For starters, here is my 8-step Beginner’s Guide:
- Register for points/miles programs and collect miles whenever you travel. Signing up is free and requires no commitment whatsoever.
Airline program registration: United MileagePlus, American Airlines AAdvantage, US Airways Dividend Miles, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, British Airways Executive Club Avios, Delta Airlines SkyMiles.
Hotel program registration: Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, InterContinental Priority Club, Marriott Rewards, Club Carlson.
- Store your account info and monitor your points/miles balances online with www.awardwallet.com. Note that American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest are not supported on AwardWallet and can only be monitored on their own websites.
- Read about “churning” or how to get big credit card bonuses repeatedly without damaging your credit score, and make an informed decision of whether or not it is right for you.
- Choose and apply for airline, hotel, and bank rewards credit cards.
- Meet the minimum spending requirements to achieve your sign-up bonus.
- Decide which cards to keep spending on, and learn how to maximize points/miles with your regular spending.
- Learn how to redeem your points/miles with the various airline, hotel, and bank rewards programs.
- Stay up-to-date with my favorite blogs where I learned all this stuff myself.
Now let’s review the basic concepts of points, miles and award programs.
Points and miles are a currency with which airline and hotel programs reward you for using their product, to encourage further use of their product. These points/miles are deposited and stored in accounts for each award program. Signing up for these accounts is totally free and does not require a credit card.
For example, when you pay to stay at a Hilton and you give them your Hilton HHonors program number, you will end up with a few hundred or thousand points deposited into your account. Eventually, you can save up these points and redeem them for a free night a Hilton. This same basic concept applies to all travel reward programs–you pay, you earn.
Except if you churn. You can earn hundreds of thousands of miles without leaving your house by signing up for credit cards with big sign-up bonuses. Miles and points in each program have different values across the board; they are simply a currency unique to each company’s award program. And you can learn about them all here!