Frequent Flyer Tips for Travelers New to Loyalty Programs

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British Airways Avios Are Great for Short Trips

British Airways Plane

British Airways Avios is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. The bargains that you can get with Avios are incredible if you use them to fly short hops as directly as possible.

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Sign Up for Amex Offers and Save Big

Sign Up for Amex Offers and Save Big

American Express is one of the leading companies offering reward credit and charge cards. Some cards are branded and offer loyalty currency from airlines such as Delta and JetBlue or hotel chains like Starwood or Hilton.

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Why Are Miles Cards Better Than Cash Back Cards?

Enough is enough. It’s time to set the record straight.

The credit card industry, especially during the recession, has done too good of a job selling consumers on the value of cash back credit cards.

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Rewards Cards Can Cut Down on Airline Fees

Rewards Cards

It’s no secret. Airline fees are up. There are more surcharges today than just a few years ago. And sometimes they cost more than the flight itself. According to a study from USA Today, airline fees have hit a record high. Delta is now charging $400 to change an international flight–a $150 jump from three years ago.

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What to Do When Weather Affects Your Award Flight

What to Do When When Weather Affects Your Award Flight

In frequent flyer forums, I keep seeing the same question: If my flight is cancelled because of weather, do I have to wait for an award seat at the same redemption rate to open up on another flight?

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Tips to Meet Credit Card Minimum Spend

Get bonus miles using frequent flyer programs

Credit card companies have introduced some exciting offers in the past month or two. Citi made some waves with its offer for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. Approved applicants were enticed with 100,000 American AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $10,000 in three months.

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Off-Season Mileage Bargains to Europe

Off-Season Mileage Bargains to Europe

I love traveling off season. It’s less crowded and more affordable. American Airlines AAdvantage redemption rate for off-peak travel to Europe between October 15 and May 15 is only 40,000 miles.

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Guide to Airline Lingo

If you’re new to making airline arrangements or booking award tickets, you may not be familiar with all of the words and terms the airlines use. Here’s a quick reference guide to some of the lingo you should understand.

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Four Instances When Elite Status Doesn’t Matter

Four Instances When Elite Status Doesn't Matter

In frequent flyer circles, airline elite status seems to be the Holy Grail. Everybody wants status because it comes with perks such as access to priority check-in and security lanes, the possibility of an upgrade, free or discounted baggage fees, lounge access, mileage multipliers and more.

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5 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Your Favorite Frequent Flyer

5 Valentine's Day Gifts for Your Favorite Frequent Flyer

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, but it’s not too late to get something shipped overnight. Chocolate and flowers are a safe bet for your special someone, but this year give a gift that your frequent flyer will really love. It’s okay to throw in some candy and flowers too!

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What Are Your 2014 Travel Plans?

Do you know where you’re going on vacation this year? Now is the time to start planning!

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Blueprint for a First Class Ticket to an Exotic Island

Blueprint for a First Class Ticket to an Exotic Island

If your imagination were the only limit, where would you go?

A secluded island getaway with private access to a crystal clear lagoon from your glass-bottom villa floating over the warm tropical water?

According to Conde Nast Travelers 2013 Readers Choice Awards, the prettier-than-a-postcard private islands in the Maldives are a dream getaway for many people:

“Our readers found this island nation to be the epitome of “rest, relaxation, and indulgence,” citing the “polished, polite” service, the “gorgeous resorts” and the “superb villas.”

Diving into the “turquoise water,” lounging on the “white sands,” and dining under the “incredible sunsets” make the Maldives experience “more picturesque than postcards can portray.”

So, let’s dream that dream for a second.

Though a pampered Maldivian vacation sounds like something you might win in a contest on the radio, you can make it happen just by living your normal life with a simple plan and two well-chosen credit cards.

Choosing the Right Reward Cards

Only two rewards cards are needed, but they won’t be the same for every person. It depends on what the best airline is for you to fly across the world on and what kind of credit card spending you can comfortably manage each year.

Some truly luxurious airlines, including Emirates, Turkish, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, fly to the Maldives. However, none of them have good co-branded credit cards for Americans. Opt for a card that allows you to transfer points to these airlines, whether through another airlines frequent flyer program or directly from your credit card.

The main three transfer programs Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest have a variety of cards to choose from, as do the major airlines. You’ll start with 30,000 free Delta miles with the American Express Gold Delta Skymiles, 30,000 American Airlines miles with the Citi Premium Select American Airlines AAdvantage Visa Signature, and up to 100,000 Avios with the British Airways Visa Signature Card.
maldives hotel room

For your hotel nights, you have many options for booking with points. Indulge all the way with princely, private villas starting at 30,000 points per night at the W Retreat & Spa Maldives and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island by Hilton, two of the country’s most luxurious resorts. Or experience more laid-back luxury at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives through IHG, and the soon-to-open the Radisson Plaza Resort Maldives Naagoshi.

