Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points


I’ve created this page as a way to introduce folks who are new to miles and points to the joys of collecting miles and points, and the cheap travel which is possible.

Emily and I pay a fraction of the retail cost to fly and stay in hotels.  We do this by collecting miles and points.  We participate in a number of promotions, but the main way we earn miles and points is by signing up for credit cards which offer large sign-up bonuses.

Collecting miles and points requires a bit of organization, but it is not rocket science (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it!).

Step 1 – Sign-up for miles and points programs

Sign-up for a few hotel and airline loyalty programs.  There are many programs to choose from, but I recommend signing-up for just a few programs initially.  You can always sign-up for the rest later on.

Make sure to copy and paste your account number, username, and password into an Excel or Word document to help with Step 2.

Step 2 – Manage your miles online

I use to manage our miles.  AwardWallet not only tracks Emily and my miles, but also our parents’ mileage accounts.  It is a free service, but with a small donation ($5 for 6 months) you get premium services such as alerts when your miles are expiring.

Simply sign-up for and enter in your username and passwords for your accounts from Step 1.

Step 3 – Credit card strategy & does applying for credit cards damage my credit score?

The easiest way to collect miles and points without flying is through credit-card mega bonuses (think 50,000 or more miles and points from just 1 credit card).

I earned over 1 million miles and points this year from credit card sign-up bonuses and my credit score is still over 700.  Credit cards are the easiest way to earn miles and points.  Your credit score does decrease each time you sign-up for a credit card, but the effect of that is small (less than 5 points), and over the medium to long term your credit score improves because of the increase in available credit.

If you are not taking out a big loan in the next 2 years (equity, house, student,  etc.) than apply for credit cards and build up a hotel point and air mile balance.  If you are applying for a big loan in the next 2 years, than I would recommend very few or no credit card applications so as to ensure that you’re doing everything possible to get your loan.

According to MyFICO, applying for credit cards reduces your score usually by 3 to 5 points per application, but banks look at other factors such as how often you’ve applied for credit recently when they evaluate big loans.  Much better in my opinion, to get that big loan first at the lowest possible interest rate, and then apply for credit cards.

If you do decide to apply for credit cards make sure to pay your bills off when they are due and to not pay interest.  Paying interest on credit cards is a losing proposition  – even if you manage to earn miles and points.

Even if you don’t want to apply for credit cards, I recommend getting 2 of my favorite credit cards which give you a lot of flexibility.  I do get a referral if you apply for these 2 cards, but Emily and I are very grateful for your support!

1) Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa – This is my favorite card and one of the very few cards which Emily pays an annual fee for.  Basically, you earn a 40,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 within 3 months, and double points for dining and travel expenses.  These points give you more flexibility since they can be transferred to different airline and hotel partners.

Here’s a link to my review of the card.

2) American Express SPG card – Another of my favorite cards and for which I’d pay an annual fee.  Here’s a link to my review of the card.

Step 4 – Eat, Shop and earn miles

Put all your expenses on a credit card and sign-up for programs which give you miles for dining.  Check EVReward for the best online mall to earn miles and points from.

To be continued…

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

618 Responses to Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points

  1. @ Darius,
    Can I apply for another Southwest Premier card if I just got one in May and got 50k point bonus? Seems the Southwest Plus is only offering 25k bonus right now and I don’t think I’d be able to get to 110k this year that way… Thoughts? Do you know a secret trick?

    Also, what other cards / bank do you recommend for another card application outside of Southwest?

  2. @josh – It should be possible to apply for a different version of the card. I suspect they will go back to 50K soon. I’d consider the United, Barclays Arrival, Starwood card etc.

  3. Hi, I’m a super beginner.
    I just heard about Walmart/bluebird account- reloading with Vanilla debit visa/ gift card and T-mobile checking account – reloading with something card…..
    However, it wasn’t complete information so there are lots of missing information parts.
    Would you mind informing me about both Bluebird and T-mobile checking accounts and its way to reload them by my credit card to build up miles, please?

    Thank you so much.

  4. @Sophia – You used to be able to load Bluebird at Wal-Mart with Vanilla Visa cards, but that is no longer available. Currently, you can load them at Wal-Mart with Simon Mall gift cards, but do a small test first, because it may not last long!

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  6. Hi

    I was just wondering if you normally cancel your subscription with credit card companies which charge you an annual fee after you have made use of their initial offer or do you keep them anyway? If so, won’t it the annual fees add up after some few years?


  7. Hi Darius,

    I currently have about 800K Chase points and about 200k Starwood American Express points. Want to take the family 6 of us to Hawaii Summer of 2015 from NYC area to HNL. Want to take them first class. United seems impossible now a days getting saver awards. Love the EWR to HNL lay flat beds but at 90k each way I would hate to do it but might have to. Couple of questions.. 1. I thought I read some place I could transfer my Ultimate Rewards miles to another program and then get that nonstop united flight to hawaii for less then what United charges.. Do you have any information on that. 2. Is there another airline out of the NYC area that flies to Hawaii.. with the lay flat beds besides United.. or a better first class. Thanks….

  8. Daraius,

    Do you solely use business credit cards for your business or do you also sign up for personal cards with good features and use it for your business?
    I have a bunch of personal cards already and I would like to use my Chase Freedom for business purposes exclusively from here on out. I wasn’t sure if this is possible or not. I would link it to my business checking account of course.


  9. @andreas – I usually wait for 9 to 10 months and then decide if the annual fee is worth the benefit of keeping the card (like a free night etc.)

    @Karen – That was singapore air, but they will only have access to United Saver awards, not the full price award.

    @Daniel – I occasionally mix expenses, but try not to make a habit out of it.

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  11. Hi,
    Are there any other ways besides having to sign up for credit cards (which will for sure get denied being what my temporary situation is =(. ) any suggestions? My two young children are living with their dad in Honolulu Hawaii for hopefully a short period of time, and I am in desperate need of seeing my precious angels. Im in the Bay Area of California. Please any advice will GREATLY appreciated! Please will you email me? Im just not sure if I’ll remember to come back to this particular site. =) Thanks a bunch. God bless!

  12. @Jen Moore – Check out The Flight Deal for cheap flights from the Bay Area.

  13. Jaya Himatsingka

    Hi..i m from india.which credit card and airline credit card should i sign up for maximum advantage?

  14. Jessica Harris

    Hi Daraius – With all that going on with Bluebird and the Vanilla cards can you please tell me the current way to pay things like a mortgage and others with a credit card. I have a Sapphire card and I got a Bluebird account but it seems thats not the best way anymore. How can I use a credit card to pay a mortgage now? Thank you :)

  15. @Jaya Himatsingka – Unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with current Indian offers. But check out the Live from a Lounge blog.

    @Jessica Harris – I’ll have a post on it, but Chargesmart is worth it to help meet the minimum spending requirement.

  16. Hi Darious,

    I’m new to this and would like to earn miles for a family of 4 from Seattle to Atlanta next spring/summer. I was thinking about applying for just one card, like the Chase Sapphire, and getting a joint account so we can have two cards to earn points? Or should we each open our own cards?


  17. How do airfare miles equate with how much money they take up of an airplane ticket? I know this example is not accurate, but bare with me: does a thousand miles equal a thousand dollars you can spend on future flights? When you’re checking out possible flights/hotel rooms, how do you know how many mile points they will cost?

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