Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points

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Welcome to the world of miles and points!

We show time-starved folks how, they too, can acquire airline miles and hotel points, and travel very comfortably to see the world, for a fraction of awhat they would otherwise pay for such travels.

For example, (when we were married) we enjoyed a $32,000 honeymoon in Paris for ~$2,000paid only $60 for two ~$8,000 seats in a First Class plane suite, and stayed for free in a hotel suite that costs ~$3,500 per night!

Using Etihad Miles

Welcome to Million Mile Secrets!

Thousands of others have also made cheap travel their hobby, and this Beginner’s Guide can help you get started.

You can earn lots of airline miles and hotel points by signing-up for credit cards and using them responsibly.  In this guide, we will give you the tools to get started and recommend specific credit cards for which you can apply.  You can go on family vacations for a fraction of the cost, fly First Class, and stay at the some of the best hotels around the world.

You will NOT damage your credit score!  You’ll actually improve it if you pay your bills in full and on time.  Included in this guide are some great organizational tools to help keep you on track.

Beginner’s Guide Index

How Collecting Miles & Points Has Changed Our Lives

Emily and I have visited over 30 countries, made some wonderful memories, and learned about ourselves and the world.  We wouldn’t have been able to do this without collecting miles & points from large credit card sign-up bonuses!

Prior to this hobby, we thought travel was something that we’d have to save up for over several years.  Fortunately, we discovered collecting miles and points.  This opened up a world of travel we never thought possible!

3 Cards 100,000 Miles 890 Statement Credits

Credit Cards Make It Possible for Us to Take Trips We Otherwise Wouldn’t Be Able to Afford!

Imagine being able to visit friends & family who live in far away places…

Tampa Trip Report

Spending Time With Family in Tampa

Treating your loved one to a surprise weekend trip…

Z Ocean Hotel - At the beach

Emily’s Surprise Birthday Trip to Miami

Exploring ancient cities…

Activities In Rome Part 1

Anniversary Trip to Rome

Lounging in a private overwater bungalow…

You Dont Have To Pay To Upgrade To An Overwater Bungalow In Bora Bora

Our 2nd Honeymoon in Bora Bora

Or even getting a good night’s sleep in a bed during a long flight…

First Class on Lufthansa

First Class on Lufthansa

We’ve done all this and more, thanks to miles & points.  Learning about cheap travel has provided us with nearly free flights, free hotels, and cheap rental cars.  And you can do it too!

The most rewarding part is that we’ve been able to help family, friends, and readers along the way!

What Our Readers Say

“Thanks for a great blog. My grandmother turned 90 this year! So with your help and advice, my wife and I were able to get her a ticket to Hawaii and a free room to enjoy a surprise party with 40 of her family and friends.  Without your help, there’s no way we could have made this trip of a lifetime happen for her!” –Doug

“Hello Daraius and Emily!  I wanted to say “thank you” for sharing your trip with us! I am a physician who takes care of cancer patients.  My wonderful nurse (who is a truly caring and giving person) has had a lifelong dream of traveling to Italy…We plan to visit Rome, Florence, and Milan.  I am probably most excited about Siena!

“It will be a trip of a lifetime for us. You guys helped make it possible!” –Kristen

“I have been on 3 wonderful trips to Europe since collecting miles and points. Traveling very luxuriously!
  We are retired and never dreamed we would be traveling as much and as well before finding this passion and hobby.

“You have helped so much with your wonderful insight and knowledge you share.  Thank you for helping these 2 older people follow their dreams.” –BFD

How You Can Do It Too!

The easiest and fastest way to get frequent flyer miles is to sign-up for credit cards with big bonuses.

Some credit cards will give you 100,000 points for signing-up and completing a certain amount of spending.  You can turn those 100,000 points into a lot of cheap travel!  Some of these bonuses are enough for a family to go to Hawaii, or fly First Class to Europe and Asia.

You don’t have to get 50 cards to get enough miles for a vacation.  One or 2 is all you need to get started!


Fly in Style for Cheap!

You will be getting credit cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses.  Some of these bonuses are enough for a First Class trip to Hawaii, Europe, and Asia!

What’s the Catch? (Read This Before You Get Started!)

Be sure to read my post on the 5 Dangers of Applying for Credit Cards before getting into this hobby.  Collecting miles & points isn’t for everyone.  This may not be for you if you don’t:

  • pay your bills on time
  • have a credit score of at least ~700
  • pay attention to detail or
  • track your credit card balances

And you shouldn’t get into this hobby if you plan to take out a major loan within the next 2 years (mortgage, car, student, etc.)

If you have a credit score significantly below ~700, it is better to fix your score 1st and get into this hobby afterwards.

You can estimate your credit score for free by using Credit SesameCredit Karma, or the tool on   You’ll see your credit score and report.  All of these services can help you monitor your credit moving forward.

Expect to invest some time and effort into organization and shopping.  But the pay off is Big Travel with Small Money!

For many folks reading this blog, they’d NEVER be able to afford First Class tickets to the Maldives or a bungalow in Bora Bora.  So the time spent earning miles is worth more than they could ever earn by working overtime or at a 2nd job.

Step 1 – Set Your Travel Goals for the Next Year

The 1st step to getting started with collecting miles and points involves making some fun choices.

Where & How Do You Want to Travel?

Where & How Do You Want to Travel?

A mistake many folks say they regret making when they started collecting points was jumping right in and not setting goals or determining a strategy to reach them.  This can leave you with lots of points in different accounts that can’t be used to their full potential.

Also, it’s MUCH easier to find flights you can book with miles if you plan a year in advance.  So it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

You can still find good deals only 3 to 4 months in advance, but it may require more flexibility.  For instance, you may have to leave the US on Wednesday instead of a Friday.  Here are some questions that only you can answer:

  • Are you mostly interested in traveling within the US or internationally?  Do you want to visit a beach destination, a big city, etc.?
  • Do you prefer fancy hotels or budget hotels where you can stretch your miles?
  • How many people will be traveling with you?  Are you part of a family of 4 or more, or is it just you and a companion?
  • How often do you want to travel?
  • Which destinations appeal to you?

For domestic flights, the best way to get Big Travel with Small Money is with the Southwest Companion Pass.

I also like collecting Hyatt and Hilton hotel points for my hotel stays because it’s easier to use the points I earn.

You can earn points with airline and hotel branded credit cards.  Or you can earn bank points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points and AMEX Membership Rewards points which gives you the ability to transfer to airline AND hotel partners.

If you need a little travel inspiration, check out our Trip Reports which include trips to Hawaii, Europe, Asia, and more, for ideas on places to visit and step-by-step instructions on how you can use your points to get there!

Step 2 – Sign-Up for Loyalty 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 of the major programs initially.  You can always sign-up for the rest later on.

Make note of your user name, password, and account number for the next step!

Step 3 – Stay Organized

Staying organized is the most important thing you can do to make sure you get the most value out of your miles!

When you are applying for multiple credit cards at a time, there are lots of payment due dates, spending requirements, and account balances to track on top of your household budget.  And if you aren’t responsible, you can end up paying late fees, interest, and accumulating debt.

If You Don't Stay Organized, You Could Wind Up Owing the Bank More Than Your Miles Are Worth!

If You Don’t Stay Organized, You Could Wind Up Owing the Bank More Than Your Miles Are Worth!

Fortunately there are a lot of excellent tools available to help you keep track of it all.  Here are some programs that you can use to stay organized.

