Maximizing Miles & Points

If I could say one thing to people beginning the points & miles game, it is this: earning and then making the most of your points and miles accumulations takes a LOT of work and time. So, in the interest of that advice, here are my tips for wringing the maximum value from your hard-earned miles and points.
  • Monitor points & miles blogs and promotions daily.
    • Most mainstream, for-profit blogs have email newsletters and/or social media accounts, so checking in with them during your downtime is important. They have cadres of people researching the latest changes, promotions, and perks.
    • You can also sign up for hotel and airline email newsletters and promotions, or check their app every few days. Just be consistent. You never know when a good value might appear.
    • I follow ThePointsGuy, One Mile at a Time, and Loyalty Lobby. But there are hundreds of other blogs and sites. (Unlike those blogs, I do NOT receive any compensation from any corporate sponsors, but if you want to use me as a referral, please let me know!).
  • Sign-up for EVERY loyalty promotion. You can usually find them on the business's website, and you may even receive them via email. When you receive/see a promotion, sign-up for it.
    • Even if you don't think you'll be flying to Asia twice before September, you never know! It can be really easy to say, "If I end up going to Japan, I'll sign-up for the promotion", and then forget about the promotion, or let the sign-up opportunity expire.
    • It costs nothing but a minute or so to sign up for these promotions, and some of them are VERY lucrative. For example, when we went to the Maldives using points and miles a few years ago, I had signed up for a triple points promotion alongside some other double points promotion I had forgotten about, and we ended up earning more points during our stay than the actual stay cost us!
  • Redeem your points and miles for experiences you wouldn't normally have.
    • For example, if you take your annual vacation to the Caribbean but always fly (basic) economy and stay at a VRBO where you cook your own food to keep down costs, consider redeeming your points and miles each year for a business class flight and an all-inclusive resort stay where you can order room service and experience fine restaurant dining.
      • In this case, your only out-of-pocket expenses would be stuff not included in the "all-inclusive" (yes, that's a thing), which would likely not be anymore expensive than the VRBO anyhow.
      • Plus, if you had a co-branded credit card for the resort, you would earn a lot of points for any "incidentals" during your stay, jump-starting your next points-paid vacation. You might also score a nicer/larger room for your stay, get guaranteed late check-out/early check-in, and maybe discounts on incidentals because your co-branded card gave you elite status.
  • Be wary of gathering too many sign-up bonuses.
    • Yes, there are people with 20+ credit cards who racked up millions of points and miles via sign-up bonuses, but are they truly getting the value for each card? Are they using every perk on every card? Can they really get the maximum value for all those points and miles? Or at least enough to offset all the annual card fees?
    • If you're using a credit card to earn points and miles – especially if it has an annual fee – make certain you are using as many benefits as possible doing things you would normally do to off-set/recoup the cost. 
  • Good rule of thumb when selecting a points and/or miles credit card: will you utilize the "credits" during the year as part of your normal, day-to-day expenses, or would you be spending on things just for the sake of the perks/credits? Do NOT do the latter.
    • Spending $100 on something you normally wouldn't just to earn points is silly. If you're increasing your spending to earn "perks", is that really the best use of your money?
    • Does it really make sense to get a premium credit card with $500 annual fee that offers you lounge access you use once a year when the cost of one visit to the lounge might be $100?
    • The greatest reward/cost-benefit comes when you earn points/miles for normal, everyday purchases/things you'd be doing anyhow.
  • Always pay off your balance in full each month. If you don't, the interest you pay basically takes away from the potential value of your points/miles.

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