Earning Points and Miles, Starting out.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are many ways to earn airline miles and hotel points. The most obvious is by flying or staying in hotels. Then to me the next is getting certain credit card (s) for the particular airline or hotel, or one that allows you to transfer points into miles and/or vice versa, like the SPG AMEX, or many others. There is also the online shopping portals I spoke about, allowing you to buy what you already was going to buy but earn miles or points at no extra cost. Similar to the shopping portals, there is also points and miles for dining. There are also ways to earn extra miles or points through targeted or ongoing promotions, and finally earning with “partner” companies.
First Things First
Before you can earn anything, you have to sign up for the particular program or programs you want to earn with. If you enjoy travel and want to open up several opportunities I would sign up for 2 or 3 programs. Its free and easy, but by doing this you open yourself up to get targeted promotions, and if at the last-minute you see the possibility to earn miles or points in a certain program you want to already be signed up. I cannot list them all, but I will list the ones I personally see as most important in the order of importance in my opinion . (keep in mind my likes and dislikes and goals may be different then yours so keep this in mind, this is just my personal picks). Click on the names to go to the sign-up page for the ones you wish to sign up for. It doesn’t hurt to sign up and not use it right away, I had many accounts from many years ago I had never used and they were still there and active. Miles and Points are NOT created equal! AA miles are worth more than United or Delta miles, in general. The Points Guy has a Valuation of the Miles/ points Here, so you’ll know how much they are generally worth, but it’s not set in stone, as you can see my upcoming trip I got much more value out of them, but it’s not common, and The Points guy gives you a good idea of the average and general value of them.
- American Airlines (AA). American used to be my go to airline. I like them because they are part of the OneWorld Alliance, and partner with many good airlines, like Etihad , Cathay Pacific, Qatar, and Qantas ,which are some of the best airlines in the world. Meaning you can use AA miles to fly on these airlines. The prices have gone up on the last year or so, but still some very good options. (I’m using 185,000 AA miles to fly First Class on Etihad to Mumbai, India and Qatar Business class back, which is a GREAT redemption.
- United Airlines (UA). United is part of the Star Alliance which has many partners as well. I find these partners to be hit or miss sometimes, but none the less it includes airlines such as Lufthansa , Aegean, Singapore Airways, Thai Airways, and Turkish Airways (I am flying Turkish Business class from India to Egypt for 35,000 UA Miles next month).
- Delta (DL) . Delta is the ONLY US Based airlines I will have Platinum status with in 2017, but it has recently upset me and many others by de-valuing their skymiles program with un-announced and negative changes to the cost of miles to go certain places. Delta is one of the most dependable airlines as far as on time and less hiccups, but their attitude towards loyal flyers is really getting bad. I still think you should sign up for them because they are one of the big 3 players in the US, and they in general take care of you while you are flying them. Delta is part of the SkyTeam, which include airlines such as Air France and KLM. Delta does not publish a chart of how many miles it takes to get to certain areas, so you have to search each place and date, the other 2 above publish charts so you know from the US to Asia for example cost XYZ, but Delta decided less info is better I guess.
- Alaska Airlines (AS). Alaska is a VERY dependable and good run airline. I haven’t flown them in quit a while but they actually have better dependability than Delta, the only problem is they are a smaller airline. This is changing a bit as they just bought Virgin America, and that merger will more than likely go through. Alaska does not belong to an alliance, BUT they have many partners. As a matter of fact they partner with American Airlines and Delta so you can fly them and use your Frequent flyer number , say from American Airlines to earn miles on American Airlines, or Fly American Airlines and use your Alaska Airlines frequent flyer number to earn Alaska Miles. And you can spend miles between the 3, and may more! So Alaska is a very interesting airline with good partnerships. One of my favorites is they are the only US Partner to Emirates airlines where you can use Alaska miles to fly them, which is awesome, see here.
- Southwest (WN). I have to admit I am not a fan of Southwest. I’m sure they are good and fine, but my taste is I don’t care to fly them. With that said I have to admit they have GREAT prices, and great sales. Also their mileageplan Program has a few interesting aspects. For Example, its very easy to earn miles and status without even flying them. They also have a Companion pass after earning so many points that allows you to have someone fly with you for free or almost free for a year. I am not even a member, I will admit, but for some people this is a great option.