  • Award Wallet – enter your airline and hotel account information from Step 2 to track all of your mile & point accounts in 1 place.  You can even track accounts for multiple people.
  • Mint – will help you keep tabs on your checking account and credit card balances
  • Credit Karma –  tracks your credit and gives you an estimated TransUnion credit score
  • Credit Sesame – also tracks your credit and gives you an estimate Experian credit score

You can also use spreadsheets that include information such as the date you were approved for the card, the minimum spending requirement, the date the minimum spending should be completed, the bonus, the credit limit, the annual fee, and any other categories that may help you.

Step 4 – Choose a Credit Card That Will Help You Achieve Your Travel Goals

Because you are new to this hobby, I recommend starting out slow with just 1 or 2 cards.  But keep in mind in the long-term, you want to apply for multiple cards.  That’s because more cards means more sign-up bonuses and more miles for travel!

American Express Small Business Saturday

Lots Of Cards Means Lots of Travel!

Choosing a card that is right for you depends upon your travel goals.

You have decided where you want to travel, now you need to decide which points you should earn to get you there.  For example, if you want to go to Paris find out which airline (usually United or American) has the most flights from the US to Paris for a low amount of miles.

Then decide which hotel chain offers the best options for you in Paris.  You could also use my guide to choosing the best hotel card for a trip to Paris to help you with this decision.

Paris Day 1

Do Some Digging to Determine Which Airlines & Hotel Points Are Best for Your Destination

There are also a few categories to consider and how they may fit with your goals. In the next step, I’ll give you my top choices for specific cards but here are the 5 general categories.

1.   Cards That Offer Flexibility

Cards that fall into this category are a good choice for folks who are new to this hobby.  Despite your best efforts to make plans, you never know what direction life may take you and these cards give you options.

One of my favorite flexible points card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  You can transfer points to airlines including Southwest or United, hotels such as Hyatt and Marriott or use on the Chase travel portal

Things To Do In Kauai

You Never Know Where Life May Lead You, But If You Collect Miles & Points It Could Be a Place With a Nice View!

2.   No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Many mile & point credit cards charge an annual fee which can range from ~$50 to ~$450 per year.  These fees are often waived for the 1st year you have the card (Don’t worry, it’s easy to cancel your card if you don’t want to pay the annual fee in the 2nd year.)

And sometimes paying the annual fee is worth it because the benefits outweigh the costs.  For example, if a credit card comes with a free hotel night, it could be worth it to pay the $49 annual fee.

However, there are a few cards that charge NO annual fees.

One of my favorite flexible points card is the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited

no annual fee credit card is a great choice for folks who are new to this hobby.  That’s because with no annual fee you never have to cancel these cards.  This helps you build a relationship with the banks and increase your credit score by creating a longer credit history.

Whatever you do, don’t cancel your longest credit cards because they help your credit score and establish history with the bank.

No Annual Fee Credit Cards Mean More Money in Your Pocket, a Better Relationship With Banks, and a Longer Credit History

No Annual Fee Credit Cards Mean More Money in Your Pocket, a Better Relationship With Banks, and a Longer Credit History

3.   Airline Credit Cards

With airline credit cards you will earn points for use with specific airlines.

This is may be a good option for folks who do a lot of business travel with a certain airline.  These are also good cards to get when you know the airline you want to fly.  And airlines have partners.  So you can use 1 airline’s miles to fly its partner airlines.

For instance, British Airways award flights typically come with high fuel surcharges.  But you can get around this because British Airways is a member of the oneworld alliance, which includes American Airlines.  So you can use your British Airways miles to book a flight within the US on American Airlines and avoid the high fuel surcharges.

My favorite airline cards are the American Airlines card or the Delta Airlines card.

4.   Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards earn points that you can use at certain hotel chains.  A hotel card may be a good choice if you stay at hotels often.

My favorite hotel cards are the Starwood hotel card and the Chase IHG card

5.   Cash Back Credit Cards

With cash back cards you earn points that can be redeemed for credit card statement credits.

CardCash Back at RestaurantsCash Back Limit Annual FeeForeign Transaction FeeSign-up Bonus
AMEX SimplyCash Plus3% cash back at U.S. restaurants if you choose this as your bonus category• up to $50,000 in spending per 12 billing cyclesNo2.7%Earn up to $500 in statement credits. Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 or more on qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership and earn an additional $250 statement credit after you spend an additional $10,000 or more on purchases within the 1st year of Card Membership.
Chase Ink Cash2% cash back at restaurants
• up to $25,000 in spending each card anniversary yearNo3%• 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($300 cash back) when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
Chase Sapphire Preferred• Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwideNo limit- $95 (Introductory annual fee of $0 the 1st year)No• Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make their 1st purchase within 3 months
Barclaycard Arrival Plus• 2X points (2.1% cash back if redeemed for $100+ travel purchases) on dining and all other purchases
No limit$89 annual fee waived the 1st yearNo• 40,000 Arrival miles ($420 in cash back when you redeem for travel) when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
Citi DoubleCash1% cash back on spending and 1% cash back on paymentsNo limitNo3%No
US Bank Cash+5% cash back at fast food restaurants if you choose this as 1 of your bonus categoriesup to $2,000 in spending each quarterNo3%No
Chase Freedom5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter (sometimes includes restaurants)
• Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate$03%• Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Discover It5% cash back on rotating categories including restaurants

• Earn 5% cash back at chain restaurants when you buy gift cards in other categories such as online shopping, home improvement, and gas stations.
up to $1,500 in spending each quarterNoNo$50 cash back after your 1st purchase in the 1st 3 months of opening your account
Fidelity Visa2% cash back on all spendingNo limitNo2.7%No
Chase AARP3% cash back on restaurants and at gas stationsNo limitNo3%• 10,000 points ($100 cash back) when you spend $500 within 3 months

Cash back cards could be the right choice if you prefer types of travel that you can’t usually pay for with miles & points.  For example, road trips, trains, boutique hotels, and cruises.

Which Is Better 2 Cash Back Or Southwest Points

Cash Back Gives You the Most Flexibility But It Won’t Give You the Highest Value

Cash back cards are also a great way to help pay for incidental travel expenses such as meals and entertainment.  And cash back cards give you the ultimate flexibility because you don’t have to worry about black out dates and finding award space.

However, keep in mind that cash back is NOT the best way to get Big Travel with Small Money.

That’s because you can get much more value from award travel than cash back.  For example, 125,000 cash back points are worth $1,250 in travel.  But with 125,000 American Airlines miles you can fly round-trip from the US to Europe in First Class.  Without miles a First Class flight from the US to Europe could cost ~$7,500 depending upon your destination and exact travel dates!

Step 5 – Sign-Up for Your 1st Credit Card

Now that you have thought about your goals and different credit card categories, it’s time to choose 1 or 2 cards that will work for you.  Again, this is just to get you started.  But once you feel comfortable the best strategy for Big Travel is to have multiple cards that cover several different categories.

Here are few cards I recommend within each category.  However, each person has their own unique goals.  So take a look at the Hot Deals page for other cards that may work for you.  If this guide was helpful to you, please consider applying for these cards using our links on the Hot Deals page.  We earn a small commission on some cards, and we are grateful for your support!

1.   Credit Cards That Offer Flexibility


  • Chase Ultimate Rewards – You earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus cards.  The benefit of collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you can choose from a variety of hotel and airline transfer partners.  Your points aren’t useable in just 1 airline alliance or hotel chain.

