10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles & Points When Starting Out

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10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles & Points When Starting Out

Million Mile Secrets10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles & Points When Starting OutMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

A key to faster achievement is to learn from the mistakes of others.  That way you save time by not having to make those mistakes yourself!

Each Friday I post an interview with a miles & points blogger.  And 1 of the questions I ask is, “What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?”

I went through the interviews and picked out the top 10 things folks wish they had known from the beginning.

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles Points When Starting Out
I’m So Grateful for Everything I’ve Learned About Miles & Points! Here I Am With My Dad in the Maldives on a $27,000 Family Vacation That Only Cost ~$4,300

As I look over the list below, #10 isn’t something we often think about.  But maybe it ought to be #1.

10 Miles & Points Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I noticed 9 main themes in the answers.  And #10 wasn’t mentioned nearly enough.  But I think it’s incredibly important.

1 – Make of the Most of the Best Deals While You Can

We’ve seen many great deals come and go, like:

Even this week, Citi stopped allowing credit card funding of their Citigold checking accounts.

Things move fast in the miles and points world.  If something is a great deal, take advantage of it while it’s around.

I’ll always let you know about the best deals.  It’s up to you to take action!

2 – Having a Lot of Credit Cards Does NOT Hurt Your Credit Score

In fact, using credit responsibly may even help to boost your credit score!

When you pay your bills on time each month and maintain good relationships with the banks, you’ll have an excellent chance of getting the best sign-up bonuses.  This is the fastest way to earn more miles and points!

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles Points When Starting Out
Enjoy Great Deals While They Last! I Found a Cheap Flight to Iceland for a First-Hand Look at Their Friendly Culture and Beautiful Landscapes

3 – Have a Strategy

It’s better to have a lot of miles or points in a single program instead of spread out.  In other words, 20,000 points each in 5 different programs is usually NOT as good as having 100,000 points in 1 program.

Assess your travel goals.  Create a plan.  Then figure out how to make that plan happen rather than take the shotgun approach to miles and points.

And if you can’t decide, try a flexible points program!  For beginners, I recommend Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

4 – You Can Earn Sign-Up Bonuses Again

Most banks will allow you to earn fantastic bonuses on credit cards more than once.  Except for AMEX personal cards – those you can only earn once per lifetime.

Each bank has rules for how long you must wait between opening and closing accounts.  Keep every credit card for at least ~8 to ~10 months.  Then decide if the card is worth keeping.  Many times, it is!

If banks decide you’re only using their cards for the welcome bonus, they may deny your future applications.

Develop a strong relationship with each bank by paying your bills on time and keeping their best cards and no-annual-fee cards open.

5 –  Use Shopping Portals to Boost Your Balances

When you shop online, ALWAYS click through a shopping portal if your merchant participates.  It’s worth checking to earn extra miles or points.

It also extends the expiration date of your miles so you have more time to use them.

Evreward or Cashback Monitor are terrific resources for checking which portal has the highest return at each individual store.  I also like Giving Assistant.

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles Points When Starting Out
Attention Shoppers! Click Through a Portal When Buying Online. You’ll Earn Extra Miles!

6 – Credit Partner Airline Flights to Your Main Mileage Program

When you know you’ll have only 1 or 2 paid flights on an airline, see if you can credit it to 1 of their partners instead of their mileage program.

For instance, if you have a paid flight on SWISS, earning miles in their program might not be too helpful.  Instead, enter your United Airlines frequent flyer number.  (Because they’re both in the Star Alliance.)

7 – When You Learn the Basics, Keep Learning the More Advanced Rules

Each mileage program has rules for how you can redeem your miles.  It’s worth learning them.  For example, United Airlines lets you build in a stopover or open-jaw, which makes your award ticket even more valuable.

8 – Airline Alliances Let You Fly Worldwide

Say you pick American Airlines to be your main airline program.  But did you know you can book an award seat on partner airlines like Cathay Pacific, Finnair, or Qantas to fly to more places all over the world?

Most airlines are part of 3 main alliances.  It’s worth knowing which airlines are included in each alliance.  Some of our favorite trips have been on airline alliance partners.

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Miles Points When Starting Out
I Had a Restful Flight in Cathay Pacific First Class (a oneworld Alliance Partner) by Using American Airlines Miles

9 – Always Get the Miles or Points

It doesn’t matter if you fly an airline once or have a stay in a hotel you think you won’t return to – always get the miles or points while you can.  Because you never know when those miles might come in handy.

10 – The Best Use of Miles Is for What Brings You Happiness

Too often we can get caught up chasing the highest points redemptions possible…the international First Class flight, or the luxury hotel stay in an exotic location.  And it’s fun to do that!

But it’s also important to use travel as a way to be closer to our loved ones.

It’s great to explore on your own, experience other cultures, meet new people, and learn about yourself along the way.  It’s just as important to use what we’ve learned to spend time with Mom.  Or absorb Grandma Vena’s last 3 lessons.  Or to take your family some place new.

Scott Mackenzie’s courageous and touching post about his dad passing away reminded me of the importance of not taking family time for granted.  And to use miles & points as a gift that allows us to to visit more often and travel together.

Bottom Line

There’s always more to learn about this hobby.  But ultimately, the best way to use your miles and points is for what makes YOU happy.  And you can do that because there are so many ways to personalize how you earn and redeem your miles and points.

With that in mind, what do YOU wish you knew when you started collecting miles & points?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Can I use points from my daughter’s Sapphire card for my own travel, if she’s originates the transfer? Any help on the steps necessary? Thanks,

@Hassib – There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how often you can sign-up for new cards. So if you find a great offer, you might decide to take it! That said, I usually wait ~90 days between applications to space them out.

The 100,000 point bonus on the AMEX Platinum Card doesn’t come around very often, at least publicly.

I opened 2 Chase Southwest cards in mid-december. I checked Amex pre-qualifications and I’m pre-qualified for the platinum (offering 100,000 bonus). Is it too soon after the Chase cards to be opening another card? Also, how often does Amex have an offer like this?