Here’s The Beginner’s Guide To Gaining Travel Points

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We don’t know about you, but for a long time, we tuned out when we heard the words “travel points.” And not because we don’t want them. If you don’t travel for your job or have the time (or money) to take multiple trips a year, you may feel out of the loop with all this points stuff. But guess what? You don’t have to be rich or in the right circumstances to reap the benefits of airline points.

So, what’s the deal with these “points” and “miles?” First, they’re the same thing. Travel points, which are often referred to as frequent flyer miles or airline miles, are part of airline loyalty programs and credit card rewards programs. You can gain points by flying a certain distance or spending money on your credit card. Then, depending on your rewards and loyalty program, you can use your points to purchase flights, add new destinations to your existing trip or upgrade yourself to business or first class. Also, it’s worth noting that airline miles don’t equate to the number of miles for the flight you want to buy. Miles you travel accumulate over time and translate into a certain number of points in your chosen rewards program.

What now, then? It’s time to choose your program so you can get started.

Step 1: Choose an airline loyalty program.

Though you don’t have to travel to earn points (just choosing the right credit card could make all the difference, which we’ll explain below), you should take advantage of your trips to gain even more benefits. If you happen to fly with a specific airline more often than not, take a look at its rewards program. Also, consider if there are blackout dates when you can’t use your miles to travel.

One example of a good rewards program is the American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Card, which provides you with perks like the opportunity to earn points on each flight, to use miles to get upgrades on flights worth 500 miles or less and 50 percent off extra main cabin seats, as well as free checked bags. The Delta SkyMiles Silver Medallion Card offers the ability to earn points on each flight, a free checked bag, priority boarding and seating, and the ability to use miles for cabin upgrades.

Ultimately, choose a program with an airline you like and on that has the perks want.


Step 2: Choose a credit card.

If want to open a credit card specifically for points, you still have to look at the big picture: how will this card affect your credit? Will you be using it just for travel points or do you want other rewards as well? Are there other benefits included like cash back? The first step is to make sure you know what you’re looking for in a credit card, overall.

Once you’ve made your list of must-haves, take a look at cards that could help you reap major airline and travel rewards like points, keeping an eye on options that will allow you to gain points from other aspects of travel like hotel stays.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a solid option if you’re looking for a credit card that’s big on airline points. It includes 50,000 bonus points if you spend over $4,000 in the first three months, 2x points on travel and dining and 25 percent discounts on select airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises. The Citi ThankYou Premier Card offers 3x points on travel, including money spent at gas stations, 2x points on dining out and entertainment, and a super easy points transferring system that allows you to consolidate all your miles from all of your travel and purchases. The  American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card offers a no-international-transaction fee promise, 5x points on eligible purchases like stays at any Starwood or Marriott hotel and redeemable free nights with certain hotels like Sheraton, St. Regis and W Hotels.

*Note that the credit card you choose may be associated with a certain airline, so you want to match up your preferred card with your rewards program before actually committing to anything. 

Bottom line: if you want points, there are a number of ways to get them, but if you’re traveling to do it, you need to focus on pairing your chosen credit card and chosen airline rewards program together. Trust us when we say that syncing the two could help you get the most benefits. We all want that vacation in Bali, but it would be nicer if we didn’t have to pay for the flight, are we right?