Note:   If you’ve opened 5 or more credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months, it’s VERY UNLIKELY Chase will approve you for any of their Chase Ultimate Rewards earning cards, like the Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Plus.

Chase Adds New Transfer Partner More Options To Europe

Having the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (or Ink Plus or Ink Bold Small Business Cards) Allows You to Transfer All Your Ultimate Rewards Points to These Partners for Award Flights and Hotel Stays

If I could only have 1 credit card, it’d be the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the flexibility, no foreign transaction fees when I use my card abroad, and because I get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points for all my travel-related purchases.

  • American Express Membership Rewards Cards – You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points with cards like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold and AMEX Platinum.  These cards are also great if you want some flexibility because you can transfer your points to many different airline and hotels partners.

Choose From 16 Airline Transfer Partners With AMEX Membership Rewards

2.   No Annual Fee Card

My favorite no annual fee card is the Chase Freedom card.

With this card you get 5X points on up to $1,500 in spending on rotating categories.  So you can earn an additional 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year by spending the maximum in bonus categories each quarter. You can redeem your 30,000 points for $300 cash back.

Or if you have the Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus card, you can transfer your points from your Chase Freedom account to 1 of these cards, and then you could then transfer your 30,000 points to Hyatt and get 2 free nights at a category 4 hotel.

3.   Airline Card

For travel within the US, I recommend the Chase Southwest credit cards.

The best deal in domestic travel is the Southwest Companion Pass because your favorite person can fly with you for free for up to 2 years!

You can easily achieve the Southwest Companion Pass by signing-up for 1 business and 1 personal Chase 50,000 mile offer Southwest card and earning 6,000 additional points.   Chase usually offers the 50,000 bonuses every few months.  Some folks may qualify for a business card even if they don’t own a large business.

For international travel, the best way to determine which airline card is right for you is by checking which airlines have the most flights out of your local airport to your desired destinations.

4.   Hotel Credit Card

My favorite hotel card is the Citi Hilton Reserve card.

This is an excellent choice because you get 2 weekend nights at any Hilton hotel (even the hotels that cost thousands of dollars per night!) when you spend $2,500 on this card within 4 months.


The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Hotel Costs ~$1,300 Per Night, But You Can Get 2 Weekend Nights With the Citi Hilton Reserve Card!

You also get free Hilton Gold Status with this card, which includes free breakfast and internet.  This could save you $20 to $30 per night!  Check out our Trip Reports for ideas on which hotel card will fit with your travel goals.

5.   Cash Back Credit Card

My favorite cash back card is also my favorite no annual fee card, the Chase Freedom.

I like this card because you can earn points faster by taking advantage of the rotating 5X points categories.  I also like the Barclays Arrival Plus card because you earn 2.1% cash back on ALL spending when you redeem your cash back for travel purchases of $100 or more.

You’ll notice that some of these cards are business credit cards.  You might be surprised to learn what qualifies as a business!

Step 6 – Meet Minimum Spending Requirements

To get the sign-up bonus on credit cards, you have to complete a certain amount of spending on the cards.  The required spending can range from making your 1st purchase (of any amount) to spending $10,000 within 3 months.

You Don't Need a Money Tree to Meet High Credit Card Spending Requirements. You Just Need to Know a Few Tricks!

You Don’t Need a Money Tree to Meet High Credit Card Spending Requirements. You Just Need to Know a Few Tricks!

You may be wondering how folks are able to do this amount of spending on multiple cards.  Check out my list of 40+ ways to meet minimum spending requirements for all of my tips.  But here are a few highlights :

  • Avoid using cash –  You want to be rewarded for your spending.  So put as much of your everyday expenses as possible on credit cards.  But do NOT spend beyond your budget just get miles & points!
Cash Is NOT King in the Miles & Points Game

Cash Is NOT King in the Miles & Points Game

Using these tips and the other 40+ ways to meet minimum spending makes it easy to do lots of spending on credit cards and earn big credit card sign-up bonuses!

Is Meeting Minimum Spending Requirements Easy for You?

Big Spenders get even more perks for putting lots of spending on credit cards such as:

  • More bonus miles
  • Elite status without flying or staying in hotels
  • Companion Passes
Credit Card Companies Give Big Spenders Even More Perks!

Credit Card Companies Give Big Spenders Even More Perks!

For example, with the Citi Hilton Reserve card you can earn another weekend night stay each year you spend $10,000 on the card.  Read my series on Big Spenders for more details on rewards you can earn for doing lots of spending.

Step 7 – Decide Whether to Keep or Cancel Your Card(s)

Now that you have met your minimum spending and earned your sign-up bonus, do NOT cancel your card!

Get More Miles for Travel by Clicking Through Shopping Portals Before Shopping at Your Favorite Stores

Canceling Your Card So Soon Could Put You Out of the Game!

Canceling your card right away will make the banks unhappy.  They could even decide to blacklist you.  Which would mean no more credit cards and no more Big Travel with Small Money for you!

If you have applied for cards with annual fees, you should evaluate whether or not the card is worth paying the annual fee after ~8 to 10 months.

Before canceling, read this post to find out if you will lose the miles or points which are already in your account. Read my post on When to Cancel Your Credit Card to help with your decision.

Emilys 4 Cards 140,000 Miles 600 In Statement Credits

Cancel Cards That Aren’t Worth The Annual Fee

Don’t worry about it being a hassle if you decide not to keep the card, the banks are happy to close your account for you.  You can also have the bank switch you to a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

While no annual fee cards typically don’t have as many benefits, this will help you keep fostering a good relationship between you and the bank.  The bank might even make this call easier for you by offering you some incentives to keep the card.  They could give you a statement credit or additional miles to help cover the annual fee.

Step 8 – Earn More Points on Everyday Spending

Aside from sign-up bonuses, you can earn lots of points by taking advantage of bonus categories and promotions.

1.   Category Bonuses

With mile & point credit cards you typically earn 1 point per dollar on regular spending and then more points per dollar in certain categories such as groceries, gas, travel, and dining.

For example, you can earn 5X points when you use the (no longer offered) Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus cards at office supply stores and on cable, internet, and phone.

Reader Question When Does The 5x Bonus On The Ink Cards Reset

5X Points at Office Supply Stores & Telecom With the Ink Cards!

And you can earn 3X points with airlines and 2X points at US restaurants, gas stations, and US supermarkets with the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card.  You can rack up a ton of points by taking advantage of these spending categories.  And having multiple credit cards that cover each of your major categories ensures that you are earning bonus points on most of your purchases.

2.   Shopping Portals

Another way to earn more points is by shopping online through portals.


Get More Miles for Travel by Clicking Through Shopping Portals Before Shopping at Your Favorite Stores

Airlines and hotels offer bonus points for clicking their links to certain stores before you shop.  These bonuses can be quite lucrative especially because you are earning points for shopping you were doing anyway.   Sometimes you can get 18X to 36X points when you shop online!

Before you shop, check evreward to see which portals offer the best bonus.


Just Enter the Store Name Into the Search Box at Evreward to Find the Best Shopping Portal Deals

3.   Earn Bonus Points For Dining Out

With Rewards Network you can earn up to 5X points per dollar spent at one of their over 10,000 participating restaurants, clubs and bars.  Each city has a roster of different restaurants that range from fine dining to fast food.

Emily and I live in Austin and the list of places includes a highly-rated Brazilian restaurant, casual Mexican dining, local pubs, a pita place, Jack in the Box, pizza, sushi, coffee shops, and of course barbecue!

