6 Simple Steps to Get Started With Miles and Points and Make Your Dream Travels Happen

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.

If you pay just a little bit of attention — really, just a little bit! — you can wind up with the sort of points that will give you vacations you couldn’t have even imagined before. You can travel more, you can travel better, and you can travel for less. It really is that simple.

When frequent flyer programs began, they used to give you 5000 miles whenever you depleted your mileage account. They were afraid that once you used your miles, you would have no more reasons to be loyal to an airline. With no miles in your account, you could just switch to another program.

They don’t do this anymore because they found that once people redeemed their miles, they kept earning miles — and earned them even faster. They were shown the value of the miles in a real way, it because even easier to keep going and earn more. And redeem more.

People in my office used to think that the kind of travel that I do is something unique to me, but then one person after another began replicating it. One big credit card bonus, an international trip in business class, and then the whole thing started making sense. And then another trip, and another and another.

It will work that way for you, too. Get started easily and the rest will come naturally.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign up for a free account at AwardWallet.com to track your miles and points. A great way to keep everything easily organized.

  2. Choose the right rewards credit card. If you’re just getting started, the best one for you is probably Chase Sapphire Preferred. It will give you 60,000 points to start once you spend $4000 on it within 3 months. These are great points to accumulate because they transfer to several different airline and hotel programs whenever you want, and the card earns double points on all travel and dining purchases. Plus it’s a Visa with no foreign transaction fees so you can use it almost everywhere.

  3. Put all of your spending on your rewards credit card. Pay it off in full every month.

  4. Whenever you shop online you should see if you can earn miles or cash back for what you are going to buy anyway. I generally start at evreward.com to check my options.

  5. Sign your rewards credit card up for the dining for miles program of your favorite airline.

  6. Always register for promotions. You never know which ones you will qualify for, and you will never remember what’s available. For instance, you may not plan to stay at a Marriott hotel but you wind up on a cancelled flight .. or a new trip comes up. It takes a few seconds, and you wind up earning points and free nights.

If you have a goal, that will help motivate you and clarify your choice of program. Where would you want to go? What airline has partners that fly there?

In the meantime, never pass up miles, always sign up for frequent flyer programs even when it’s not your primary program. The miles add up eventually.

And don’t worry, it’s a very frequent question, signing up for credit cards can be good for your credit score as long as you are responsible and you pay off your bills each month.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. “Choose the right rewards credit card. If you’re just getting started, the best one for you is probably Chase Sapphire Preferred. It will give you 60,000 points to start once you spend $4000 on it within 3 months.”

    Um, why? You can get a Barclay Aviator card for $95 and buy just one thing, even something at a drugstore or supermarket for just a dollar, and then you’ve got 60,000 American miles to enjoy on American and/or OneWorld airlines. You’ve then learned how to play this game and the purchase price of your 60,000 miles for which you spent only $96. You also know you get dangled some benefits (like Group 5 boarding and one free checked bag) so that in the event you do fly on American you know what additional benefits (if any) the card might give you. And then you can figure out how to maximize the value of your new points/miles currency.

    Telling a beginner to spend $4,000 in 3 months is unrealistic, especially for many Americans who already suffer from affluenza, as they might not be able to make that spend and then get frustrated. Or they might spend irrationally and then owe exorbitant finance charges.

    Nope, I wouldn’t recommend a card with a $4K spend to a beginner.

  2. Given monthly bills for grocery, utility, transportation, and whatnot, it is easy for many families to spend an average of $1,333 each month for three months. And the flexibility of 60K UR points is way better than 60K AA points. Using transferable points is also a great educational tool for one to begin understanding how to use points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *