Miles and points are one of many tools in the travel hacker’s arsenal. Most families think (erroneously) that travel rewards are only for the top 1%. Travel Hack Traveling Mom Dia Adams shares her 10 favorite miles and points tips to help you travel more for less.
Last year our family of four flew first class in lie flat beds from the US to Japan. We spent a month in hotels, mostly suites, in Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The total cost? Less than $5,000 using our travel rewards points. While using miles and points can be challenging, the work is worth every penny to us. Over the years I’ve earned and spent close to five million points (903,376 in 2015 alone) and have learned some miles tips and tricks I can share with you.
10 Favorite Miles and Points Tips and Tricks
- Set a goal before you start. More than a hack this is my single most important piece of advice as you can’t get anywhere if you have no idea where you’re going. Before you sign up for a rewards credit card or make any major decisions about miles or points think about your destination. The strategy you’ll use for earning miles to Disney is vastly different than that you’ll use to earn miles to Asia. You don’t have to get specific but you do have to narrow down the globe a bit.
- Keep it convertible. Once you’ve set a goal you’ll be raring to go. It will be much easier to have a flexible rewards program as opposed to a credit card that earns in only one program. With a convertible credit card you’ll collect points that can flex as you do.
- Both you and your spouse can qualify for a signup bonus. Many people cut their rewards in half by not having each spouse maintain their own accounts.
- The airline program that makes the most sense for you may belong to an airline you never fly. For instance, I LOVE British Airways Avios- EXCEPT for flying British Airways. I use them to fly American in the USA as their program is distance based. Recently I got from DC to Indianapolis last minute (which would have cost me $350) for 15,000 Avios.
- Autopay bills with your rewards card. This is both for simplicity and for racking up points faster. You only pay one bill for insurance, electric, cell phone, cable…most of your monthly bills will let you pay with a credit card without an additional fee. If you pay $2,000 a month in bills you’ll earn enough for a round trip ticket in the US on most airlines with a card that pays just 1 point per dollar.
- Portals are your friends. Most airlines and many credit cards offer you bonus points for entering e-commerce sites through their portals. Unfortunately, payout amounts vary daily- I like to use Cash Back Monitor which monitors the portals for you.
- Don’t Go Crazy. Rewards fever is real, folks! Start with one or two programs. Have some success. Then add a couple more. See below.
- Don’t Vendome your points. “Vendoming” has been the downfall of many a newly minted frequent flyer. If you get started down the rabbit hold of credit card rewards blogs you’ll quickly notice a “bloggers’ circuit.” I’ll save you some clicks: it involves flying first class on a Middle Eastern airline, an overwater bungalow in the Maldives, and staying at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris. I’m credited with coining the term “Vendoming” in reference to obsession with the bloggers’ circuit. Spend your points in a way that makes sense to YOU- not to check off a FOMO list.
- Buying points rarely makes sense. With the exception of US Travel’s annual Daily Getaways and IHG (Holiday Inn) points with 100% bonus points purchases are not a good deal. Points can be counted on to devalue over time. “Stocking up” on airline miles at 2 cents a mile makes about as much sense as investing in Zimbabwe dollars does.
- Know when to hold em: Certain destinations- Southeast Asia comes to mind– just may not make sense on points. When you can rent a house for less than $1,000 a month spending points is a poor value. Ditto if you need a large unit- many hotel rooms are not built for families. You may be better off spending your miles on airfare and using a site like Vacatia to rent a resort residence.
- – And know when to blow em: Hoarding isn’t just bad for houses- it’s bad for points, too. Sudden devaluations, changes in your goals or any number of issues can pop up to make your points less valuable in the future than they are today.
Tap Our Experts
Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad have many writers with extensive expertise in miles and points. Some I recommend following are:
- Frequent Flyer Traveling Mom Leslie Harvey
- Traveling Dad Richard Kerr
- Traveling Dad Joe Cheung
- Credit Card Traveling Mom Yvonne Jasinski
What are your favorite miles and points tips and tricks? Please share your travel goals- and your success stories- in the comments.