- Starwood (SPG). SPG is, by far my #1 points or miles program! I , and almost everyone else value them higher than any other program. This is for many reasons, you can use them at SPG hotels (Now Marriott as well) and you can transfer them to many airlines with a bonus and you can also use them to buy SPG moments, like VIP passes to races or concerts in a VIP box, and many cultural and other things. These points MAY or MAY NOT be as valuable next year or so because of the Marriott Merger , which now makes the two companies the biggest hotel company in the world. That on its face sounds good, but as we know with less competitor, things doesn’t get better, EVER. Furthermore, Marriott Rewards is not known to be the best (some people may think it is in fairness), but most people would say SPG and MR are like daylight and dark. An Example of the Value of each of these programs, after the SPG / Marriott merger, you can now transfer points back and forth between the to companies after linking them. 1 SPG point is converted to 3 MR points, so SPG points are valued even by Marriott as 3 times more valuable! Many of us feel they may be a little higher, but that was a good , and welcome exchange rate. If you sign up for one program , sign up for SPG. Their footprint was NOT the biggest , pre-merger, but it was ok. Now POST merger, it is HUGE. granted you still have to be signed up for both SPG if you stay in SPG to earn points and MR if you stay at Marriott properties, BUT you can easily and quickly transfer points back and forth. You only earn Elite status for the program of the hotel you stay for now, but more about that later.
- Marriott Rewards (MR). MR is NOT my second choice, but because it’s now connected to my first choice (SPG) I have to include it. MR has made significant changes in the last few months to bring things close to the SPG program, but it’s still far off. If you are a member of SPG and want to accumulate SPG points, sign up for and stay at Marriott properties when there isn’t a good SPG property and then transfer the points over. Like I said before, 3 MR points turn into 1 SPG point.
- Hyatt. Hyatt is really my second favorite program, but the problem is they have a very small footprint. There aren’t many Hyatt properties in all the places I go, so its harder to stay Loyal to them. They just recently made many changes to their program, now calling it World of Hyatt. As far as points earning it’s basically the same as before, many of the changes are for elite purposes. I will go into this later. Hyatt has some of the best properties in the world, and they really know how to treat their guest, ESPECIALLY their Loyal members that have status.
- Hilton HHonors – Hilton has a good program as well. Some of their properties are really top notch and some are not, but all in all you can earn a lot of points and airline miles by staying at Hilton properties. They treat Diamond members very well and overall I find them to be a good program.
- IHG – IHG stands for Inter-Continental and its not my favorite program, and their loyalty program is not the best, but you can earn a lot of points and get some cheap redemptions with them. I wont say much but if you see yourself staying at these properties, I would sign up and earn points as their InterContinental Brand is very nice usually!