Here’s how you get the points:

  •  Sign-up for a free Rewards Network account
  •  Enter your credit card information
  •  Automatically get miles in your frequent flyer account when using your card at 1 of their ~10,000 restaurants, bars, and clubs
Register Your Chase Sapphire Card for Free with Rewards Network to Earn Points With Your Favorite Travel Program

Earning Bonus Points For Dining Is Easy As 1-2-3!

Step 9 – Use Your Points for Flights & Hotel Stays

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to using your points towards travel.

How Will You Use Your Points?

How Will You Use Your Points?

Take a look at the airline and hotel award charts to find out how many points you need to travel to your desired destination.  You can also browse our Trip Reports to see how miles and points can get you to MauiKauaiVeniceRomeBora Bora, and more.

Try to book your travel as soon as possible, because award seats fill-up fast!

The number of bonus points offered by the bank will fluctuate, but let’s say you earned 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by signing-up for the Chase Ink Plus card.  To use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points with United Airlines (1 of its partner airlines), you would go the United Airlines award chart and find that it costs 30,000 miles for a 1-way coach trip from the US to Europe.

You’d also see it’s 45,000 miles for a round-trip coach ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii!  Without miles, this same flight could cost you ~$1,000 depending upon your travel dates.

Hyatt Regency Maui

With 1 Credit Card, You Could Be Saying Aloha to Maui!

You can also transfer 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for an All-Inclusive Weekend in Mexico!


Signing-Up for 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards Card Could Get You 2 Nights in Mexico With Free Drinks and Dining!

And if you earn a few more points on your Chase Ink Plus card you could book a 1-way Business Class ticket from the US to Europe for 57,500 United Airlines miles.

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Signing-Up for 1 Credit Card Will Get You Most of the Way to a 1-Way Business Class Award Ticket to Europe!

The same ticket could cost you ~$3,000 (depending on your dates of travel).

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Most of Us Would Never Be Able to Pay Cash for a Business Class Ticket to Europe!

You have to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines or Hyatt to book your award travel.  But make sure seats or rooms are available on your desired travel dates BEFORE you transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points!  Once you transfer your points you can’t get them back.

These are just a few examples of what you can do.  But check out our Trip Reports for some inspiration and to learn how to use your miles like a Pro.

While my award booking guides, like The Ultimate Guide to United Miles, will give you in-depth details on how to book an award flight, here are some basic tips to remember:

  • Book in Advance – You will find the most availability ~1 year before your departure date.  This is important if you want to use your miles to travel during peak times, such as holidays.
  • Be Flexible – Remember you will be taking a trip for close to free, so there are going be some trade-offs at times.  You may not be able to get an international flight at the exact date and time you want.  This is especially true if you don’t book well in advance!
  • Use Airline Alliances to Your Advantage – There are 2 major airline alliances Star Alliance and oneworld.  If you can’t find available award seats to a desired destination, check with a partner airline.

And if you need some help, there are plenty of Award Booking Services who can book your award ticket for a fair price.

Step 10 – Signing-Up for Multiple Cards

Now that you have applied for 1 or 2 cards you have an idea of how things work.  It’s time to start applying for multiple cards at 1 time, so you can earn lots of points quickly.  This is how you get Big Travel with Small Money!

How Many Cards Should I Apply For?

Emily and I each like to sign-up for 3 to 6 cards every 3 to 4 months.  But do what feels comfortable to you!

Apply to Cards From Different Banks

Banks don’t like to see that you’re applying for a lot of credit at once.  But many banks only pull your credit score from 1 of the 3 credit bureaus.  So by spreading your applications across different banks you are limiting the number of credit inquiries with each credit bureau.


Spreading Your Credit Pulls Across Different Credit Bureaus Can Increase Your Chances of Being Approved

For example, if you apply for the Chase Sapphire card and the Barclays Arrival Plus card in the same day and Chase pulls your credit report from Experian, then Barclays pulls your credit report from TransUnion they will not see that you have already applied for a card from Chase.

Which credit bureau is used not only depends upon the bank, but also the card you are applying for and your location.  You can check the CreditBoards and Flyertalk to get an idea of which bureau a bank may use.

Maintain a Good Relationship With the Banks and a High Credit Score

If you don’t do these 2 things, banks will consider you a risk and you will be denied credit.  Here are the steps you should take to ensure you stay in the game:

  • Stay organized
  • Pay your bills on time
  • Find no annual fee cards and cards with great benefits to keep and establish a long history with the bank
  • If you decide to cancel a card after you get the sign-up bonus, wait 8 to 10 months!

Bonus Step 11 – Share With Your Family & Friends

Now you get to enjoy a special bonus reward…sharing your travels with your friends & family! We like to send photos of us in tropical locations…

Don’t Be As Dumb As Daraius When You Book A Car Rental

A Glorious Day in the Florida Keys

Or photos like this, of us on another adventure…

Panda Macau

Fighting Dragons in Macau

It’s fun to share all of the amazing trips you’ll take and it just might inspire some of your loved ones!

You may even get the chance to pay them back for all they’ve done for you by treating them to a special trip!

Bottom Line

We’ve taken a lot of incredible trips over the years thanks to miles & points!  And we’ve helped a lot of friends, family, and readers do the same along the way.

By mapping out your travel goals, signing-up for credit cards with large sign-up bonuses, and staying organized you will be on your way to Big Travel with Small Money, too!

We hope this guide motivates you to start collecting miles & points and to get out there and see the world!

We enjoy hearing about the trips our readers take!  So follow us on Twitter and Facebook to send us your travel photos and tell us how Big Travel with Small Money has changed your life!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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760 responses to “Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points

  1. Pingback: Use a Travel Credit Card that Rewards Your Wanderlust | Mudluscious Press

  2. Hi Darius – Quick question. I am thinking of purchasing an airline ticket with 65,000 Amex spg points. The problem is there is a possibility that I might have to change the reservation sometime before the flight. The flight is in March and I might have to cancel or change it by December. My question is, what is the penalty when you book a flight by redeeming American Express spg points and have to cancel or change? The airline is American Airlines. I can only find the penalty for a flight you paid for. Ex – There is a $200.00 charge for cancelling or changing a flight and you have to book a new flight within a year and pay any extra cost after your balance from the cancelled ticket is applied.

  3. Hi, I get your emails and they are really interesting. My question is, do you start cancelling cards at some point and reapplying for them later? The big miles mostly come at sign-up and pretty quickly you already have the best cards. Also, if you have a lot of cards, wouldn’t the annual fees really add up? That would be another reason I’d think for not keep a card for more than a year maybe.

  4. Hi Darius. The more I read about award cards the more confused I get! My husband and I have had some low/zero interest credit cards in the past but have finally paid them off and now we pay for everything with a debit card. We spend about $150k a year on household and healthcare expenses, groceries, gas, clothing, entertainment, kids activities and school tuition (a big nut) and have little left in our budget for traveling once we’ve put away for retirement/college funds. So we want to get a card or two (husband’s credit score is 790) that earn miles to help fund a nice big vacation now and then. We would especially love to travel internationally. I’d love a way to earn more than 1x miles on at least some of our purchases. Is that possible? Can you recommend cards or tips to maximize awards? Thanks!

