Beginner's Guide

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Note 5/7/2012: This is my first draft of this beginner's guide. I will be adding things as I think of them. If I have left anything out that you could think of please don't hesitate to let me know.

The miles and points world can be daunting at first. But, if you follow these steps, take one at a time, it really can be simple. You can gain tons of miles without spending any more than you already do. You just need to make some changes in the way you shop and pay bills. Please follow the steps I will outline below to make the most of your points earnings.

  1. NEVER PAY CASH! Of course, sometimes it just can't be helped, but even for small purchases try to use your credit cards. Those small purchases add up. If you don't do this you are just throwing away points.
  2. Go through your bills and see which ones you can pay with a credit card. Before I got into the points and miles game I used to pay all my bills online from my bank account. I have since changed my method of paying bills. Firstly, I pay whatever bills I can with my credit cards and not my bank account. For instance, I pay vonage, my house monthly maintenance fee, phone and electric bills and more with my credit cards. These are tons of miles I used to be missing out on. Secondly, I use automatic payments to pay my credit card bills. You never ever want to be late with a payment and you should always pay off your balance. If you don't pay off your balance every month, then this game isn't for you. The amount you earn will not balance out the amount you pay in interest payments. Mint is also an excellent online based financial program that can help you keep track of your bills and you can even get email reminders to pay your bills. Click here to read my post about Mint.com.
  3. Go to Awardwallet.com and sign up any of the frequent flyer programs that you belong to to keep track of your points or miles with various programs.
  4. Sign up each and every one of your credit cards for a dining program. Here is a list that The Points Guy compiled together on AwardWallet. To read The Points Guy's summary about each dining program on AwardWallet.com click here.   
    1. American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program
    2. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining
    3. Delta Skymiles Dining
    4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining
    5. United MileagePlus
    6. US Airways Dividend Miles Dining
    7. Hilton Hhonors Dining
    8. Priority Club Rewards Dining
  5. When flying, always sign up for the airline's frequent flyer program or with one of their alliances. If you mostly fly on United, but are taking a flight on Air Canada, the frequent flyer number you shoud use would be Uniteds. Unless they don't award miles for that fare. Try to stick with 1 airline in each alliance. Here is a list of the differen't alliance programs. But before you do that, check the fare for your flight and make sure you will be awarded miles. (I have made the mistake of not checking and haven't been awarded miles!) If you forget to do this, most airlines will allow you to be credited within 30-90 days of your flight.
  6. When renting cars and staying at hotels, you most often have the option of being awarded miles on airlines. 
  7. KNOW YOUR PROGRAM! Learn all the ins and outs of your airline and its alliance program. Learn how you can gain extra miles through promotions. You can do this by signing up to receive email notifications of new offers and promotions.
  8. Sometimes a financial institution will have a promotion to earn miles when opening an account with them. Keep updated by clicking on my link called "Special Offers" at the top of my Home Page.
  9. The quickest way to gain miles is to sign up for credit card offers. To do this you must first check your credit score. Two free places that I use are CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com (these are referral links). If your credit score is above 720 then you will probably be able to be approved for credit card offers for people with excellent credit.
  10. Know your credit cards! This is a very important step for you to take in order for you to be able to earn the most miles possible. Take out all your credit cards (cc) and find out which one gains you the most miles for each category of spend. For instance, which credit cards earn you the most points when using it for groceries? Then place a sticky on that cc and label it "Groceries". You are going to do this with all your cc's. If you don't know how much you earn for each card, you can look it up online or call the customer service phone number at the back of your cc.
  11. Go to my "Best Sign Up Offers" page (soon to come) and check out the credit card offers that give the most miles/points for signing up. You can sign up for new credit cards every 3 months if you wish, but make sure to keep a close eye on your credit score. Most institutions allow you to receive both a business and personal card at the same time. So for instance, you could apply for The Chase Ink Bold, which is a business card, and a Chase Freedom Card, which is a personal card, at the same time. Starting off, I would recommend applying for up to 6 credit cards at the same time. Apply for all the credit cards on the same day. This way the banks won't see each other's applications, since your credit report can't reflect that day's applications. Read MileValue's fantastic post about meeting minimum spending requirements at once.
  12. Keep track of your new credit cards. Make yourself a spreadsheet of the cc's you have signed up for, and make sure to include the following information in your spreadsheet. Some of this is just useful information to have in your spreadsheet. 
  • Name of cc.
  • The date you applied for the cc.
  • The card number, expiration date and 3-4 digit secret code number.
  • The sign up bonus requirements, as to how much you need to spend on the credit card within how many months of applying.
  • The type of program for redeeming points/miles. For instance, for my Capital One Venture Credit Card I wrote "buy ticket with cc and ask for credit".
  • Foreign transaction fees. This is important if you live abroad or travel.
  • The cost of the card. Many cc's give you the first year free and then you have to pay the annual fee. If you decide to keep the card after the year is up, I recommend calling them up and asking to have this fee waived. Just because a card has a fee, doesn't mean it's a card you shouldn't keep. Whether you keep it or not, should depend on how much you will be able to earn with using that cc. with weighing the cost versus the gains.
  • Airfare points: this is how many miles or points you earn when using the cc for placing airfare purchases on it and if you gain more by using their booking tool.
  • Category spend: how many miles or points you earn in each category.
  • Miles expire: its important to know when your miles or points expire.
  • Special Awards: This will include any annual spend bonus or any special perks that come with the card.
  • Keeper or Cancel Afer Year: Decide if you will keep this card\ or cancel
  • Log-in Information and Password. It's important to keep track of your log-in and password for each of the credit cards that you have, in order to pay your bills online and keep track of your spending. I use Lastpass to keep track of all my log-ins and passwords. It is a free program and has been very useful to me. I also created differen't identities for my various differen't American Express Credit Card Accounts. By doing so, I have saved tons of time having to fill out my information for American Expresses many promotions. There are other programs out there so feel free to do the research and let me know what else you have found.
There are some other ways you can earn miles and I will be writing a post about them. You need to be very dedicated in order to use them because they are quite time consuming. Some will be worth your time and some won't. They include filling out surveys, e-miles.com, Audience Rewards, mileage runs etc. There are two forums that are dedicated to earning miles and points. Milepoint.com is less used but also less complex than Flyertalk.com. They are both filled with a tremendous amount of useful information. But if you don't want to spend too much time on this then just sign up for my email or RSS subscription which will keep you updated on the latest news in miles and points. I also tweet throughout the day so you might want to sign up for Twitter as well as well as following my boards on .

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