Like I mentioned above, and in previous posts, you can sign up for certain “branded” credit cards that allow you to earn miles or points just by everyday spending. Some people, myself included use these cards for daily spend, and just pay at the end of the month. If you would normally spend $1000 or $2000 a month with your debit card, then why not just use a points or miles credit card and just PAY that card off at the end of the month. If you pay what you spend there is no interest and the benefit is you earn points or miles. Some cards you get 1 point or mile per dollar spent ,others may be more, and for spending on that company (for example the American Airlines credit card you get 2 miles per dollar if you spend it at or on American Airlines). So a few months of spend could get you a free one way flight just by spending what you normally would have spent anyway. I will talk more about shopping portals later, but if you go to the American airlines shopping portal and buy a $750 iPhone through Apple.com for example, and use your American Airlines credit card, you could earn 2250 American Airlines miles. (AA Shopping portal was offering 2 miles per dollar spent the other day) SO if you was going to buy an iPhone anyway, then why not?.. , it’s just GRAVY! Many of these cards offer a big and sometimes huge bonus for signing up, and / or spending a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. Keep this in mind when signing up. Also look at the annual fees. If the Annual fee is $95 dollars like the SPG Amex card is (after the first year) but you get 25,000 starpoints for your bonus, it’s a no brainer because the value of those starpoints are worth well over $500 dollars. Make sure your able to meet the spend in the time frame required. What some people do is called “manufactured spending” which is a whole other post, but basically its buying gift cards or other stuff and selling them or using them to pay your credit card bill, for example, buying a visa gift card, then going to wal-mart and doing a bill pay to make a payment to the card you used to buy the pre paid debit card, with that card. In the end it costs you a few dollars per transaction, but you meet your spend. I will write more about this in another post. My point is between the sign-up bonus, and regular spend you can really rack up the points / miles, and its well worth it. Finally, with certain cards come perks, besides the points / miles. For example AA offers a 10% discount on miles you redeem up to 10,000 miles a year. What this means is if you have certain AA cards and you buy an award ticket and use 100,000 miles, you get 10,000 miles immediately refunded to your AA account. Also certain cards give you status with the airline or hotel, and most airline credit cards give you priority boarding and extra free luggage, amongst many other things. The Citi Prestige Card offers 4th night free if you book the hotel through their concierge, and I’ve used it and its great! Each card is different so do your research but most of the time all these cards MORE then pay for themselves!
I am not signed up for any affiliate links for these credit cards but other bloggers are so I will point you to a few of their sites to get their opinions. I will tell you , My Favorite branded cards are the SPG American Express card, the Ritz Carlton card. My favorite Un-Branded cards are the American Express Platinum card, The Citi Prestige Card, and the Chase Sapphire premier or reserve card . (All of these except the SPG Amex and Saphire Premier have a very high annual fee of around $500 USD, BUT again if you travel enough they MORE than pay for themselves. , they have AWESOME benefits)
Shopping Portals are a free No-Brainer! If you shop online, there’s no sense in NOT using these portals. To explain how it works is basically the program, like American Airlines AAdvantage program set up a shopping portal. When you go through their site, (Shopping portal site), they get a commission on what you buy, and in return you get miles. The number of miles you get can change daily because they make and change agreements all the time! Apple for example is usually 1 miles for every dollar spent , but the other day it was 2 miles but just for one day. This happens all the time. This is why you should check all the shopping portals you may want to earn points or miles with before you buy anything, because for example, AA may be offering 3 miles for a certain retailer, but Delta Skymiles portal may be offering 10 miles for that same retailer. This is why I use EVREWARD to check all the programs at a glance by typing in the retailer name. BUT double-check the actual portal by going directly to the portal yourself because at times this site has been off, but it’s usually not! Also many of these portals run promotions as well, for example, right now AA, UA, and Delta are all running Holiday promos, meaning if you spend X amount you get a bonus amount of miles on top of what you earn. so the miles / points can add up fast, especially if you use a points/miles card for your purchases!
Here are a few links to the main portals I use the most, look at EVREWARD or you can google the name of the program your interested in and the words “shopping portal”, (for example “American Airlines AAdvantage shopping portal” ) to see if they have one. Most major players do. Remember, most rewards credit cards also have a shopping portal, so check into that as well.
- American Airlines AADvantage Shopping portal
- Delta SkyMiles Shopping Portal
- United Airlines MileagePlus Shopping Portal
- Alaska Airlines mileage Plan Shopping Portal
- Marriott Rewards Shopping portal (Now that they merged with SPG you can earn Marriott points and transfer to SPG 3 to 1, before there was no shopping portal for SPG)
- Hilton HHonors Shopping Portal
Remember Always Check EVREWARD too!
Another way you can earn points / miles is for dining. Its kinda that easy. Not all restaurants participate and different ones do with different programs and offer different amounts for each program, BUT they all have webpages, and a lot have Apps too, (most programs are managed by Rewards Network) that you can locate a restaurant nearby or by cuisine, and how much they offer. Again, like the online shopping, this is another thing that you do everyday, we all have to eat, so why not earn points / miles for it! I have to admit, I don’t use this much , but I really should! I will list a few, but again, just google the name of the program, but this time dining ( for example American Airlines dining). Also a lot of the programs have sign up bonus and offer promotions quite often, so there’s a chance to rack up some great points / miles. AND if you use a points / miles credit card to pay, you will also earn points / miles that way too, so you can earn double , triple or more miles per dollar just for eating! and no there is no catch!