Sign up for the card that goes with your dream hotel:

  • The IHG Rewards Club Select Visa from Chase: 60,000 points after an initial spend of $1,000 in the first month; 2 points per dollar on gas, groceries, and restaurants; 10% bonus on IHG redemptions; free anniversary night
  • Club Carlson (Radisson) Rewards Visa Signature Card: 50,000 points after your first purchase and 10,000 additional points after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days; 25,000 renewal bonus points per year; one free night on every reservation of two nights or more; 3 points/$1
  • Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express: 60,000 point sign-on bonus; priority pass for lounge access; 6 points/$1 on gas, restaurants, and groceries; 3 points/$1 on everything else
  • Starwood Preferred Guest American Express75,000 points sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. While the number of points is higher than the sign-up bonus of many other travel rewards cards, Starpoints are also among the most valuable so this is an outstanding bonus.

Blogger Andrea Rotondo checked this dream trip off her bucket list using points and miles.

Map Out Your Path to Paradise

maldives breakfast

Through most programs, you’ll need 80,000 points for an economy ticket and 120,000 for a first or business class ticket (which is what you would want on a dream vacation, right?).

In most cases, you’ll start out with 60,000 hotel points and 30,000 airline points for signing up for those two cards. Let’s say you’re going away for a week. That’s long enough to forget that any other world exists beyond your tropical breakfast served on the mirror still waters of the lagoon.

So, you’ll need 120,000 points for your flight and somewhere between 120,000 and 300,000 hotel points depending on how splashy your vacation will be.

How do you get them all?

Look at your credit card, debit card, and cash spending for one year:

  • If you use a personal finance tracking like Mint, it’s a snap to tally this all in one place.
  • Otherwise, you can log into your banks and add everything up manually.
  • If you want to sign up for a card that gives bonus points for gas, grocery, and restaurant spending, break those out separately and multiply by the bonus.

Say you’ve got $3,000 spending per month or $36,000 for the year, with half that in categories that earn extra points. You can easily earn around 54,000 points in one year.

You can earn extra points in so many ways:

Bonus points on spending. Most cards have a quarterly offer for anywhere from 5 to 15 points per dollar on spending in certain categories.
Point exchange bonuses. Last December, American Express offered a 35% bonus on transferring points to Virgin Atlantic, which transfer to double Hilton points.
Paying rent with points. Unless you completely own your house, your biggest expense if probably your housing. Amazon Payments allows you to pay rent with a credit card so you can earn points.
Paying your mortgage with points. If you have a mortgage another huge expense that seems like it must be paid in cash check out ChargeSmart, a website that allows you to pay your mortgage and home-related expenses with a credit card.
Making basic purchases through shopping portals. Everyone knows that you can buy practically anything on Amazon these days, but you can also find pretty much anything you’d buy online through point shopping portals, where you earn up to 12 times normal points buying goods and gift cards for popular brands.

730 Days to Dreamy Ocean Views

couple-relaxing-on-the-beach(1)

With the right reward cards and a little diligence, you can amp your reward earning up to 100,000 points per year.

Add in sign-on bonuses (about 90,000 points) and in two years, you’ve got nearly 300,000 points! More than enough for a week in paradise.

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Tips for Managing Rewards Credit Cards

A Pile ofRewards Credit Cards

It’s no secret that credit card sign-up bonuses are the fastest and easiest ways to earn miles and points. However, opening up a dozen credit card accounts is fraught with problems if you’re not organized. Playing the points and miles game is only a good idea if you have excellent credit (730 or higher), you pay off your credit card balances monthly, never miss a payment and are organized enough to keep track of annual card renewal dates.

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Holiday Shopping: Best Bets for Giving Miles and Points

Holiday Shopping: Best Bets for Giving Miles and Points

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday behind us, you just can’t hide. It’s time to do your holiday shopping. For miles and points hounds, picking up stocking stuffers and more expensive gifts offers a lucrative opportunity to earn rewards.

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Save on Fees this Holiday Season with Award Tickets

Save on Fees this Holiday Season with Award Tickets

When I worked in a university, it was always a game of chance making holiday travel plans. Our office almost always closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but you never knew for sure until less than a month before, too close to book reward tickets without a fee. I traditionally ended up on a short holiday trip followed by a staycation during the office closure.

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Fly the Most Miles For Your Reward Miles

Fly the Most Miles For Your Reward Miles

Unfortunately for reward travelers in America, the days of zones when you could hop to nearby states on a couple thousands airline points are over.

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Earn Bonus Miles on Hotels and Car Rentals

Book a hotel and get bonus miles

There are dozens of ways to earn frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Setting out on an actual trip is the most conventional way to earn miles and points. You earn frequent flyer miles for taking a flight, but you can also actually earn bonus miles for car rentals and hotel stays as well.

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Dining for Miles

Dine out and get bonus miles

How about earning miles for your morning coffee and bagel or dinner out with friends? Enroll in the dining rewards program for your favorite airline and get up to 5 miles per dollar spent.

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Jump-start Your Free Travel Hobby

I’ve traveled extensively since 2006 when I first discovered the power of frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty program points. I’ve become the envy of my friends and colleagues who continually ask about the exotic destinations I visit on a regular basis. They are also always intrigued when they hear that it only costs me a few dollars to make these trips and they want to know how they can replicate my success.

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What’s the Best Airline Miles Program for You?

How do you which airline frequent flyer program you should join? It’s easy to be swayed by an attractive credit card offer. And stocking up on airline miles is an amazing way to fly near and far.  But only if you can find available flights.

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