  5. I am very new to the awards programs of cards. My wife and I are preparing for our second adoption and will be travelling to Thailand in the next 9-15 months. What card would be the best option for us to collect the most miles within that time period. We would have the flexibility of only a day or two window with our flights and we have to stay in the hotel specified by the adoption agency, so we would probably spend the miles on the plane tickets. We would need to fly out of Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Huntsville, AL, Jackson, MS, Nashville, TN, or that worst Atlanta, GA. United has the best rates at these airports with the exception of Atlanta, which I have not checked into. If we put all expenses on the card between now and the time we travel, what card do you think would be the best option. Thanks!

  6. I got the Starwood Personal card for my husband a few months ago and met the minimum spend, have already got the points and transferred them to an airline. Yesterday, we had to return something that we have purchased with that card ($600). We met the minimum spend but not much more than that. Since the starwood points are already awarded and moved out of his account, can they do anything? We probably will use the card to use the $600 credit. Just wondered how that works. TIA

  7. I have a Chase and a Capital One that have large credit limits. We have had them for years, and I consider them our “anchor” cards. They carry balances most of the time and I play balance tranfer between them when I need to. I want to get cards now for the travel miles and pay off each month. How many card do you do suggest accumulating before you start canceling some of them? Do they ever offer incentives throughout the year for miles? How long after you cancel a card can you reapply for the same card?

  8. Darius – you rock, thanks for everything you do! As a beginner, per your suggestion I’m going to limit myself to a max of 3 cards at first though I have no intention of taking out any new loans over the next 2 years and have 780+ credit. I also have 4 different LLCs that I own 100% or a majority of and I’d like to take advantage of that. Questions:

    1) For personal cards, how soon before I apply for more, and how many more?
    2) My wife should do some too, but would it be on the same schedule/frequency as my personal cards?
    3) For my businesses, what is the suggestion there? I’m definitely doing the Chase Ink Plus ASAP!

  9. Hi Darius and Emily,
    I’m new to collecting miles and points..any tips for the easiest way to do it? I’ve opened a few cards under my name and husband’s name but only have earned 100,000 miles each or maybe a little more…it’s overwhelming, any simple strategies and tips? any recent cards with 50k or 100k sign up bonuses?

  10. Hi Darius,
    I have 10 new credit card inquiries wsince the beginning of the year. How many inquiries are too many?
    i am not worried about credit scores since I have excellent scores, but if I can I still continue applying for (and getting 🙂 ) new credit cards.


  11. Darius,
    Looking for some advice. Wondering how far I should push my recent luck. I moved to the US 3 years ago from Canada and had to start my credit from scratch. I started 2 years ago with a small secured bank loan, and then after about 8 months got approved for both an AMEX Green card and a Discover IT card about 1.5 years ago (they were easiest to get). I then discovered your blog and decided to play the points game. In april I got approved for the Southwest Chase 50k card and the AA Citi 40k card. I hit both thresholds and got the points last month. My score is currently 760 and so I applied for the Delta AMEX Gold (50k bonus) the other day and got approved. Should I keep pushing my luck, or cool my jets for a while? Part of me wants to apply for both a no-fee card to keep for a while, as well as a Barclay’s card since I don’t have one with them yet. But if I do that, it will be 5 cards for me this year and 7 in the last 1.5 years… Concerned about the length of credit as well, as I plan to cancel at least 2 cars next year before the annual fees become due. Thoughts?

    • @maria prel – It depends if they are all for the same credit bureau or if they are for different bureaus.

      @josh – You could apply for a few more (especially from different banks). I’d consider another Southwest card at 50K to get points for the Companion Pass (Your companion pass account will reset to 0 points on Jan 1 2015 if you don’t get the companion pass in 2014).

  12. @ 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?

  13. 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.

    • @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!

  14. Pingback: How I Booked 2 National Commercials Back to Back! | Jera's Adventures

  15. 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?


  16. 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….

  17. 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.


    • @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.

  18. Pingback: When You Should Get an Airline Credit Card - Just4Discount

  19. 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!

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

    • @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.

  21. 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 🙂

  22. 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?


  23. 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?

  24. Pingback: The Dark Side of Pointage - Staring Into the Customer Service Abyss | From Fresno To Timbuktu

  25. So real rookie comment here, but when meeting the minimum spending requirements in order to get the bonus do you also get points for that spending (i.e., 40,000 point bonus with $3,000 spending requirement = 43,000 points if limit met)?

  26. @Nick
    Yes you are correct. You’ll get 43000 points..

  27. Can I apply Chase Sapphire card and Freedom at the same time?

    Thanks in advanced!

  28. Hi Daraius,
    Thank you for all these helpful information. Your blog really makes us dream big.
    However my child is 6 years old and yet to appreciate a “big travel”, so I’d set aside that dream for now, but considering the fact that we fly back to Japan every summer and it’s a 13+ hour flight by JAL (longer if non direct), I would like to know how to possibly upgrade to a business class. I understand JAL is part of oneworld, so is accumulating the AA miles the best way for an upgrade maybe once every 2-3 years?
    Thank you for your advice.

  29. Hi Daraius,

    Thanks for your blog, it is amazing.
    I am new to this game and still trying to understand the rules. I live in Hawaii and look for the coach trips to Europe – where my whole family is from, including myself.

    Please, any advice as what card should I apply for in order for getting the max points for Europe.

    Thanks again,


    • @Boki – I’d consider collecting United or American Airlines miles.

      @Claire – Upgrading is not longer a good value. I’d look to collect American Airlines or United miles and book business class seats with those miles.

  30. @Daraius – Thanks a lot!

  31. Daraius, it’s surprising that upgrade is not a good value anymore.
    OK, will go work on collecting those miles for business seats one day…
    Thank you!

  32. I currently only have cash rebate cards and have about $300 in rewards with 3 different cards (chase freedom, chase Amazon and discover). How do I use the points/rewards for the purchase of a trip? Do I max out the points on one credit card, charge the balance on that card and then redeem the other points as a statement credit? For example, each card can probably pay for one flight but that would mean I would have to book separately through each card.

    How do you use your points from various cards for a trip? Do you wait until one particular card has enough to purchase your travel expenses?

  33. I’ve just stumbled across your site and have been scouring the very helpful content. We are planning a trip to Panama for our family of six this summer and as I attempt to digest this information am wondering which card strategy would help us fly for nearly free from Atlanta, GA, US. Currently, it appears that we would need about 210,000 to 300,000 points to accomplish that depending on the airline. Do you have recommendations? Cardmatch pulled 50,000 reward points or miles depending on the Amex Gold card offer which would be a start. Or there are the AA card deals that you’ve covered. Any recommendations? Long term I think the Chase Sapphire might make sense as we’re looking to move overseas. I appreciate any advice you may have! Have a great 2015!

  34. I just ran into your site randomly and I am a crazy couponer, so this is right up my alley. I have always had the AMEX Delta and earn miles that way but want to earn more miles from bonuses, etc…I will not be travelling in the next year as we have smaller children. Do you know if the Chase Ultimate Points expire? Also, I currently can only pay my mortgage, car payment via checking acct. Do you recommend BlueBird for that? Is it complicated to use?

  35. Hi Daraius,

    I’m planning a big trip to Asia next spring. I started applying for credit cards about a year ago and thanks to information on your website I accumulated quite a few points. Now I have a dilemma though, I’d like to cancel some cards before the yearly fee kicks in but I don’t want to use the miles quite yet. What would be the best thing to do in this case?

    Thank you for all the time and effort you put into teaching us to travel-hack!

