Frequent Flier Miles

One of the best ways to take more trips and spend less money is to utilize frequent flier miles. You don’t necessarily have to fly a lot of miles in the air to collect a lot of miles in your account. When I was in graduate school, I was able to take a lot of trips that would have otherwise been impossible for me to take by using miles – and have continued to do so since then. While airline miles are the main focus, the same principle applies to points in various sectors of the travel industry – from hotels to attractions.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “frequent flier miles are great, but I only take a few trips per year so this doesn’t apply to me,” think again! Co-branded credit cards are a super easy way to collect points and get traveling. There are a ton of guides out there to help you learn how to responsibly utilize credit card mileage programs to maximize your travel using points, but my all time favorite comes from ThePointsGuy. I used this site to learn the ropes, and continue to use it to stay up to date about the latest and greatest mileage deals out there.

If you don’t want to go that in-depth, I’ve created a short guide to how to utilize co-branded credit cards here. First – if you cannot exert self control over your spending using credit cards – this will end up being a bad deal for you. If you can, here are the basic steps to maximizing your returns on co-branded cards. Many cards have a big sign up bonus when you open a card and spend a certain amount within the first few months – this is the best way to get a lot of miles fast.

  1. Sign up for a free credit monitoring site to keep an eye on your credit score. I’ve used Credit Sesame for years it has served me well – it is 100% free and updates your score for you every month.
  2. Think about what your goal for collection points/miles is. Are you looking for free flights? Free nights in a specific brand of hotel? Cash back to use on whatever you want? Flexible points that can be used on various elements of trips or transferred to partners?
  3. Sign up for the card of your choice. Right now, the best all around card for travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The sign up bonus for this card right now is 50,000 points. My wife and I both have this card and we’ve used points to travel to Thailand, Austria, and Hungary together. {Full disclosure – if you sign up through that link I will get some bonus points for referring you (but thats not why I’m recommending the card – it is my favorite card for points right now).}
  4. Make sure you spend the required amount on the card in the pre-determined time period. The best way to make sure this happens is to put ALL of your expenses on the card and pay it off at the end of every month. This is where the self control part comes in.
  5. Rake in the miles and plan your next trip, starting with my travel planning strategy guide!