Getting started

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Getting started with miles and points (2019)

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Taking in the scenery on a Croatian island

See Also:

I was inspired to start this site after reading this article.  This is NOT fake news!

Airlines Make More Money Selling Miles Than Seats

It’s an interesting read, but even if you don’t have time to read it just look at the title… WHHHATTT?! This blew my mind.  I knew that selling miles and points to banks was a major contributor to airlines’ profits but I had no idea that it was such a huge part of their bottom line. Part of the reason this is so profitable for airlines is that people do not know how and when to use miles to their best AAdvantage. See what I did there? Sorry bad joke.

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Celebrating my birthday in Belize

I have learned how to travel well by earning these miles and points and then maximizing their value when redeeming them.  We then take the money we would have spent on airfare and/or hotels and put it towards fun experiences and adventures!

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We prefer to spend our money on experiences such as a private helicopter tour in Hawaii

My husband and I have many friends that are sitting on hundreds of thousands of miles and points, but they are not sure how to use them to get the maximum potential value.  I won’t name any names but I heard someone talking about using their points to buy a laptop not too long ago. Please don’t ever use your points to buy electronics. Or gift cards!!!

There may be a few exceptions but in general, using your points for merchandise or gift cards is not a good deal.  Your points are way more valuable as airline and/or hotel points if you learn how to use them.

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Celebrating my husband’s birthday in Napa

Earning Miles and Points

There are many websites and blogs that discuss this topic but I am going to talk about my experience and what works for me.  The main ways my husband and I earn points are

  1. Sign-up bonuses.  Depending on the airline, hotel, or bank credit card, sign up bonuses are usually anywhere from 25,000-100,000 points.  It is important to know that not all points are equal, so just because a sign-up bonus of 100,000 is offered, it may not necessarily be a great deal.  This also depends on your specific travel goals.
  2. Everyday spending. Seems obvious, but we put everything on a credit card. It pains me to see someone paying in cash at the grocery store!  It is also important to know which cards have category bonuses.  For example, my Chase Sapphire Reserve card gets me 3 points per dollar at restaurants, but most of my other cards only get 1 point per dollar. It may not sound like a big deal, but extra points per dollar add up very quickly.
  3. Shopping portals. My husband just loves all the boxes we end up having to break down and put in the recycling bin. NOT! But he does love all of the points we earn by ordering everything we can online.  For example, instead of going to Target to buy diapers, I order them through Target, Walmart, Sam’s, or many others on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards shopping portal and I earn 1-2 bonus points per dollar, so 2-3 points per dollar total.

Out of these 3 things, sign-up bonuses yield the most points by far.

Annual Fees

Most cards have an annual fee, so if the card provides enough benefits (such as airport lounge access and hotel status), we will keep the card and continue to pay the annual fee, but if it is a card that we cannot justify paying the annual fee for, we will cancel it as the anniversary approaches.

I highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet with every card you open, the date you opened it, the annual fee, the minimum spending requirements (more on that below), and any other information you think is important.  The number one question I get when explaining to someone how we do this is

“But doesn’t that hurt your credit score?”

No. Assuming you are responsible with a credit card and pay your bill in full every month, it does not have a negative impact on credit in the long run.  (If you are not responsible with credit cards, stop reading now!) Your score may drop a few points initially because of the inquiry, but I have found that over time it has boosted our credit scores quite a bit.  Because we have several open credit cards, we have a very high credit limit. Since we do not keep balances on our card, our credit utilization ratio is very low, which helps raise credit scores.

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Sunset in Hawaii
Minimum Spending Requirements

It is also important to note that most credit cards will have a minimum spending requirement.  It is usually about $2,000-$4,000 within 3 months of opening the card. Once you meet this spend, the sign-up bonus points are awarded. Plastiq is a bill pay service that makes meeting min spend easier!

If you are planning to buy a house, or take out a loan for any other big purchase in the near future, do not open new credit cards!! Ignore this and wait until closing!

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My husband hitting the slopes in Whistler
What you can expect from this website and blog:

In future posts, I will talk about trips we have taken and how I booked some of our upcoming vacations.  I will discuss everything you need to know about credit card points and which programs we value the most.  In the past 5 years I have gained lots of knowledge of what works best depending on the travel/destination goal.  If there are any specific topics you would like to see covered, please feel free to email me!

Here are some popular topics and some of our trips:

You can find a list of our favorite credit cards with the best bonuses on the current offers page.

The best card for beginners:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred 2019

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

13 thoughts on “Getting started”

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