  36. Pingback: Using SPG Amex conjunction with Hilton HHonors? - Page 2 - FlyerTalk Forums

  37. Pingback: What You Can Expect - The Wandering Duckling

  38. Pingback: What Are the 10 Biggest Travel Expenses? | Online Budget Travel

  39. Any idea how long it takes after meeting the spending requirement it takes to get your bonus points added? Like if I get the card and meet the $3,000 requirement in the first couple days how long will it take??

    Any actual experiences would be greatly appreciated rather than someone just guessing. I need to book an overseas flight for mid April and am really hoping I can use these miles for it. I already applied for the card, should get it in a few days in the mail and going to make a big purchase right away to meet the spending requirement.

    Thanks so much!!

  40. Jesse – It depends on the card in my experience. I had an Amex gold charge card (pay balance in full every month) and got the bonus points on my account a couple days after paying it off for the $1000 limit. My wife’s card took paying it off and the end of the billing cycle, and in my experience with all Chase cards (Ink, Ink Bold, and Sapphire) you have to wait until the end of the billing cycle. You may also have to pay it off so that you don’t do any returns that would cut you below the spending limit, but I’m not sure since I pay every card off every month.

  41. Hi Daraius,

    I have been a long time follower of your site and have used many of your credit card links, but I have a question. Do you have a link or a part of your site that explains how often you can churn cards from various banks such as chase or amex (does amex really not allow you to churn their cards anymore?)


  42. Pingback: Part 1: DisneyWorld vs. DisneyLand — Getting There | Texas Blend

  43. Pingback: A word of caution | holzgrovefamilytravels

  44. Hi all,

    A friend of mine told me about the credit card points hobby and I’m intrigued. I currently have Chase Freedom and just got upgraded to Quicksilver. Discover is my next, so I figure I can maximize my 5% categories and then everything else could be at least 1.5% on quicksilver.

    I guess my goal is to start maximizing points and then eventually a few trips here and there; mainly Mexico and places in the Caribbean area. Im from New York and I see that southwest seems to be the best for domestic and considering many cruises or trips fly out of florida a southwest card could be a good move.

    Any other suggestions? Thanks!

  45. Hi I’m not a big spender and I don’t have any expenses but I like to travel a lot what’s the easiest way to spend 3,000 dollars without losing any money? (I know amazon used to work so I’m wondering if there’s something along that line)

  46. i am very new to this. I don’t want to do the credit card stuff but I do travel from NY to San diego about 3 times a year. My question is , is it worth signing up for frequent flyer miles with this amount of travel ? If the travel is with the same airlines (United) how long / how many trips ,do you expect it would take me to get enough miles for a free flight? TY for all your help here on this site, good job to you.

  47. What rules do CC companies apply regarding how often I can apply for a given card and get the incentive. For example, I currently have had a Barclays US Air card for about 2 years. Can I cancel it and apply for a new one and receive the current US Air incentive?

  48. Hi! Thank you for an awesome site, I have waited and built my credit score so I can start earning miles, and now I am in the game! I am on my second credit card with a goal of earning enough AA points for a trip to Asia by the end of this year. I’ll be applying for another card within a few months and I am sure the minimum spending, due dates, points etc. will start to become confusing. I don’t’ know how to create an excel(?) file for this so I would like to know, what is the best and most efficient way to organize cc info? Thanks!

  49. I see tremendous opportunities for people living is USA, but as I am from Europe – how can I start?

  50. Fadi Almazyad

    Excellent blog.
    I have a question for you.
    How can I Maximize Award Miles on Credit Card without damaging credit score?
    For example, If I have United Airlines Credit card with $3000 limit. Do I spend all $3000 and pay it immediately? will this damage my score? I have the ability to pay bills even before the due date of it. The only concern is damaging credit score.

  51. Very useful blog’

    I am wondering if anybody could use this information outside US Like me from Asia (Pakistan).

  52. Planning a trip to Europe in Sep or Oct, 2015. Currently have 76,000 miles in my United mileage account. Spouse has 61,000 in his United Mileage account. Additionally, we
    Have 65,000 miles in Chase Business Ink and 15,000 Chase Sapphire miles.

    Current plan is to look for 2 one-way awards to Europe (57,500 each segment). Getting to Europe would come Out of spouse’s account by transferring 54,000 of the Business Ink miles to his account for a total of 115,000.

    Return from Europe would come from my account: 76,000 plus transfer for remaining
    14,000 Chase Business Ink and 15,000 Chase Sapphire miles for a total of 105,000.
    Would purchase 10,000 miles short.

    Is this a good plan or is there a better way to do this? Eg transfer all miles to one account and pay transfer fees for 2 round trip awards?

    Thanks for any help provided.

  53. Hi. I am VERY new to the points game and have done my research. I just received my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and am ready to start spending (responsibly)! What is the easiest way to determine if booking through ultimate rewards is the better deal for booking travel or transferring points to another airline?? For example, I compared a SW flight with AA for the same dates/similar $ fares.

    Southwest Flight: $384 or 24,492 points
    American Airlines (through ultimate rewards): $367.70 or 29,416

    The southwest flight through rapid rewards cost more in $ amount, but less in points. Through ultimate rewards, the AA flight cost more in points, but was slightly cheaper in $ amount. In this particular flight, I would save 4924 points if I transferred points to Southwest. Although, I get three times the travel amount through the deal through ultimate rewards with booking through chase . If I’m doing my math right, I would get 1103 bonus points with booking through Chase ($367 flight) but that’s still a difference of over 3820 points still saved by booking with southwest. The obvious answer would be to book through southwest right? Am I missing something? Is there some sore of points calculator out there that can help me determine point values? THANKS!

  54. Pingback: How To Earn Frequent Flyer Miles - A Beginners GUide

  55. Pingback: 8 Money-Saving Travel Hacks You Need To Know About

  56. I signed up for AAdvantage credit card with a promotion “earn 50,000 american airlines miles after spending $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership” but on the welcome kits the fine prints states “AAdvantage miles are earn on purchases, except returned goods and services, cash advances, convenience checks, transferred balances, credits, fees and interest charges.” does this mean if i pay my utilities bills such as cellphone, water, power etc, will not count toweards the 3000 on purchases?

    thank yuu

  57. I tried using vanilla $200 gift cards at Wal-mart to purchase money order, but their machine recognizes it as a credit card.. doesn’t even give me the pin option.. tried 3 stores, used money machine also tried with customer service rep. … am I doing something wrong or does Wal-mart not accept gc for mo? do they accept certain types and not others??

  58. Hi!

    I am having trouble getting approved for credit cards because my address doesn’t fit the standard format. I can’t even buy my credit reports and scores from the the 3 credit bureaus. It always says my personal details couldn’t be verified.
    I live in a large building with many apartments.
    So where as most addresses are in the format of say:
    43 Winthrop street
    Cambridge MA

    My address is something like this (not real address):
    43 Winthrop Street
    Vanderbilt Hall room no. 305
    Cambridge MA. 06889

    This address does not even fit into the standard forms on many applications.
    I am always told to call and verify my personal details, then they ask me to send them some proof
    and to this day I have not been able to check my FICO score. I spent hours on the phone trying to get the credit bureaus and banks to do something.

    If my simply use 43 Winthrop Street and drop the next line, it doesn’t accept because my details with the bureau and my bank include the full address. Also way too many people live in this building so it would be difficult receive mail without full address.

    To make things worse at least one credit bureau has 6 different addresses listed in my credit report
    all with different apartment numbers and only 2 of them are correct.

