Beginner’s Guide

I’ve always collected points and perks via work and travel, but never did so in a strategic manner to collect or use them.  Many of the points I earned from Hilton and Amex prior in my career I ended up turning into merchandise to sell on ebay; not the greatest way of redeeming value out of them.

Points and miles are a currency; and a fairly illiquid one as most you cannot exchange for cash, and you cannot sell them easily or at all (airlines.)  The currency devalues over time as well, so it is better to use them rather than hoard them.

Given generous bonus award offers and even categories and normal/manufactured spending, currently there are a lot of offers that can be taken advantage of whether for cash or for travel.  It is rather easy to collect enough points for a single economy ticket to anywhere, or to put in some more work and get even more than that.

Some advice for beginners:

  1. Consider not playing if you know you are not fiscally responsible, or poor at math or organization.  Sorry, the points game may not be for you.
  2. Set a goal to work towards (ie. 2 people economy to Europe) and a strategy to attain it, or simply start and collect points indiscriminately.  Although do a little research here; you don’t want to waste your “credit capital” (ability to get a new/additional card) on collecting Air Somalia miles when you could pick up American Airline miles or something else instead.  I do the latter; much of the time I have no destination in mind, but will hoover up points/miles aggressively.
  3. The earlier you start the better, the quicker you’ll be able to collect points to meet goals or travel.
  4. One person collecting points for two people to take a trip is nice, but far more challenging than two people each collecting their own points to pay for their own seat.  The reason for this is simple: there’s only so many juicy offers, and with two people, they can be taken advantage of twice.  This is why a couple will have a much easier time collecting points to redeem if they each get their own cards.
  5. IMHO the best redemption is for international premium class travel, particularly business class.  I generally try to funnel my points to this destiny.  Note: once you fly in business class it will be hard to go back to economy, even if you are acutely aware that you could visit twice as many places by flying economy.

I think there is basically a travel arbitrage system in place, and one may as well take advantage of it while it still exists.

I personally put no effort into collecting Delta points.  I focus on the three programs that have transferable points (Amex, SPG, Chase UR) as well as American Airlines, who I travel most often for work.

Plucking off some articles for beginners to read:

Can I get a business card?
What does this do to my credit score?
How do I meet spending requirements?
Is this worth the time and effort?
What are these points engines in the top menu?

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