Beating The System: Travel Points Pointers With Brian Kelly, The Points Guy
The Agenda Earning Redeeming Q&AFor more information go to http://thepointsguy.com
The Basics: What Are Points?Mile$ vs. Point$-Airlines-Hotels-Credit Cards
Earning: Credit CardsCredit Card Gravy Train -Sign-up bonuses up to 100,000 points -Category spending bonuses -Redemption bonuses
A Note On Your CreditUnderstanding your credit score -Payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, types of credit -2-5 point temporary hit per applicationStrategy -Start with good credit -Pay off balances or interest rates negate points value -Multiple cards: issuers, business and personal, family and friends -Be cautious before applying for a mortgage!
Earning: Sign-Up BonusesUp to 100,000 points per card -My haul last year: eight credit cards, over 650,000 pointsKnow your spend requirements -Anywhere from first purchase to $10,000 in four monthsTargeted offers: the only junk mail I like receiving!
Earning: Spending BonusesNever settle for 1 point per dollar spentPopular category bonuses: airfare, gas, groceries,dining, wireless service, business marketing,individual airline/hotel spend on co-branded cardsSpend threshold bonuses: points, elite status, elitemiles, companion tickets
Credit Card Points 101Not all point credit cards were created equal! - Transferable points - Fixed-value points - Airline miles & hotel points
Earning: Transferable PointsFlexibility, flexibility, flexibility! Sharing points with family/friendsTransfer partners = options Don’t forget about partners of partnersDon’t put all of your points in one basket
Earning: Transferable Points ProgramsTransfer partners: Delta, Aeroplan, British Airways, VirginAtlantic, Virgin America, JetBlue, Aeromexico, El Al, Flying Blue,ANA, Singapore, Frontier, Hilton, Starwood, Best Western,Choice Hotels, Priority Club, etc.- Transfer bonusesTransfer partners: United, British Airways, Korean Air,Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, Amtrak.
Earning: Fixed-Value PointsEasiest to understandLeast valuable: generally 1 point = 1 centExamples: Capital One No Hassle RewardsBest for: -Families with non-flexible travel schedules -Domestic flights -Earning elite statusNOT for: International premium class travelers
Earning: Airline and Hotel Credit CardsGenerally not transferableExchange flexibility for perks like: priority check in,free checked bagsExamples: -Delta and Starwood American Express cards -United MileagePlus Explorer card -Hyatt Visa from Chase -Citi American AAdvantage cards
Best Cards on the MarketChase: Sapphire Preferred -Key benefits: 2x points on dining and travel, 50,000-point sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction feesAmerican Express: Premier Rewards Gold Card -Key benefits: 3x airfare, 2x gas and groceries, 25,000-point sign-up bonus, 15,000-points bonus at $30,000 spendCapital One: Venture Card -2 points per dollar on everything, no foreign transaction fees, probably best fixed-value points card out there. Wait for 100,000 sign-up bonus Starwood Preferred Guest American Express -Best co-branded, 25,000-point sign-up bonus, multiple transfer partners, elite status with $30,000 spend
Other Ways To EarnFlyingShoppingDiningPromotions and Bonuses
Earning: FlyingStill a great way to earn, generally 1 mile per mileflownClass of service bonusesElite Bonuses: can help accrue miles over twice asquickly. Map out your travel for the year.
Earning: ShoppingNever go directly to a retailer’s web siteAlmost every airline and credit card points program has anonline shopping portal. -Example: Skysmilesshopping.com for DeltaSpend bonusesEVReward.com: Great for checking bonus offers at specificretailers
Earning: DiningAirlines and hotels have affiliated Dining Networks:another way to diversify and “double dip”Link every card you have to oneEarn 3x points as a regular member, 5x as a VIPGreat way to keep miles active
Earning: Promotions and Giveaways Social Media -As simple as “liking” an airline or hotel property on Facebook -Tweeting an airline or hotel -Ex. I got 3000 SPG points for liking the Sheraton Madison on Facebook. I value that at $90. Pay attention to blogs for promos -Have a goal in mind, pay attention to your specific programs, and have fun—especially when you’re not spending money!
Earning: When Does It Make Sense To Buy Miles? Generally never Exceptions: -Promotions such as US Airways miles sales at 1.45 cents apiece -To top up for a specific award -Transfer promos
Earning Points TakeawayYour strategy is specific to YOU and your needsFlexibility is the most important thingDiversify: don’t put all your points and miles in onebasket
Redeeming 101The usual frustrating scenario: you have the pointsbut can’t use them for what you want.Airlines have terrible technology for searching,especially partners and alliances
Redeeming: Types of Airline Awards Saver Awards -Lowest redemption levels -Available to partner airlines Standard/ Peak Awards -Can only be booked in one’s own frequent flyer program -Higher points requirements -Sometimes only available to elite flyers
Redeeming: Finding Award AvailabilityStar Alliance: United, US Airways, Air Canada, etc. -United.com pulls up two columns: Saver and StandardSkyTeam: Delta, Air France/KLM, Korean Air, etc. -Delta.com is broken -AirFrance.us: Sign up for Flying BlueOneworld: American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, etc. -AA.com only shows you American and Alaska, adding Qantas and BA this spring -Qantas.com pulls in most partner awards
Redeeming: Other ToolsExpertFlyer.com: Paid service for finding both award seatand upgrade availability on many airlines.Call your airline: After you research, call in with exactflights, routes and dates. Be nice.Keep track of your miles using AwardWallet.Tip: Have a goal in mind. This makes the work worth it.Once you master searching for awards, you’ll get placesyou never thought possible.
Redeeming: Hotel PointsDon’t forget about hotels!Often more valuable than airline milesLots of places to save money like EuropeChoose your programs with your goals and needs inmind
Redeeming: Starwood Preferred GuestOne of the strongest programsMost valuable points, for me ~3 cents eachFifth night free, automatic 20% savingsCash & Points optionGreat airline transfer partners and ratios: 20,000 SPG points 25,000 airline milesGreat associated credit card: SPG Amex
Redeeming: Hyatt Gold Passport Maximum hotel free night redemption: 22,000 points Lucrative promotions Associated credit card: Chase Hyatt Visa -One of best sign-up bonuses on the market -2 free nights at any Hyatt -$75 annual fee
Redeeming: Reduced Price Awards Priority Club IHG: -Point Breaks: rotating list of hotels requiring only 5,000 points for free nights Marriott Rewards: Pointsavers Hilton HHonors: -Pointsretchers -Points & Money Always do the math: Sometimes it makes more sense to pay for a room than to use points
Redeeming: CarsHertz: Free rental daysNational: Choice of carsAvis: Airline bonusesEnterprise: Just launched new points program
The TakeawaysPut together the points strategy that works for you -Research programs that will get you where you want to go -Clarify your goals: coach/first class, international/domesticDiversify your pointsShare your experiences -Forums like FlyerTalk and Milepoint -I learn from my readers’ commentsPay attention to the news and promos and visitThePointsGuy.com