I wont get into this too much in this post, but once your signed up for the programs you want to be signed up for, you need to opt in for emails and keep an eye out on their sites and the blogs , including this one, for promos. Airlines and hotels are always having promos. Airlines like AA offer bonus miles for going to Europe or SPG offering promos for staying x amount of days or what have you. This is actually, especially with hotels, a huge way I earn a lot of points. I will write more about this later! Once you sign up for SPG, keep an eye on your SPG Dashboard for promos, sometimes they are hidden there and you wont know unless you check! Right now SPG is offering several targeted promotions (where each persons offer may be different), as well as a few other ongoing promotions offering double and triple points, and others. But like I said you need to keep on top of this, because sometimes they don’t advertise or if they do it’s not very much at times. This is also how I earned almost 100,000 IHG points by sending in post cards
Partner offers to earn points/miles come in many different forms. It includes credit cards which we’ve discussed, it also includes banking and financial services, for example, some bank accounts offer you airline miles for opening a certain type of account. Satellite TV and cable is another way to earn a lot of miles , by starting service with certain companies you get free miles / points. Cell phone service is another, there is a Promotion with Sprint that you can get 25,000 American Airline smiles for opening an account with them. That’s a lot of miles! Most of the major car rental companies offer airline miles with most airlines if you rent a car and use a certain code. I know in this section I haven’t went into too much detail, but I will in other posts, but my point is in many of the things we do in our daily lives, you can earn points / miles. I wouldn’t go out and open sprint service just to get miles unless you were already planning to, or start new tv service, because these companies usually run a credit check so only do it if you were already planning to. So, if you’re trying to collect a certain type of miles/points then go to their page and look for “Partners, or Partner offers”, or “earning” and see who all they partner with. Also Google does wonders, so if your opening up satellite tv, then google “satellite tv american airlines”, or check the shopping portal is another way. AND if you open one of these services like tv or phone and get bonus miles, go ahead and pay your bill with a points / miles credit card and get points / miles that way also. If you rent a car, use a points / miles credit card and earn even extra!
I barely touched ways you can earn miles / points in this post, you wouldn’t believe the possibilities. I will have to write several follow-up posts on each category to explain in detail. But my point to this post was if you want to travel or if you already travel, you need to be earning points / miles in order to fly or stay for free, and eventually earn status, its silly not to. If you are shopping or spending money anyway, why not see if you can earn points / miles along with it, you can in most instances! It takes a little work, but the payoff is AWESOME! I will be leaving in 19 days for a trip that would have probably cost well over $20,000 dollars if I paid cash, and I will probably spend, even for connecting flights within India and Egypt, taxes, etc less than $700 dollars. I will be flying Etihad first class for almost 20 hours, Turkish airways Business class for almost 10 hours, Qatar airways First Class for 3 hours and Qatar Airways Business class (On A350) for over 14 hours. Thats over 45 hours on some of the BEST and most luxurious First and Business class products in the WORLD, in most peoples opinion, not just mine. I will also be staying 25 hotel nights on this trip, many in 5 Star hotels around India and Egypt , like St. Regis, Park Hyatt, ITC Luxury Collection, ETC, all with very little money (Some I used points and cash but it was MINIMAL. Like I said before, I will write a big post about this trip, but you can do it too! I will say, I have saved up and hoarded my points and miles for this particular trip, and I wanted Etihad First class etc, so I worked around availability, and I will admit it was not easy putting this trip together , it took a lot of work, but I finally have it all done, and I’m ready to go! Stay tuned for more about it!
Like I said in other posts, please be patient with me, as I am a very amateur blogger. I am not doing this for money , I am doing it to try to help people learn how to do what I do. I have never been accused of having good grammar or being a great writer so there you go! If you have any further questions just comment on the post and I will try to answer them! Thanks for reading!