Getting Started

As a newbie, getting started earning airline miles and hotel points can seem difficult and seem overwhelming. However, if you follow these steps below your journey to being a points nerd will be well on the way.

1. Consider your personal Travel Goals

The first thing I always suggest to a newbie getting into the points and miles hobby is to consider you OWN travel goals. Your goal may be fly your family of four to Europe, visit Australia, or take a bachelor party trip to Las Vegas. Do you want to travel 3-4 times a year, travel frequently for work, or stay in Orlando with the kids for less. For example, a family of four primarily focused on domestic travel when be more interested in cheaper low cost carriers as Southwest Airlines and their Rapid Rewards program. Likewise, someone planning for a honeymoon or vow renewal may be looking to splurge and find business class airline seats to Paris. In this specific example, they may want to focus on United Airlines and Star Alliance partners to find those award seats.

2.Credit Report

Know your FICO Score and review your credit report several times a year. Furthermore, this is good financial practice outside of the points hobby. You need to know if there is anything on your credit report that could be hindering your chances of getting a good interest rate on a house or car. Having a good credit score, typically above 700, will qualify you for the best credit cards. Note, Chase Bank implementation of the infamous “5/24” rule will usually override even a perfect credit score. Applying and getting approval for credit cards with sign-up bonus is single handily the best way to accrue large sums of points and mile. However, make sure you resolve and negative items on your credit report before applying for credit cards. If you need assistance with receiving a copy of you credit report, I recommend annualcreditreport.com. You will receive one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually.

3.Open Free Airlines and Hotel Loyalty programs

Next, open up a free account with the major airline and hotel loyal programs. Please, Please, Please do no you the same           username and password for all your accounts.

AirlinesLoyalty Program
Alaska Airlines  Mileage Plan
American Airlines  AAdvantage
Delta Air Lines  SkyMiles
Frontier Airlines  EarlyReturns
Hawaiian Airlines  HawaiianMiles
JetBlue Airways  TrueBlue
Southwest Airlines  Rapid Rewards
Spirit Airlines  Free Spirit
United Airlines  MileagePlus
Virgin America  Elevate
Emirates Airlines  Skywards
Etihad Airlines  Etihad Guest
Air Japan  ANA Mileage Club
All Nippon Airways  ANA Mileage Club
Japan Airlines  JAL Mileage Bank
Japan Transocean Air  JAL Mileage Bank
Cathay Pacific  Asia Miles, The Marco Polo Club
Air France  Flying Blue
Lufthansa  Miles & More

The top hotel reward programs are:

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards + Ritz Carlton Rewards
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • Best Western Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Hyatt Gold Passport

4. Strategically apply for credit card offers

After you have assessed you travel goals and ensured your credit score and report and in great shape, I recommend applying for a solid rewards card with a sign-up bonus. I want to be totally clear, Do Not apply for credit cards if you cannot meet the minimum spend requirements, not able to pay your credit card bill off in its entirety, or if you are susceptible to buying stuff you do not need. I would suggest starting with a transferable points credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex EveryDay Preferred card.

5. Meet Minimum spend requirement

To receive any sign-up bonus you would have to meet the minimum spend (usually between $1,000 – $5,000) within the typical 90 day mark from account opening. Keep in mind this date is from account opening or approval date, not the day you receive the card.

6. Redeem miles or points

Last but not least, once you have received your points or miles in your loyalty account now it’s time to redeem those points. In order to redeem your  transferable points you can purchase travel in the respective rewards portal like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards. If you decide to go this route, you can expect an experience similar to Expedia or Orbitz.com. The other option for redeeming transferable points to actually transfer them to the transfer partners. For example, Hyatt and Southwest Airlines are transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards. So, by using a Chase credit card and earning Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer UR points to Hyatt Gold Passport and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and book hotel nights or flights.