Collected a Bunch of Miles & Points, Now What?

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A Million Mile Secrets reader, J., emailed:

I’ve collected 100,000 miles and points with American Airlines, Delta, and Starwood.  Plus, I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, so I earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Now what?

Collecting miles & points is part of the equation.  Redeeming them for Big Travel with Small Money is the next step.  This can be a weekend getaway to visit family or an around-the-world honeymoon!

Plan Travel With Miles Points
Earn Miles & Points That Help You Achieve Your Travel Goals! Team Member Keith and His Wife Saved to Visit South Africa for Their Honeymoon

When you’re new to miles & points, I always suggest earning rewards with a travel goal in mind.  This can help you develop a credit card strategy, and earn lucrative sign-up bonuses with the right program.

I’ll share tips for turning your miles & points into travel memories!

 Earn Miles & Points With Your Travel Goals in Mind!

Link:   Beginner’s Guide to Using Flexible Points for Big Travel With Small Money

Link:   Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?

Earning miles & points with lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses is a fantastic starting point when you’re new to this hobby.  This is the quickest and easiest way to boost your frequent flyer and hotel loyalty account balances.

But it can be overwhelming at first if you’re collecting rewards in different loyalty accounts and are unsure of their full potential.

Plan Travel With Miles Points
Wondering What to Do With All Your Miles & Points? I’ll Share Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed

Emily and I know what it’s like when you’re starting out.  So here are some tips that can help you with your miles & points journey!

1.   Set Your Travel Goals

As you start earning miles & points, consider your travel goals.  There’s no right or wrong way to use the rewards you earn.  But you should think about:

  • Do you want to travel within the US or overseas?
  • Are you looking to travel as cheaply as possible or stay at 5-star resorts and fly Business Class?
  • Do you have an airline or hotel chain preference?

Answering these questions will help determine the type of miles & points you should collect.

And no travel goal is too small or out of reach.  Emily and I used miles to fly Business Class and visit the Maldives.  But you can also stretch your miles & points with weekend trips to visit friends and loved ones.

Plan Travel With Miles Points
Emily Loves Using Miles & Points for Weekend Trips to Visit Her Grandma

One of my top tips for beginners is to earn transferable points.  This way, you’ll have flexibility to transfer points to airline and hotel partners when you’re ready to book a trip.

If you’re looking for travel ideas using miles & points, take a look at our trip reports and reader success stories on our Inspiration page.

2.   Take Advantage of Airline Alliances and Partnerships

Link:   You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles to Another Airline, but Here’s What You CAN Do

Investing time to learn about airline alliances and partnerships can pay off when you’re planning a trip with miles & points.

For example, team member Keith recently helped a friend book an award flight to Munich for Oktoberfest.  His friend didn’t have enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to United Airlines for an award flight.

But he did have a big stash of AMEX Membership Rewards points.  So Keith explained that he could transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan.  Then, book a United Airlines award flight thanks to the Star Alliance partnership.

Plan Travel With Miles Points
You Might Use Miles or Points With One Airline to Book an Award Flight on a Completely Different Airline Because of Alliances and Partnerships

Similarly, it’s also helpful to understand how to maximize points with transferable programs.

For example, reader J. earns Starwood points and American Airlines and Delta miles.  Both of these airlines are transfer partners in the Starwood program.

So he can transfer Starwood points to either airline to top off his account for an award flight.  And he’ll get a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points he transfers!

3.   How Many Miles & Points Should You Collect?

Once you have a travel destination in mind and know the airlines that can get you there, figure out how much an award flight costs.  Take a look at our airline award chart guide for help.

If you’re short of the miles required for an award flight, don’t be discouraged.  There are many ways increase your frequent flyer balances, including earning lucrative sign-up bonuses and miles from airline shopping portals.

4.   Track Your Miles & Points

When you’re earning rewards in many different programs, it’s crucial to stay organized and keep track of what you have.

I recommend using AwardWallet to help you monitor the miles and points in your various accounts.  Or you can just keep an old-fashioned spreadsheet – anything is better than nothing!

Plan Travel With Miles Points
Track Your Miles & Points on a Spreadsheet or With Tools Like AwardWallet So You Can Make Sure They Don’t Expire

Million Mile Secrets team member Meghan likes Award Wallet because it notifies you when your miles or points are about to expire.

5.   Consider an Award Booking Service

If you’re frustrated searching for award flights or simply don’t have the time, consider using an award booking service.

You’ll typically pay ~$100 to $150 per ticket they successfully book for you.  This fee includes showing you different options with the miles & points you have and calling the airlines to book the flights.

Even folks who are comfortable booking award flights like these services because experts find the lowest cost options.  So you can make your miles & points last longer by finding the best deals!

Check out these 6 tips to get the most of your award booking service experience.

Bottom Line

When you start earning miles & points, it’s helpful to have a travel goal in mind.  This can help you determine the type of miles & points you should collect.

In general, I recommend earning transferable points.  This gives you flexibility to transfer points to airline and hotel partners when you’re ready to book a trip.

Don’t forget to take advantage of airline alliances and partnerships when searching for award flights.  You can potentially combine flexible points with existing miles and book an award flight on a complete different airline!

If you’re unsure how to make your miles & points work for a trip, consider using an award booking service.  You’ll pay a fee, but this could end up saving you money in the long run!

Any tips you would share for someone with miles and points in different accounts?

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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