The hardest part about miles & points


I was trying to think of a post topic so I asked my twin sister “What confuses you about how we travel.”  And she said “Pretty much everything after getting a credit card for the miles.”

Well..that includes a lot of random details.  So I decided to write a post outlining what I think the hardest parts of this hobby are, all the while linking to posts that should be helpful for a person struggling in that area.

Step 1.  Sign up for a credit card that earns miles.

Challenges:  Which credit cards earn what?

There are so many credit cards that advertise themselves as “Travel Rewards Cards” but not all travel rewards are created equally.  There are cards that earn miles for a specific airline’s frequent flyer program, (like the United card), then there are cards that earn bank points that can be transferred to a number of different frequent flyer programs, (like Chase Sapphire Preferred earning Chase Ultimate Rewards,) and then there are cards that earn points that can reimburse your purchases, (like the Barclay World Arrival Card).

For a bit more thorough investigation into which cards earn what, read this post about “what are these cards earning anyway?”.

Step 2. Reach the spend requirement for the credit card’s bonus

Challenges: How do you reach all these spend requirements?

There used to be ways that everyone could spend money on money.  For instance the U.S. Mint used to sell one-dollar coins for 1$, purchasable via a credit card.  In that day you could buy money with your credit, and use that money to pay off the credit card.  Pretty easy and better yet, easy to explain.  But now you can’t buy one-dollar coins with a credit card anymore.  So if you want to reach a spend requirement without spending your credit, well…you have to do a lot of research on your own because there’s not one thing that works for everyone.  Plus…even the things that do work are probably too fragile to post online.

For instance I do have this post about reaching spend requirements with the Vanilla Reload Cards and the Bluebird.  In fact, most bloggers were writing about that strategy.  Enough people were using this strategy though (not even just people in our hobby) that they finally decided not to sell Vanilla Reloads with credit cards anymore.

Now all I can say is that with enough trial-and-error-style research, you can find a strategy that works for you.

Step 3. Use your miles!

Challenges: How do you book a good ticket, without a bunch of fees?

Aha!  This is where Drew and I pride ourselves in being fairly knowledgable.  For one, we try to learn how to avoid fuel surcharges.  This can be as easy as sticking with United miles and American Airline miles (both airlines that mostly do not carry fuel surcharges onto award tickets).  However, you can avoid fuel surcharges with other miles as well.

If this concept is very new to you, I suggest starting with Drew’s post on the Master Guide to Alliances, Fuel Surcharges, and Frequent Flyer Miles.  You see, much of avoiding fuel surcharges has to do with strategizing which alliance partners you are booking your ticket with and to understand that, you have to understand what an alliance is and what it means for your miles.

If you’ve already got that concept down you can get more specific information from either of the following posts.  If you have British Airways Avios specifically, read this post on avoiding fuel surcharges with British Airways Avios.  And if you’re really really ambitious, check out Drew’s Master Charts to Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.  The latter is quite advanced, but can be very helpful.

As I mentioned first though, if you are a beginner who doesn’t want to mess around with strategizing partners when you book your award ticket, then avoiding fuel surcharges can be as simple as earning with United and American Airlines (though if you book a ticket on British Airways with your AA miles, you will have fuel surcharges).


2 Comments on “The hardest part about miles & points

  1. It seems on AA the best way to get to/from Europe is the US Airways flight PHL-AMS and/or any of the AA or Airberlin Flights to Germany. These ways avoid LHR and its departure taxes as well.

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