started on this path but first a Rule of thumb…
Rule of Thumb: Always Pay your Credit Card Balances in Full Every Month - You should always pay off the balances on Credit Card in Full Every Month. Most of these high mileage/high points credit cards have very high interest charges associated with them so pay off your balance in full every month or else the costs will surpass the benefits. Responsible use of credit also ensures your credit score will remain healthy.
Step One: Check your Credit Score
As I say on my front page under Disclaimer – your credit is your most important asset, it is therefore very important to care and protect it. You can do that by getting your free annual credit report and making sure that all of your accounts are in good standing and all the information listed is correct.
In order to get approved for any of the best cards, you would need a credit score above 700 and there should be NO negative items on your credit report, hence it is important to know your credit score before moving on to the next step. You can use any or all of the resources listed here to find your score.
If your score is above 700 and there are no negative items on your credit report, then go to the next step otherwise you should work to improve you credit score.
Step 2: Decide which programs are right for you.
There are many programs to choose from, but I recommend signing-up for just a few programs initially that are convenient for you. You can always sign-up for the rest later on. For example, in beginning, I only enrolled in United Mileage Plus for Airlines as United had (and still has) the most flights to the places that I frequently visit (and has a hub in my home city). For hotels, I enrolled in Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) as the ability to exchange with other airlines was (and still is) very good with them.
Read my post on choosing the frequent flyer program
Once you sign up, make sure that you write down your account number, username, and password or alternatively copy into an Excel or Word document to help with next step.
Here’s the link to Top Frequent Flyer & Hotel Loyalty Programs. This is not the complete listing of ALL programs . But , it is a listing of Top programs that provide the best opportunities to earn and redeem miles & points.
Step 3: Manage your miles online - Don’t let miles expire.
As you sign-up for additional programs, it becomes important to track your hard earned miles & points to ensure they don’t expire. I use AwardWallet.com to manage all my mileage accounts in one place. It sends you weekly status about your mileage accounts and even alerts you if your miles are going to expire.
Also, Always fly on an airline with your Frequent Flyer number on the reservation, Stay at a hotel with your Rewards number on the reservation and always have your frequent flyer number or rewards number linked to your Car Rentals.
Step 4: Apply for the card online.
Choose the right credit card(s) – think 50,000 or more miles and points for a single card. Having right cards with mega sign-up bonuses is the easiest way to collect miles and points without actually flying. Between My wife and me, we earned over 1 million miles and points from the credit card sign-up bonuses itself. You should start here (to find out the current hot deals). There is no shortage of cards to choose from, and new offers keep popping up all the time, it helps to be aware of all the best offers. In beginning, I would suggest that you apply for that airline-affiliated card that is most convenient for you as per step 2 above.
Step 5: Eat, Shop and earn miles
You need to meet the minimum spending threshold before you can get the bonus miles and points. So start putting all your expenses on credit cards. NEVER pay anything with Cash, Check or Debit card unless absolutely necessary.
Once you meet the minimum spending requirement, be ready to see the BIG miles & points posted into your account. But the miles can take up to 8 weeks to show up on the account. In my experience, it’s usually next billing cycle after you have passed your minimum spending threshold but obviously every company and situation is different. Just keep in mind that if you are planning a trip and want to use those miles or point, you might have to wait 8-10 weeks from when you spent the money to when you those miles show up in your account.
There are more ways to earn miles some of which I list am listing here briefly and which I will be going into great detail over the next few weeks on this site…
Registering and participating in airline/hotel promotions for double flying miles, stacking hotel promotions, staying in multiple hotels on one trip to hit bonuses, etc.
Opening bank accounts (Citibank, Bankdirect, etc.) & Brokerage accounts (Fidelity, TD Ameritrade) for sign-up bonuses of Airline miles.
Various other promotions like getting insurance quotes online, filling out surveys, joining dining programs, subscribing Netflix, & much much more that pop up from time to time.
Also, so far we have only focused on earning those Miles and Points, and of course that’s just one half of the equation, the other half is Spending those miles & points and Spending them wisely to get the MOST out of them. Stay tuned as I will soon update this page with slick ways to redeem those …