    Please help


  59. OK, I got a Chase Milage Explorer card with United Airlines and I’m on track to get The 50K bonus miles. I’m ready to apply for a second card to take advantage of their signup bonus. A couple questions: Which card do you recommend who’s awards can be combined in my United Airlines account? How do you manage your miles and CC annual fees when they say your miles disappear if the card is not active?

    Much Thanks!!

  60. How many cards are OK to keep open at once, if I am trying the churning method? My main point of confusion is when to cancel a card verses keeping it open (as long as I’m not paying a fee), and when to cancel in order to get new cards.


  61. Hi all,
    Is there any way I could transfer mileages from one member to the other member in same family – ? We had united – Chase card but already cancel – now I will be on the trip but other member of my family will not – and I want to transfer those mileages to my account before it will be expired by next month – Please help !
    I don’t have any there travel card –

  62. Hi! My family of 4 is going to the country Panama in December for a wedding. We are making a big purchase now of 20000 and I want to get the most of my money. My ? is, can my husband and I apply for two travel cards each (i.e. the Barclay elite & Capital One venture rewards card) and use 4 different credit cards to buy 4 different tickets on the same flight all sitting together. Each card offers up to $400 cash back towards travel. We both have excellent credit and have already been approved for the Barclay elite with 40,000 mile bonus.

  63. Can you use multiple credit cards to pay for airfare? I.e. I need to purchase 4 flight tickets for my family…can I used 4 different cards (2 from me and 2 from my husband). Each card has 40000 points that I can redeem for $400 cash back on flight.

  64. For example if I have points in the Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Using the Ultimate Rewards Program. I want to fly from San Juan Puerto Rico to Medellin Colombia in Dec 21 to Jan 11 2016 the cheapest flight is $633 with Avianca Airlines from Star Alliance , I can use the United frequent flyer account to book in Ultimate Rewards because they are in the same Allience? Can you explain me how to match or book this flight with ultimate rewards and get 2x points and the 20% off if any?

  65. I have never used United award miles before so I need help with this. We would like to use our award miles to travel to Rome. We would like to use the award miles for 4 people – my husband, myself, my daughter and son-in-law. The trip requires 240,000 saver award miles for four round-trip fares. My husband has 204,000 United award miles in his MileagePlus account; I have 25,000 United miles, my daughter has 8,994 United miles; and her husband has the remaining United 624 miles in his account. How can we book our tickets using the United award miles when the miles are in four different MileagePlus accounts? Is there a way to do this without having to transfer the miles and pay the fees? If not, how do we use our miles with minimal fees incurred. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

  66. Greetings, I am new to all the miles and credit card stuff, I have the sapphire and the barclays arrival plus cards. I have already received the bonus for each plus a few extra miles through purchases. I was wondering which is the better option to redeem my points for a round trip this December to France. Thank you so much for your answers and all the great info you post on here it really helps 😉

  67. @Ryan – Check out my post on all the ways to earn United Airlines miles:

    Due to Chase’s new rules, you may want to start with Chase Ultimate Rewards cards which include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Freedom:

    You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines and other airline and hotel partners as long as you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus card:

    Award Wallet ca help remind you when your points are about to expire.

    @Lane – It really depends on the bank and what you feel comfortable with.

    I recommend folks start out slow with just 1 or 2 cards, so they get a feel for how it all works. I like to evaluate a card for ~10 months to decide whether or not it’s worth the annual fee:

    @Lyn – You can transfer United Airlines miles from 1 account to another, but it costs money:

    Or you can use your United Airlines miles to book flights for friends and family members:

    And there are lots of easy ways to keep your miles from expiring:

    @Donna Neumann – Unfortunately, you’d have to pay a fee to transfer United Airlines miles.

    The good news is your husband only needs 36,000 United Airlines miles in his account to make your family trip possible, and there are lots of easy ways to earn United Airlines miles:

    @lionel messi – Welcome to the world of miles and points! If you have enough miles, I would probably transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points and then to United Airlines or British Airways for the flight to Paris. Then use the Barclay Arrival miles for $25+ in rental cars, hotels, train tickets, etc.

    But be sure you can find a flight that works for you BEFORE you transfer. Because there’s no way to get the points back into your Chase Ultimate Rewards account.

  68. Great information here!

    I am seeking advise on applying for 1 card dedicated to saving for a family trip, I do not know where to. We do not get to travel often mainly because of finances.

    I currently have a few cards but not one dedicated to travel. An Amex Blue Cash (wife and I use for groceries), Discover It (use it for regular purchases), Visa (just a plain Visa thru my local bank, not a great reward program).

    I have good credit.

    I am considering closing the Visa and getting 1 card I will dedicate to save for a family trip. Although I prefer no annual fee I would be open to one if value is there. I know you are high on the Chase Sapphire.

    Can you recommend me a card.

  69. @Mitch – Glad you found this guide to be helpful!
    The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is great for folks who are looking for flexibility because you can transfer the points you earn to 11 travel partners. And if you do a lot of spending on dining and travel you’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

    Finding the best card for you, depends on your travel goals:

    And your spending habits.

    See the Hot Deals page for all my current favorite card offers:

  70. Hello there! Not sure if this is the right page to ask this question…

    I was wondering, is there any card that let you redeem its point and earn miles with the airline at the same time?
    I recently booked my trip to Europe (for this coming December) with my Wells Fargo points and I’m flying with different airlines on different airlines… I’m not sure if I can earn miles by booking with those points…

    Thanks in advance!

  71. Since last night I have been trying to transfer Chase Ultimate rewards points to BA. All transfer partners except Ritz & Marriott indicate Temporarily Unavailable. Thought it was system update issue since it was around midnight but persists this morning on all 4 business accounts. Any ideas?

  72. Hi All
    Since the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard not longer offers the 100K bonus miles, but now is offering only 75K bonus miles, is it still worth the $450 fee?
    Do you anticipate them offering the 100K bonus miles again in the near future?

  73. @John – Yes,there are! For example, you can redeem Citi ThankYou points through the Citi travel portal and you’ll still earn miles for your flight:

    And you can use the points you with cash back cards like the Barclays Arrival Plus card to book paid flights and you’ll still earn the miles for your flight:

    @Rick – It’s working for me. If you still aren’t able to transfer your points, you may try contacting Chase.

    @David D – There’s no telling whether or not the 100,000 American Airlines offer will return. Check out my review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive card 75,000 American Airlines mile offer for help with deciding if it’s worth it to you:

  74. We want to save points for future cruises. Which is the best credit card sign up for this purpose?

  75. I am planning on applying for a credit card now, but I want to get the best sign up bonus I can fit what I need. I need at least a round trip flight to England. What credit card would give me this? I have no idea what card miles work for what airlines etc.

  76. I am planning on applying for a credit card now. I want to get the best sign up bonus I can get for what I need. I need to be able to get a round trip flight to England. What credit card would be good for this?
    Also, I have no idea what credit card miles work/are good to transfer to what airlines/hotels. Can pay help me out?
    Thanks a lot!

  77. I have a Mileage Plus Explorer card from Chase which offered a 30,000 mile bonus miles for United.
    These miles were transferred to United three days ago but have never appeared on my UA account. Am I being too impatient? There is a flight available that I would like to book and I am concerned that it may change if I have to wait too long.
    Thank you in advance for any help.

  78. Believe it or not but two hours after asking this question the miles appeared and I was able to book flight.

    Thank you.


