If, like me, you don’t have unlimited money to travel, you might want to learn how to make the best use of miles and points to travel for free or cheap. Here are the two challenges:
- Collecting a bunch of points/miles
- Knowing how to optimize those points/miles when using them
Today, we’ll focus on the first item. I’ll give you a few different options, and you’ll be on your way!
The biggest source of points/miles is credit card signups, so we’ll start there. Don’t be discouraged if the multiple credit card strategy doesn’t work for you, we’ll discuss other strategies later.
Can anyone do this? Here’s a quick test:
- Do you have a good credit history? I’ll talk more about credit later. Make sure to follow the blog!
- Can you handle credit cards and avoid the temptation to get in debt? You should be able to pay them at the end of the month.
They way it works is the following:
- Sign up for a credit card with signup bonus
- If approved, you have X days (usually 90 days) to meet a minimum spend (you have to actually use the card and meet a certain quota- we’ll also cover some tips on that later).
- After meeting the minimum spend, shortly the points/miles will be deposited on your account.
- DO NOT KEEP A BALANCE. Pay the cards in full each month. Free miles are not free if you rack up debt and high interest fees.
- Wait 11 months, use the cards in your daily life; refer to #4.
- Decide if you want to keep the card (most have an annual fee) or you can cancel the card and skip the fee (most cards give you first year free).
Sounds complex? Don’t worry, it’s not. Some advanced topics can get more involved, but you don’t have to be an expert to use the miles/points.
So which credit cards should you get? I’ll give you a few suggestions, you can do as little or as much as you feel comfortable doing.
I’ll start with a trick question. Do you have a favorite airline or a favorite alliance? Many airlines belong to an alliance, which lets you redeem miles from one airline in another, as long as they belong to the same alliance. More on that later.
Easy question, right? You might already have a favorite airline! Well, not no easy. See, each airline has different rules to redeem miles. Maybe you have a favorite domestic airline, but their international redemption rules are not favorable and you want to travel internationally. So it becomes a chicken and egg problem. You need to learn the rules of all the airlines, before choosing which airline you want to collect miles from, and then choose which credit card you want. Well, I’ll skip that step for now. I’ll suggest some cards that are multi purpose. Later, you can decide how deep you want to get, and if you keep reading you’ll learns which are the best cards for you!
Below are two suggestions. Pick one, and go for it! Don’t forget to meet the minimum spend within 90 days!
CHASE Sapphire Preferred (link): Why? this is one if the best general purpose cards you can get. It has a generous bonus, and it collects points. Chase calls them Ultimate Rewards points. The benefit is that these points are transferable to several partners, so you are not tied to a specific program. You can transfer to several airlines and hotel chains.
$95 annual fee, fist year free. Must charge $3,000 within the first 3 months.
Amex SPG (link): Why? Similar to the Chase Saphire preferred. This card is SPG branded (Starwood Hotels), but these points can also be transferred to several partner airlines.
$65 annual fee, fist year free. Must charge $5,000 to the card within the first 6 months.
Do you have a favorite airline? They probably have a credit card. The redemption may not be great, but if you fly a lot with them, having the card might get you some additions perks (free carry-on luggage, priority boarding, extra miles when you use the card, etc), so it might be worth looking into it.
Want to know which cards I got? I’ll tell you my story later.