The one thing TPG readers wish they’d known before getting into points and miles

Jan 12, 2020

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We recently asked our TPG Lounge readers to share the one thing they wish someone had told them before getting into the points and miles game. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

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General tips for maximizing points and miles

From signing up for free loyalty programs to making the most of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, our TPG Lounge readers offered solid advice for points-and-miles newbies.

“When it comes to redeeming, not all points are created equal. I’ve learned that for me, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are generally way more useful than airline-specific miles and wish I would have focused on accruing more of those.” — Emily B.

“Don’t use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and learn your travel partners. Only after mastering that should you find those exceptions where it actually is a good idea to use the portal, although I almost always pay cash in those instances. Overall, you can get far higher point valuations by transferring to partners. Learning when to use British Airways and Iberia to book domestic flights on American Airlines or Avianca LifeMiles to book United flights is a vital skill! Once you know the multitude of transfer options and how and why each one works, you can use the portal if you’d like. Until then it’s a crutch that hinders you from truly running in the hobby.” — David O.

Knowing when to use Avios to book AA flights is a major plus. (Photo by Clint Henderson / The Points Guy)
Knowing when to use Avios to book AA flights is a major plus. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.)

“1. Points and miles on many programs expire, especially when you are just starting or retiring. 2. Only redeem if you can get a good value for the point. 3. Beware of devaluations and be careful of hoarding too many points.” — Dawn L.I.H.

“Sign up for most every free loyalty rewards program you can, especially the big airline and hotel ones, as soon as you start traveling. I missed out on thousands of rewards points and miles from my early travel years because I didn’t know earning them was worth it if I wasn’t capable of earning elite status as well. If the worst thing that happens is that I have to unsubscribe from a few more emails, I think that’s a fair trade.” — Mchl M.

“My biggest advice for newbies: You get out of it what you put into it. You have to spend the time and effort learning to run award searches early on. Waiting until go time is when people have a meltdown and get frustrated. This is a hobby for most. It should be fun. Think of it as a game of strategy or a puzzle.” — Megan H.

Related: The best travel credit cards

Tips to remember when booking flights and hotels

Many of our TPG Lounge members wrote in saying they wish they had known more about certain credit card benefits, buying flights directly with an airline versus through OTAs and the pros and cons of shopping through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Booking flights with an OTA (Online Travel Agency like Expedia or Orbitz, etc.) generally just complicates things. And if it’s a code share with another airline, it’s even more of a mess.” — Kurtis T.

“You can often get an extremely good value for your points when you transfer them to a partner for upper classes, like 2.5 to 5.0 cents per point, but purchasing through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal has them fixed at 1.5 cents per point.” — Shellie R.H.

“Read the emails and [know] the benefits. I didn’t use my free companion pass from the Delta [Platinum or Delta Reserve SkyMiles] Amex card for multiple years because I didn’t know about it.” — Polly W.

“Know that Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles expire after three years no matter what and can’t be renewed with just a little purchase.” — Sara A.

“Only actual miles flown on United count toward Million Miler status, not miles on ANA or Lufthansa!” — Pamela N.

Related: A guide to earning transferable points

Did you know only United flights count toward Million Miler status? (Photo by The Points Guy Staff)
Did you know only United flights count toward Million Miler status? (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.)

“Book directly [with the airline] and don’t spend AAdvantage miles on domestic flights. For example, I’m planning on flying from Atlanta to Doha or Miami to Doha in business class for 70,000 AAdvantage miles and the flight goes for $7,000. Getting 10 cents per point instead of 2 cents per point if I’m lucky on domestic redemptions makes sense for me.” — Timothy S.

“In my experience, when I go to book Marriott hotel stays through their site, it’s, for example, 50,000 points a night, but through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, it’s only 30,000 points a night. Marriott is a 1:1 transfer with Chase, right? So how would it be better to book directly with Marriott? I’ve never seen an instance where the hotels even come close to the portal.” — Suzanne S.M.

“Take advantage of opportunities when you find them (eg. I’m glad I got the World of Hyatt Credit Card when it came with two free nights at any Hyatt hotel in the world (no longer available, see current World of Hyatt offer) — we parlayed it into two free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris with my card and two free nights at the Park Hyatt Milan with my husband’s). I also learned to jump on fares whenever I find them since you never know. And don’t hoard, as points and miles ultimately get devalued.” — Alison P.

“Have a goal in mind. When we first started, my goal was to earn status with Marriott. 15 years later, this has paid off and we now get upgrades and perks that help our family have an even better vacation. Usually before staying at a Marriott property, we call during the daytime and ask to speak to the reservations manager, state that we are bringing our kids, who refuse to share a bed, and ask what we might be able to get. With our lifetime Bonvoy Titanium elite status, we usually can get a very acceptable accommodation or an upgrade, like a king room with the attached hospitality room. We started with a $95 annual fee Marriott card and for the first 10 years of our marriage, it was our primary card. We didn’t have a lot of hotel stays for the first eight years, so our earning was all based on spending. It took us 15 years but we finally reached lifetime Titanium right under the wire of the SPG-Marriott merger. The other great side effect of having Marriott status is it could be used to obtain status on United Airlines. That was a nice surprise!” — Jennifer Zwicke

Related: The best hotel credit cards

Featured photo by @basakt/Twenty20.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.