TPG Readers' Best Tips For Accumulating Points and Miles
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Reader Megan H. asked the rest of the TPG Lounge to share their best tips and tricks for accumulating points and miles when you're just starting out — and if it's better to save up or cash them in right away. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).
Sign-Up Bonuses and Shopping Portals FTW
By far, the most responses from our TPG Lounge members had to do with meeting the minimum-spend requirements for new credit cards in order to score epic sign-up bonuses, as well as using shopping portals to maximize points-and-miles earnings.
"The way to most efficiently accumulate points is to sign up for new cards and meet minimum-spend requirements to get sign-up bonuses. To do that, you’ll need to do a little bit of study. Among other things, you’ll want to become very familiar with how [Chase's] 5/24 works, how to efficiently use business cards to keep up velocity and how the miles-transfer game works. In terms of using points, just make sure you’re getting good value. I wouldn’t, for example, ever exchange an Amex Membership Rewards point for less than 1.25 cents per point since I know that at a minimum, I could cash out at 1.25 cents per point. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to cash out Chase Ultimate Rewards points for less than 1.5 cents per point." — Vincent L.
"Constantly meet a minimum-spend requirement. Sign-up bonuses are the fastest way to points. Once you have enough to fly, fly. Points are almost always being devalued." — Jason F.
"If you have kids, always do a minimum-spend through daycare and when they get older, do the same for dance classes or sports fees. In my early years, I would get a hotel credit card to gain status and sign-up bonuses, then pay with that card to increase points earnings, however now I get a lot of value from the Chase Sapphire Reserve." — Jennifer D.
"Use shopping portals. Before I buy anything, I take a look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal. A lot of products price match, so use the store with the highest bonus. I bought fragrances for my wife at Barneys for 5X points [and earned an] easy 1,000 points." — Graeme P.
"The portals let you triple- and quadruple-dip on points earned through various sources. I like the MyPoints+Expedia+Airline+Credit Card points earning combo for the quad dip, although the Expedia layer means minuscule earnings. Earn points on all four levels: MyPoints, Expedia or Orbitz or Travelocity, airline miles and the credit card you used to pay." — Tom R.W.
"Use shopping portals that credit points to those [airline credit card] accounts to keep them active, like [United's] MileagePlus X." — Daniel T.
Develop a Strategy That Works For Your Goals
Whether you're looking to earn points or status with a particular hotel or your end game is flying in first class, it's important to have your own system, like these TPG readers.
"Starter advice: decide what you want to use the points for and if it is flights, get the best credit card you can with the airline that has a hub at your home airport. Then, charge everything and anything to that card and pay it off every month. Use the shopping portals and partner hotels that let you transfer or accumulate on that airline. As you expand your spending, expand your cards." — Stephanie A.
"I just started the points game a year and a half ago. We are a family of five with school-age kids so we can’t travel all the time. For me, it helped to decide on a big trip I wanted to take and work toward that. It took a little over a year but using this website, I was able to take my family to Hawaii and save $7,000. We mostly used Chase Ultimate Rewards for all the travel by transfer partners and Chase's own travel portal. So, if I were you, I would start with picking a trip and then earning Ultimate Rewards mostly through sign-up bonuses. We paid for food and activities with credits on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. I also booked hotels and flights as I went instead of waiting until I had enough points to do it all." — Lisa L.B.
"Make sure the [points and miles] you are stockpiling don't expire after [a certain] amount of years. If they do, see if they transfer to partner airlines, if it's reasonable to get an airline gift card or go a shorter distance with them before they expire." — Katie L.
"Just starting out, it may take some time to accumulate points but it can be done. A family I know charges everything on their United card and generally flies for free. They have found that even if they have to purchase points, it is less expensive than purchasing a ticket. As my family mostly flies domestically, we have a Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. One family member is a Companion, too, so as long as I fly, they fly for free and no points are used. I haven’t paid for a flight in many years." — Joy K.H.
"If your career allows it, prioritize job offers with travel opportunities. Like many have said, accumulating the kind of points that many on this page do requires extensive work travel. I know I could make a little more money at another company, but after I consider the value and status I get out of a handful of international business- and first-class flights every year along with the hotel points and those from work-travel spending, my overall compensation is better where I am." — Daniel T.
And Whatever You Do...
TPG Reader Gino offered perhaps the best tip of all, a reminder of how important it is to exercise self control when playing the points-and-miles game.
"Always remember, charge or swipe only what you can pay for. Don't go overboard just to earn miles and points." — Gino