TPG Readers Share What They Wish They Knew Before Entering the Points and Miles Game

Feb 26, 2018

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Stories of extreme award travel can seemingly border on genius, leaving newcomers to the travel community feeling overwhelmed and out of their depth. Perhaps TPG readers who have gone to Asia nearly for free, booked honeymoons in the Maldives with award miles or visited Machu Picchu for under $200 make you think, “I could never do that!”

But every young points and miles Padawan started somewhere, sometimes with many failed lessons along the way. So we asked TPG readers to share the one thing they wish they had known before they began earning points and miles. Here’s what they had to say:

“I wish I had started sooner”

No matter how simple a strategy you adopt, we can probably all agree that earning some type of reward or cash back on your day-to-day spending is better than nothing. A few readers offered insights that go a step or two further:

“[I wish I had known] that it was so ‘easy’ [to earn award travel]. I say easy; but I mean this, everything I do to generate points now, I was already doing. I paid all of my bills with a debit card and tracked our spend. We could have been gaining points 4 years before I actually started gaining points.” — Randall W.

Paying bills with debit card. (Photo by @TonyTheTigersSon via Twenty20)
Paying bills with a debit card. (Photo by @TonyTheTigersSon via Twenty20)

“[I wish I had known] that getting so many credit cards wouldn’t result in me having terrible credit, my score actually increased as I got more cards.” — Alex M.

“I wish knew how to use, earn and which ones to earn before my wife accumulated 500,000 United miles. By the time I figured out how to earn and use she had almost 1 million miles. Wish they were Ultimate Rewards points instead.” — Steve S.

“What’s one thing I wished I knew before starting in the points and miles game? To start when I was a young girl!” — Sheri L.

“Focusing your loyalty with hotels and airlines to actually achieve status, instead of flying on whatever airline is cheapest.” — Shelby D.

“I wish I had known how to…”

Getting into the points and miles game can be relatively easy… Chase Freedom Unlimited, anyone? But truly mastering all the steps can take years. If you’ve never heard of “5/24“, “portals” and “triple-dipping,” never fear! These useful tools, tricks, and tips from our readers will help you avoid their beginner mistakes.

“Have both spouses get a card for the signup bonus vs. [adding one another as authorized users]. Never occurred to me until after we were both past 5/24, so we missed out on LOTS of points.” — Angie S.

“An even better strategy is for one [partner] to get [a particular card sign-up bonus] first, and then refer the other person. That way you get a referral bonus!” — Arlyce M.

“I wish I fully understood 5/24. I messed up and got two cards while I was under 5/24 that I should have waited and gotten after I was at 5/24.” — Ann Marie W. (If you share Ann Marie’s dilemma, check out our info on the 5/24 rule.)

Wallet with credit cards
(Photo by Image Source/Getty Images)

“Thousands of dollars spent shopping online and never through a portal… ugh.” — Brian R.

“Using points from non-airline specific cards (Chase Sapphire Reserve) for free flights still lets you get the segments and miles in your plan, unlike using miles from the mileage plans to get free flights – and you get no miles towards your status.” — Janessa H.

Not to ever hoard miles in any airline or hotel program. Earn and burn! Too easy for them to devalue their programs on the fly or with limited notice. Exception: Chase Ultimate Rewards/Amex Membership Rewards/Citi Thank You Points. Hoard the hell out of those.” — Evin R.

“Which ones expired!” — Leonora U. (Here’s how we track our own points and miles at TPG.)

“If I could only offer one tip, it would be…”

“To try to stick with one airline &/or hotel chain when possible…#thanksTPG — Darcy N.

“I started too long ago to have had many options. Now my advice would be to go for the card with the best points, so you’re not locked into a particular airline.” — Pat B.

“To get Chase cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve & United MileagePlus Explorer before opting for AmEx and others.” — Blake L.

And most importantly, don’t forget that earning points and miles is never worth financial irresponsibility:

“If credit cards are a big temptation for you, don’t have any shame in using debit cards. … Never carry a balance as it easily negates the value of points.” — Jack V.

Featured photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.

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