There are dozens of proven methods to earn miles and points for nearly-free travel.   MilesHusband believes flying is the worst way to do that.  Here are some far more lucrative and quicker approaches.

How You Spend Your Money

Dump cash, debit cards, and checks. Embrace credit cards

Checks and cash rarely earn miles and exit your bank account immediately upon clearing. Migrating spend to credit cards offers:

Miles or points for every purchase

Sign-up bonuses from various credit cards

Bonus miles on certain spending categories (e.g., Travel, Restaurants, Grocery Stores).

Periodic incentives for using them for additional purchases within specified time periods. Credit cards offer regular incentives to retain your business

30-45 days cash float to use for other purposes

For a nominal fee, nearly every merchant who accepts checks for payment also accepts Master Card or Visa credit cards.  Often the value of the miles earned exceeds the nominal fee.

Get organized

A few rules of the road, or sky, as the case may be. Always pay your bills on time. Always pay off you’re your entire credit card balances each month. No travel perk is worth accruing interest charges.

AwardWallet.com is a great way to keep track of usernames and passwords.

Although I do not necessarily endorse, some other password management tools are listed here.

Credit card companies typically provide 90-100 days to meet the minimum spend requirement to be eligible for the sign-up bonus miles. You’ll need to track credit card sign-up dates and document the criteria to earn bonus miles so that you don’t miss out on the sign-up bonus. I use Excel for this.

Know Your Credit Score

Credit cards sign-on bonuses, while not the only earning technique, is one of the best techniques to rapidly earn miles and points.  Eligibility for premium credit cards (the cards that earn the best miles and points) typically requires “real” FICO scores above 710.

Unfortunately, knowing your “real” FICO score requires a subscription or fee each time you want to check your “real” score. However, you can sign up for free accounts using the links below to view an approximate “real” score.

Freecreditscore.com (Experian)

Creditkarma.com (Equifax and Transunion)

To convert your freecreditscore.com and credikarma.com FICO scores to your “real” score, I typically subtract 40-50 points to ball-park estimate the “real” FICO score. This is the score that most banks will use to determine your eligibility for the new card.

Sign Up For Loyalty Programs

Airlines provide the most bang-for-buck when compared to other loyalty programs. I’ve listed from most-to-least valuable based on my award travel habits. Each of these sign ups is free and only take a few minutes to complete.

Airlines

Alaska

Air Canada-Aeroplan

American

Avianca

British Airways 

Cathay Pacific

Delta

JetBlue 

Korean Air 

Singapore Airlines 

Southwest Rapid Rewards

United

 

Hotels

Club Carlson 

Hilton 

Hyatt

IHG 

Marriott 

Starwood Preferred Guest 

Move Your Travel Cheese

Examine your habits and be prepared to change direction.  Old habits die hard.  You’ll likely need to change course to grow your miles and points-earning muscles.  Some recent conversations that continue to come up with chaser wannabes:

“I live in Atlanta so I only fly Delta”

SkyMiles are some of the least valuable points currency and most difficult to use. Even hub-captive fliers should diversify or discontinue earning SkyMiles altogether. Further, Delta does not offer an international first class cabin, an onboard bar, chef, double bed or butler as part of its experience.

“I have 50,000 Capital One miles and 40,000 Wells Fargo points and want to fly first class for 2 to Europe”

If travel to Europe is one of your travel goals, then switching your credit card spend on cards that earn the best miles for Europe travel should be a top priority.  Flying internationally in premium cabins using Capital One and Wells Fargo points is not reasonably possible

“My itinerary must be set many months in advance of travel”

Unless travelling during peak periods (e.g., school holidays), the best travel deals often occur within a few months of travel. When redeeming miles for air travel, often the best awards are only available within 21 days of travel

How many miles do you need?

Single vs. Multi-player

Larger families require more miles and points. A typical family of four will require up to 500,000 miles for international premium cabin travel or 100,000 miles for domestic economy class. The more family members that participate in your earning of miles, the faster your family will accumulate miles for nearly-free travel.  For simplicity, I recommend starting with a single family member and scaling to add additional family members as your spare time permits.

Set your travel goals

When do you typically travel?  During school holidays, winter, Easter breaks?  If yes, these trips often require booking months in advance. If you travel during off-peak or can depart or return mid-week, you’ll have more choices on which carriers you fly and at which hotels you stay and you won’t have to book months in advance in order to secure your reservation.

Where to you want to go? Do you want to travel domestic? International?  A combination?  Your destination determines which loyalty programs you should concentrate on

What class of service do you prefer?  The higher the class of service, the more miles and points required for the nearly-free travel. However, due to expanded seat availability, it is typically easier to travel in premium cabins closer to departure than in economy.

MilesHusband To The Rescue!

This all is a lot to take in!

If you have a specific question, drop MilesHusband an email at MilesHusband@gmail.com.

He’s also available for hire at various levels of service.

However you get into the points chasing game—dipping your baby toe or jumping in the deep end—Welcome! Adventure awaits!

 

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