You may not be a New Year’s resolution type of person, but you’ll actually do yourself a disservice if you don’t make a few promises related to your travel hacking hobby. Earning miles and points that will help whisk you and your family around the globe in style isn’t easy, and it takes planning and organization.
Before you sing “Auld Lang Syne” at the dawn of the New Year, make a few resolutions that may help you get where you want to go in the next 12 months. Here are some resolutions shared by us at RewardExpert. You may want to commit to them as well.
We resolve to focus on the programs that will help us achieve our travel goals
When we first dipped our toes into the miles and points world, it was all too easy to be seduced by each and every airline and hotel loyalty program. We felt the urge to chase miles and points from every single airline, hotel, and bank program. That was a mistake! This year we’re focusing on the programs that will actually help us achieve our specific travel goals. Sure, we could apply for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard but we went to Hawaii last year. This year we really want to tour Southeast Asia, so we’re taking a pass on acquiring more HawaiianMiles. We’ll leave that opportunity for the future.
We resolve to keep up to date on the happenings in the industry that matter to our favorite rewards programs
Life is busy, and there’s no way to keep on top of all the news and details of each and every reward program. However, we can create a plan to keep up to date on the programs that matter specifically to us. If you’re closely monitoring three programs, for example, be sure to take one day out of the month to read all emails that arrived from those programs; they may contain some offers and deals that can help you travel on the cheap. Also, make a habit to visit the RewardExpert blog to learn about the best ways to earn and leverage your miles and points.
If we decide to chase elite status, we resolve to brainstorm a plan that will get us there for the least amount of money
Earning elite status from airlines and hotels doesn’t make sense for everyone. If you don’t travel enough to earn status organically, it might not make sense to chase it by booking extra flights and hotel stays that don’t really relate to your goals for the year. If you do want to achieve elite status in a program, read the rules carefully and determine if you think attaining status this year is realistic. Then, do your best to book the least expensive flights and leverage promotions to build your loyalty balances so when you earn elite status, you’ve done so for the least amount of out-of-pocket expenditures.
We resolve to keep track of our credit card anniversary dates and cancel or consolidate cards before the annual fee is charged
This one is also in the “life is busy” category. We all snap up those terrific promotional credit card deals and have the best intentions to cancel right before the card’s anniversary in order to avoid the annual fee. But, it’s easy for life to get in the way. This year, we’ll keep a spreadsheet showing when we applied for each card and then add the renewal date to our online calendar (i.e., iCal, Google, Outlook). We’ll add an automated reminder so we’ll know to cancel the card before we’re hit with the annual fee.
We resolve to keep an eye on our credit scores and only apply for new cards when our credit files are in excellent shape
Last year we got the amazing Chase 100,000 Ultimate Rewards point promotion for signing up for the bank’s new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. In the upcoming year, there will be other terrific offers that we’ll want to take part in. Be ready to hop on those hot deals by watching your credit score throughout the year. Miles and points are valuable but not as valuable as having an excellent credit score. Many credit cards offer access to your credit score for free these days so there’s no excuse to stay in the dark. FICO credit scores can range from 300 to 850.
Experian, one of the major agencies that help individuals and companies manage credit risk, says that 580 to 669 is “fair” while 670 is considered a “good” rating. Anything 800 or higher is considered “exceptional.” If your score isn’t at least 670, do some work to improve your credit file before applying for new cards.
We resolve to use our miles and points as we earn them and not hoard them (and suffer any devaluations from doing so)
It is intoxicating to watch our stash of miles and points grow. There is something comforting about having thousands—or millions—of miles sitting in our account. But remember that devaluations can occur without warning and when that happens, our stash becomes less valuable in the blink of an eye. That’s why this year, you should be committed to using their miles and points in the here and now. We’re going to burn as we earn. Hoarding miles and points only leads to aggravation and frustration if we aren’t able to execute them before a big devaluation. This is the year that we’ll take those dream trips and visit friends and family around the world.
You’ve earned those miles and points. Now go out and use them! Happy New Year!