  79. I’m new to all of this and have a question. How are the miles subtracted when you use them for a trip? For instance, if I have 50000 miles and only take a 2000 mile trip, would I still have 48000 miles left or is there a minimum amount of miles that must be taken? (For instance, I take a 2000 mile trip but since there a 25000 minimum, lose 23000 mile)

  80. Marco,
    Some airlines may be different but on United or American distance traveled is not how points are deducted. Best deal for US travel would be 25,000 miles return. International 60,000. These are saver awards standard anytime awards would be double that.

  81. @Pat – Welcome to Million Mile Secrets! The Barclay Arrival Plus card is a good choice:

    Another option is a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can redeem these points for cruises through the travel portal at 1.25 cents per point:

    You’ll also get 1.25 cents per point towards cruises with Citi ThankYou points you earn with cards like the Citi ThankYou Premier:

    @Lowie – See my post on how to decide which airline miles to earn for your trip:

    @John Young – Terrific! Glad it worked out 🙂

    @Marco – Each airline has their own award chart. Take a look to see how many miles you’ll need for your trip:

    @John Young – Thanks for helping out!

  82. Thank you for the amazing information. Can’t wait to get started.

  83. If you could choose one hotel card for a new to points person, which would it be? Travel mostly in the U. S. Thanks..

  84. I own my own organization business and am starting to fly to my clients second homes to organize (almost all in the US). Was looking to just purchase a “United Credit Card” just to get a discount on flights, but came to your site and saw the million different options. Will the United cc be worth it? I’m very simple and don’t use credit cards, so would just like discounted fares/millage bonus points. Thoughts? Thank You!

  85. @Tyson Allen – You’re welcome! Let me know if there’s anything I can help with along the way!

    @S – It’s too hard to choose just 1. So I’ll give you 2 🙂

    I like Hyatt because they have a terrific elite program, great locations, and their cash and points program makes it easy to stretch your points. Another excellent option is IHG, they have good budget hotels.

    See my post on how to chose the right hotel card for you:

    @Heidi – You’re right! There are a ton of options, which gets confusing at first. But doing a bit of research on the best card will pay off! I would start by looking at which airline has a variety of flights from your local airport to destinations where you’d like to travel:

  86. Hi, I have 90K miles on my American Airlines account and another 30K miles on my Chase Sapphire account. I am taking a trip from Abu Dhabi to JFK with my 3 year old on Etihad Airways (one leg in a multi leg journey between the US and India!). I am wondering if there is a smart way to pool all the miles (120K total) into a business class upgrade for my daughter and me for just the Abu Dhabi-JFK leg. It will simplify our life considerably since we are on a 30+ hour journey on that trip 🙁


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  88. Hello, let me start by saying great website and very helpful information. I do have a question in regards to how many credit cards can I apply for . You say that you apply for 2-3 every year which I can see that but from my understanding if you applied ones you can apply again for the same one ??? So with that say how many types of credit card there is out there ? It’s not the same company promoting the same card every year ? (United/citi/…)
    Thank you for your help

  89. Hi!
    Very informative website. I was hoping you can help me with my question:
    I wanted to earn the SWA Companion Pass and decided to apply for the southwest Premium card and the Business card (both of which were 50k; Business through and the Premium personal card through your website.) I got approved for the personal one but not the business one, I even tried to call them to reconsider but they would not budge.

    What’s the quickest way for me to make up the 50k points without hurting my credit? I was thinking of applying for the SWA Plus card (40k points in your “Hot Deals” section) which would cover a significant portion but still leaves me with 10k points to fill, and that may hurt my credit. Is that the best way or is there other ways I can earn the points. I’ve read a lot of your articles on how to accrue points and how to reach spending limits, etc. but I can not see reaching 50k anytime soon with that. Help! I greatly appreciate it.

  90. How do you [get new] cards every 4-6 months? Chase just turned me down for a new card claiming I had applied for too many cards (with them and others) in 24 months. Yes I take advantage of every really good offer. They turned me down even though I had a high FICO, no debt, pay off in full each month, closed accounts prior to opening new ones, and never increased my total credit lines. Some that I had opened were closed within the same 24 month. They could see al that form the accounts I have with them and on my Bureau report. I know that they don’t like that but they don’t disclose their policy up front. And now I have a hard hit on my bureau. Anybody else experience this?

  91. I am guessing you were denied for a sapphire, freedom or ink card. On those three specific cards, chase has a rule that went into effect June 2015 whereby if you have taken out more than five cards in the last 24 months, you will get a denial (and it should be noted that chase counts any cards taken out by any issuer in that count – whether it be chase, citi, Amex or other). Chase doesn’t have the same rule for other cards issued by them such as the co-branded United cards.

  92. Thanks for the advice! My wife and I are planning on taking a four week trip to Europe in September of 2016. We will be leaving from Atlanta and most likely flying to London but we haven’t nailed that down yet. I was thinking today that it might be wise to look into some credit cards that we can go ahead and start building points/miles up to help out with the airfare and possibly hotels. We both have excellent credit and I’m pretty sure we can spend close to ten thousand dollars in the first three months. I was thinking we both take out one credit card each in our names to help build up points and reach each bonus goal. The two I was thinking about was the Barclay one and the Chase Sapphire preferred card.
    Do you think we should take out more than two? Do you recommend other cards besides those two that would fit this scenario? We like to set them up for auto pay so we don’t have to worry about late payments.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!


  93. This is an awesome site, thanks so much! I was curious – are there no more debit card rewards programs out there or do you not really focus on those since the points you collect from credit card rewards are just that much better?!

  94. can you convert alaska airlines miles to aadvantage miles?

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  96. @Pree – Unfortunately, I believe you can only use Etihad miles to upgrade Etihad flights.

    @David – Emily and I typically sign-up for 3 to 4 cards each quarter. But when folks are new to this hobby, I recommend signing-up for 1 or 2 cards at 1st to see how it impacts your credit score and until you feel comfortable.

    And some banks let you earn the sign-up bonus again:

    @Hassib – Applying for the other personal card is a good option. But you may want to wait a while since you recently applied.

    Here are a few other ways to earn more Southwest Companion Pass qualifying points:

    @Dave – Chase has new rules:

    The good news is there are some exceptions and lots of other great cards available:

    @Rlobert – Here are my posts on this:

    @Jonathon Yale – I recommend folks who are new to this hobby sign-up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card first. So you can get it before it’s too late:

    This is my favorite card that earns points in my favorite rewards program. And if you and your wife both sign-up, the bonus alone is almost enough to cover the cost of your flights when you transfer to United Airlines.

    And you can stay for free with the right hotel cards. See my guide on finding the right hotel card for your trip:

    @John – There are debit rewards cards like the PayPal Business MasterCard, Chase Disney Visa, UFB Direct Airline Rewards cards.

    Debit cards are a good way to earn points where you can’t pay with a credit card. But you can earn more points, faster with credit card sign-up bonuses!

    @ronnie – You can NOT convert Alaska Airlines miles to American Airlines miles.

    However, American Airlines is an Alaska Airlines partner. So you can book American Airlines flights with Alaska Airlines miles:

  97. I have points saved up for a trip. Since I can’t travel at the moment, can I send someone else on a trip with MY points?

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  99. HI, I want to take my Family of 6 to Hawaii in summer of 2017. We are out of the NY area., would like to go business/first class only. Since I know there will be no saver award open during the summer months. Which airlines offers least amount of miles on a standard first class award. I see AA is 67.500 one way that going to change after March? United and Hawaiian are both 80k one way. Anything I am missing? I am trying to figure out which airline I should go for to stack up over the next 6 months etc… Thanks…