11 Ways To Make The Most of Your Miles and Points

These are all basic tips, great for getting started in miles and points, but also useful for how to think about the miles you’ve already got. I don’t do enough basic talk around here so I’m hoping this list will benefit.

  1. Always earn miles. Don’t leave value on the table, even when you’re flying on an airline you rarely us. Sometimes they partner with another carrier you can credit the miles to, but at least join a program and pick up some miles, you may be able to get some value and especially if the points don’t expire you may find yourself traveling with them again in future years.

  2. Track your miles at a site like AwardWallet which I’ve used for years to collate all my accounts in one place, log into accounts easily and update balances. They also pull copies of your reservations and notice changes which is really helpful.

  3. Earn miles for the things you buy anyway. Most online shops offer rebates of some kind, search evreward.com or Cash Back Monitor to see what opportunities there are for the purchases you’re going to make. Just search the merchant’s name and click through the link provided.

  4. Sign your rewards credit card up for the dining for miles program of your favorite airline. The airline programs are more lucrative than hotel programs (though you can sign different cards up for different programs). You don’t need to select restaurants based on which ones participate, but might as well get the surprise miles when you do dine at one.

  5. Always register for promotions. You’ll never remember to do it later when you’re going to stay at a hotel or fly on a route. Just be registered to pick up the points in case you qualify.

  6. Give yourself as much flexibility as possible. The best credit cards earn points that transfer to airline miles and hotel points rather than just earning in a single currency. Think Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, American Express Gold, Citi ThankYou Premier. That way you put miles where you need them based on where you want to go and what’s available when you’re booking.

  7. Never earn just one mile per dollar of credit card spend. Get a card that gives you multiples for the things you spend the most on (see the cards I just mentioned) and then a card that earns more than 1 mile per dollar on your other spend (Amex Business Plus, Chase Freedom Unlimited)

  8. Know your reward goals. Earn the right points that help you towards your goals. Have flexibility when you book. You’ll get the most value with airlines booking international business class (otherwise your credit card spend should be earning cash back not miles).

  9. Credit cards offer a way of earning tremendous miles quickly through initial bonus offers. Don’t be afraid to get a card that’s offering you a big reward. It’s a great incentive to try out a card. Of course Chase will only approve you if you’ve had fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months, Amex will only give you the bonus on a given card once for as long as their system memory tracks.

  10. Almost anything you do can earn miles. Bask Bank earns AAdvantage miles as a savings account return, which is lucrative in a low interest rate environment. You can earn big miles getting referred to a real estate agent or a mortgage.

  11. Multi-player mode. If it’s worth doing yourself, it’s worth doing for a spouse, children, parents, in-laws etc to scale. Some programs even let you pool points or combine points from multiple accounts for free (though many do not). If there’s a good deal, you want to scale it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary – This is a good list. I would add one point to avoid a mistake I constantly see make. “Avoid easy shopping redemptions for your points and miles (such as Amazon). They frequently offer less than a penny per point and while easy to use, are a terrible value.”

  2. *made

    Also, “Use your points/miles!” I know so many people who have been hoarding points/miles for years as they get less and less valuable. Once you have a useful amount, plan a trip! They’ll never be as valuable as they are right now.

  3. @Doug

    Absolutely this! We’re past the golden age of awards, but I got some amazing deals over COVID. It’s amazing how many of my friends have a million miles/points and they just let them continually devalue.

  4. – AwardWallet cannot connect to half of my accounts, it’s safe to say that despite being a nice idea in general the award hub software is currently dead
    – even though current market APYs around 4 can be considered low, the 2 miles per dollar from Bask bank is even lower given the AA miles inflation rates and liquidity problems (your own #6says so)

    what the point of saving illiquid miles currency you can never use? If I fly United once a year earning say 3k miles, the devaluation will eat them faster than I can redeem them for something useful. At the same time I can get free snacks at terrible rate but free nevertheless

  5. I recently purchased a package with BA, including hotels in two cities. This had worked well for me last year. I had difficulty booking the package online, and called the executive club number. My adult daughter is joining me, but flying to London on her own, and I had to add her to the London hotel. Since this was done “manually,” the agent could not let me use any points (avios) to lower the cost of my package. Would have been good to know this in advance! Feels like one big bait and switch.

  6. Spent couple hours last week for a ticket to the next vacation next year using either awards or miles.

    What a waste of time. All the awards were in economy and the miles ones were in the stratosphere.

    Chasing miles becomes less and less of a worthy use of time.

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