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I remember when I first started out the Miles & Points game, it was quite overwhelming. I did not know where to start and I had no clue how/where to redeem the airline miles and hotel points for travel. If you are in the similar situation that I was in, don’t worry! It appears to be overwhelming at first, but once you get the basic concepts of miles and points, you will be on your way to fly for free or stay for free at the hotel on your next vacation. Well, maybe it’s not completely FREE, but you will save a lot of money on travel. When you become more familiar with this hobby, you will be flying in Business or First Class, stay in 5 stars hotels and resorts before you know it!
No more making excuses that “it’s too expensive to travel!” Travel smarter with miles and points. This guide will walk you step-by-step on how to do that as a beginner.
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Sign Up For A Loyalty Program
Every time you spend your hard earning money on flights, you can earn miles on those flights with the airline. Each time you stay at a hotel that has a rewards program, you can accrue points by the amount of money that you spend there. You cannot collect those points if you don’t sign up for their loyalty program in the first place.
If you fly with United Airlines then sign up for their frequent flyer loyalty program. It’s completely free to join. Whenever you take United flight next time, you simply provide your frequent flyer number and the miles will be automatically credited into your United’s account. Delta, Alaska, Jet Blue, etc. all have frequent flyer program that you can join free of charge. You don’t have to do all that at once now, but next time you fly with a particular airline, make sure to sign up for their frequent flyer program and start earning miles.
The same thing with hotel stays. MARRIOTT, HYATT, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Quality Inn, even Super 8…. all have their own rewards program. The trick is, you just need to know what hotel falls under which hotel program and then start signing up for that hotel’s loyalty program. For example, Holiday Inn’s rewards program is not Holiday Inn program, it is under InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) program. Quality Inn is not Quality Inn program, it is actually under Choice Hotels program. Super 8 falls under Wyndham Rewards program, so on and so forth. Believe me, it’s a lot to learn at first but once you start doing this every time you book a hotel stay, you will become familiar with these rewards programs. Another trick is that you must book direct with the hotel chain in order to earn eligible points on your stays.
I like to keep a list of those rewards numbers handy on my phone. It’s a way for me to keep track of all those loyalty programs. However you choose to keep track of those loyalty program numbers, it’s completely up to you.
With airlines, you can book with third party such as Orbitz, Expedia, travel agents, etc. and you can still earn miles. All you need to do is provide your frequent flyer number when making the reservation or afterwards. This, however, is not the case with hotel programs. As I mentioned above, you must book direct with the hotel in order to earn the hotel points. In other word, if you book hotel stays with Booking.com, Orbitz, Hotels.com and other third party travel agencies, you will not be able to earn hotel points.
Sign Up For A Credit Card
This is the most important piece of the puzzles for miles and points travel. It is the main step to make this all happens with miles and points travel.
The secret is, I am telling you to sign up for a credit card that will give you bonus points just to sign up, get approved, and meet the minimum spending requirement to receive the bonus points. What you do after that with the credit card is your personal decision. Getting the bonus points through credit card’s sign-ups is the fastest way to earn enough points for travel.
Before proceeding with this step, you need to understand that credits play a very important role in our financial matters. I like to advice people that if you cannot handle credit cards, then this is not the hobby that you want to get in.
- If you are late making credit card’s payment, then this is not for you.
- If you have a tendency to spend more money than you can afford, then this is not for you.
- If you have collections or bankruptcy in your credit report, it’s better to wait for awhile before applying for a new credit card. However, if you get approved you still need to be a responsible credit card holder moving forward. If you cannot be, then this is not for you.
- If you are considering purchasing a home through a mortgage or re-financing your home in a near future, then hold off on applying for the credit card. This hobby is small, but getting you home is much bigger than that.
Which Credit Card To Get For A Beginner?
- How big is the card’s welcome sign-up bonus points?
- What can I do with those points?
- Are the points flexible or I can only use those points for a specific airline/hotel?
- Is there an annual fee? Does it waive for the first year?
- If there’s an annual fee, is it worth holding on to it?
For example, say you have 50,000 bonus Chase points, you can redeem those 50,000 points as credits back to the balances on the credit card known as cash back. It is equivalent to $500 dollars. So let’s say you purchase a flight ticket for $500 on that credit card, you can then use those points to pay back that $500. In the end, you owe nothing. However, I do not recommend that as it yields very poor value in return. Consider the following options instead.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card gives 25% more in travel redemption. What this means is that, when you purchase the flight through Chase Ultimate Rewards website, for the exact same $500 flight ticket, you will be using only 40,000 Chase points instead of the 50,000 Chase points. You basically use points in lieu of money to pay for that flight. This shows a 10,000 points saving. Your points will always worth 25% more every time you purchase airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards website.
Another option with 50,000 bonus points, you can transfer those points into United airline miles at 1:1 ratio. So you will get 50,000 United miles and that’s enough for 2 round-trip economy tickets in the United States. If that’s not what you want to do, you can also transfer those points to HYATT, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and MARRIOTT to redeem for a free stay. Keep in mind that, transferring points to miles creates the best value in return. Most hotels require too many points for a free stay, so it is difficult to get multiple night stays.
- You have an eligible credit card that has ability to transfer points like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
- Chase partners with the program. For instance, you cannot transfer those points to Delta SkyMiles because Chase does not partner with Delta Airlines. Similarly, if you hold an eligible flexible points earning American Express Cards, then you can transfer American Express points to Delta miles because American Express partners with Delta.
Flexible points earning credit cards are my favorite. For those that are interested in Airline Credit Cards or Hotel Credit Cards, you will be surprised that they have several of those credit cards out there with a great sign-up bonus as well. The perks that come with airline credit cards such as free check bag, priority boarding, club access are pretty good. The perks that come with hotel credit cards such as elite status for room upgrade, free breakfast, lounge access, and earning bonus points during stay are also pretty good. With a good use in mind of those points for your next vacation, getting a specific credit card for airline or hotel makes sense.
Meet Minimum Spend
- Do you have a medical bill? Majority of hospitals take credit card as payment.
- Do you foresee any upcoming big spend on medical reasons, eye Lasik, tooth implants, furniture, holiday shopping, etc.?
- Purchase gift cards at your favorite restaurants, electronic and clothing stores, etc. those gift cards don’t expire, you just need to make sure to remember using them next time you eat or shop. Online gift cards are also good ones. Since we are on the traveling subject, airlines also sell gift cards and so do hotels. Buy now and use later.
- Buying a car? Ask the dealer if they take some credit card payment. I personally had this experience that the dealer was willing to take $5,000 max for cash down payment.
- Phone, Cable TV, Internet …. contact the company and arrange prepayment. You will pay for them anyway, so prepay and don’t need to worry about those bills for awhile.
Enjoy Travel on Points
This is the most basic and fundamental in points and miles hobby. As the time goes by, I assure you that you will get yourself familiar with this hobby. Follow these steps and more importantly don’t give up! I’ll be creating more articles on these guides to help you through and hopefully one day you are able to take advantages of the values that miles and points provide for travel. If you are able to redeem points on your next vacation, enjoy it. The process of earning and redeeming those points do take effort, and therefore you well deserve it!