Beginner How To: Miles and Points

The best way to get free travel is through miles and points. However, miles and points come in different forms. Before you go out and get that next and greatest credit card, or aspire to be that top-tier status on your favorite airline, you need to understand what types of rewards currency there are.

There are three major miles and points currencies:

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  • Airline Miles / Hotel Points (Hint: Think American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, or Hyatt Gold Passport Points)
  • Fixed-Value Points (Hint: Thing Barclaycard Arrival Miles)
  • Flexible / Transferable Points (Hint: Think American Express Membership Rewards Points)

Airline Miles and Hotel Points

This is the simplest type of currency to understand, and is what it sounds like it is. Often times, you’ll hear this referred to as “butt in seat” miles, meaning you only earn the miles or points when you actually fly, or actually stay in the hotel. With many co-branded cards, however, you can now earn airline miles and hotel points directly with the airline/hotel by only spending on their credit card. Typically, when you fly in on a flight with a specific airline, you earn “x” amount of that airline’s miles, which you can then spend on reward tickets when you have accrued enough miles. Similarly, with hotels, when you have stayed “x” amount of times, or a similar concept, you’ll earn enough of that hotel brand’s points to earn free nights.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines AAdvantage

Want to know how to accumulate more miles for less? Try mileage running.

Fixed-Value Points

With these programs you’ll earn points that you can then redeem for statement credits, typically at a rate of 1-2 cents per point. One of the most popular point values of this nature is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Miles, which can be redeemed for travel statement credits at a redemption rate of 2.2%. While these fixed-value currencies are great for using on cheap tickets, small expenditures, or miscellaneous fees, it’s not good for using on luxury hotels, premium class airfares, and other luxury travel benefits. Essentially, the bank purchases your ticket or fee for you, so there’s no blackout dates as long as there is a seat available (though keep in mind, you’d be paying the current rate of the ticket).

Flexible / Transferrable Points

There are three major ways to earn flexible or transferrable points: through American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or through the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. With the points you accrue through these programs, you have an array of airlines and hotel brands you can transfer your points into, when you want to complete a redemption.

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners:

  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • El Al Matmid
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Frontier EarlyReturns
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Virgin America EleVAte
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Iberia Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

  • Amtrak Guest Rewards
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SkyPass
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Singapore KrisFlyer

Starwood Preferred Guest Transfer Partners

  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Etihad Airways
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • airberlin Top Bonus
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Gol Smiles
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Air China Companion
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • US Airways Dividend Miles
  • Air France/KLM FlyingBlue
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
  • United Mileage Plus
  • Air New Zealand Air Points
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • LAN Airlines LANPASS
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  • China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Virgin Australia
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • Qatar Airways

In summary, collect the miles and points which suit the travel you want to do, where you want to stay, and how you want to get there. Each point currency is different, and in many cases, one type is better than another. For example, it is much better to use American Express Membership rewards Points to transfer to British Airways Avios to purchase a Business Class Are Lingus ticket from Boston to Dublin than it is to use a fixed-point earning currency to outright pay that ticket at the cash price.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards

Accruing Miles and Points

There are several ways to accrue miles and points, but the primary method is through signing up for the credit cards, that you will then use to purchase things you ordinarily would have spent money on.

Step 1: Sign up for each of the loyalty programs (or the ones you intend on using) in each program, and the credit cards you’ll accumulate the rewards in.

Step 2: When purchasing things, always purchase when there is some type of bonus to what you intend on buying. For example, if there’s a choice between getting 1 point per dollar spend on gas, or 2 points per dollar spent on gas, use the credit card or program that will get you the higher earning.

Step 3: There are constantly promotions and bonuses you should be paying attention to to make the most of your dollar. For example, American Express has their Amex Sync promotions where you can save money on the things you ordinarily would have purchased for a higher amount. There are also a variety of shopping portals that can earn you mileage or point bonuses on expenditures that may have earned at a lower rate by actually going to the physical store itself.

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