Traveling isn’t necessarily cheap, but that shouldn’t flag you away from seeing the world or family on the other side of the country. Other than scrimping and saving, you can take advantage of budget traveling through miles and points earnings by credit card sign up bonuses. It is a lot of information to take in, but it’s actually really easy and simple once you get the foundation down. Rewards credit cards offer sign up bonuses that give you lots of frequent flyer miles without actually flying. For example, a 50,000 mile sign up bonus can be enough for a free international round trip flights or several free hotel nights. Take your pick or take both.
This Beginner’s Guide to Miles and Points will help you lay down a solid foundation and framework so you can start earning and collecting miles and points. There is nothing more satisfying than saving $700-$1500 on flights that can be used for other aspects of your travels.
Step 1- Set Goals and Establish your Expectations
If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably already figured one thing out, you want to travel and you want to save money doing so. That’s already a great goal in itself, but once you’ve decided that you want to travel, start to consider the type of travel you would like to do and potentially for how long. Whether you are already a seasoned traveler and want to explore places off the beaten path or have never left US soil and want to backpack across the world, once you establish some specific goals you can start earning miles to meet them. Why then? Because there are SO many options of miles or points that you can earn so you really want to focus on earning the points that cater towards your goals. For example, if you want to fly to Asia, it would be pointless to start earning Southwest Airlines miles if you don’t plan to do any domestic travel. Though if you’re a college student from California, but are studying in New York, then maybe you want to save money on holiday travel to visit friends and family back home by earning Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points.
Answer these questions to help determine your travel goals:
- Where do I want to go?
- For how long?
- Luxury or Budget?
- Do I want free flights?
- Do I want free hotel stays?
Step 2- Signup for Loyalty Programs to Start Earning Points
You can earn frequent flyer miles by signing up with loyalty programs for free. Most airlines have different networks you can start earning miles and points with just by going out to eat at certain restaurants, making purchases through their shopping portals or signing up for promotional newsletters.
Since you will be given an account number for each program, the points you earn through these different networks will be credited to you linked frequent flyer mile accounts.
Step 3- Manage Your Miles
Once you start earning miles, keep track of them by staying organized. That way you don’t forget about any miles that you can use towards free travel. If you’re organized you can do it on your own, but I recommend using Award Wallet to keep track of miles. It’s a free service that stores all of your loyalty programs and account information and the points you’ve earned for each. (I have an Award Wallet referral link that allows new users to upgrade for free) By storing your account information Award Wallet automatically updates miles you have earned or redeemed and whether your miles are soon to expire.
Step 4- Check Your Credit Score and Credit Report
Knowing where you are as far as your credit score and your report is important for a few different reasons. For one, the better your score, the better your chances will be to get approval for credit cards with amazing sign up bonus offers. It’s also important to know your credit score because if you don’t have a great score, you can see where you need to improve based on your FICO score. You can check and monitor your credit score on Credit Sesame and Credit Karma for free and it will not drop your score at all.
If your credit score is great (above 720), you may be able to apply for several credit cards at the same time and get approved, this is called an app-o-rama. By applying for several cards at once, the credit bureau that gets pulled combines them if it receives more than one on the same day, so you’re score only drops a couple points. There are three credit bureaus that may run your credit score, Experian, TransUnion and EquiFax. By doing a successful app-o-rama, you can earn 100,000+ points and miles to use towards maximizing your travel adventures.
Step 5- Take Advantage of Lucrative Credit Card Bonus
Step 4 naturally weaves its way into step 5 because in order to take advantage of lucrative credit card bonuses, you will need a good credit score. Credit card companies will sometimes offer a sign up bonus too good to pass up, like a high bonus offer with a low minimum spend requirement. Applying and getting approved for a credit card that is offering at least 25,000 points is a great way to start your miles and points earnings. Applying for a credit card with a bonus of 75,000 points or miles and getting approved for is most ideal to add to your miles balances. This will get you at least $500 to $1500 worth of free travel. Just make sure not to take on more than you can handle because in order to earn the miles from sign up bonuses, you often have to meet the minimum spend requirement within a specific time frame.
Step 6- Use Credit Cards to Meet Minimum Spend Requirement
Every credit card has a different spending requirement to meet in order to be awarded the sign up bonus. Some credit card bonuses only require you to make a single purchase in order to earn the points whereas other spending requirements state that you have to spend an X amount of dollars within a period of 90 days or 3 months to earn the bonus. If you do have to meet a minimum spend requirement, the best way to meet it is by using the credit card for every purchase whether it’s for grocery shopping, gas, utilities or just about anything you already intended to pay for with cash or debit. Just be sure to pay your statement off in full every month because carrying a balance over to the next statement cycle will have a negative impact on your credit score.
Step 7- Redeem Your Miles
Once you’ve accumulated enough miles to accomplish your goal of traveling the world, start looking for creative ways to maximize the miles like taking advantage of free stopovers or openjaw awards. FlyerTalk is a forum and great source for points and miles advice, but there are several blogs that you can refer to for tips and tricks including this one!
Here are some links to articles within Adrift Anywhere that offer information on miles and points earnings to get you started:
If you have any comments, questions or concerns please comment below or send me an email at email@example.com to get in touch!