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5 Common Points/Miles Mistakes Made By Beginners (And How to Avoid Them)

Luke Sims – 10xTravel Contributor

Hey there, newbie points/miles enthusiast.

Welcome to a world where flying to Vegas for a weekend can be cheaper than taking a taxi downtown. Feel like Don Draper yet?

Whether you are a rookie to the game or a seasoned veteran ready to crown thyself as “Travel Guru of House Lannister” (if you’re not watching Game of Thrones, you should be), you are probably making a few mistakes that could be limiting you from the full potential of this glorious game.

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the most common beginner mistakes in the world of points and miles. Maybe then, you can shed your newbie label and become the master you were born to be (cue Star Wars theme song).

 

1) Assuming all points/miles have the same value

The most common mistake made in the points and miles world is the assumption that 2 points is always better than 1.

If Card A offers 2 points per dollar spent and Card B only offers 1, Card A must be better, right?

Wrong.

(If you subscribe to this logic please email me right away. I will gladly give you 2 pesos for every dollar you have).

What’s important here is the total value of the points you are earning, not the number, and that can be determined with a quick calculation that we in the points world refer to as “Value per mile”

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Simply take the value of what your miles will get you and divide by the total miles needed to get said value, and voila! You have calculated the value per mile.

So for example, if you need to redeem 40,000 miles to book a $2,000 flight, your value per mile would be ($2,000/40,000=) 5 cents per mile.

This thinking is also very common when looking at credit card sign-up bonuses. Bigger is not always better.

Make sure to do the math and don’t fall for the marketing gimmicks.

 

2) Failure to diversify your points stash

Ah, yes. We call this “first miles love”.

You cash in your hard earned miles for your first free flight, love it, and spend way too much time trying to earn more of those same kind of miles (while ignoring other potentially better options).

Of course I can’t blame you. You’re simply “throwing what you know”, as the kids say these days.

But falling into this trap will severely limit your cheap travel potential.

Don’t fall in love with the first girl you kiss junior year of high school! Always be playing the field (wait, are we talking about love or cheap travel?).

There are other awesome points/miles opportunities all over the place.

(Note: I married the first girl I kissed junior year of high school, so I guess it works out sometimes.)

 

3) Shop first, save later

Always be earning. Say it with me, “always be earning.” Again!

That’s the mindset I would encourage you to take when it comes to earning points and miles.

You see, many people fall into what I call the “shop first, save later” trap. Meaning they start looking at trips they want to take before earning the required points to book said trips.

Which is a bit like looking at new houses before saving money for a down payment. Regardless of what you find, you’re probably not going to be able to save enough to buy it before someone else does.

The same is true in the world of points and miles.

Each month, you should be adding to your points/miles accounts. Taking advantage of the points/miles earning opportunities that we show you so you’re ready when the time comes.

That way, when you’re sick of your roommates and need a weekend getaway, you have the points to book that Vegas flight and get the hell out of there.

 

4) Overthinking the Small Stuff

Picture this. You’re in line at Starbucks about to get your morning coffee.

You finally reach the register, place your order, and pull out your wallet to pay.

All of a sudden, panic sets in. Do I pay with Card A? Earn double points with card B? Help!

To which my answer would be, it doesn’t matter!

You can spend hours sweating the small stuff, trying to make sure you optimize your spending to avoid missing out on any lost points.

But, unless you’re buying coffee for the entire office it really doesn’t matter. Just relax and focus on what really matters (that first sip of coffee, of course).

 

5) Letting valuable points and miles expire

I’ve got some good news and some bad news, which do you want first?

Bad news: your points/miles can expire.

Good news: if you pay a zombie’s level of attention, your points will never expire.

Most beginners fall into one of these two categories: you earn your bonus and never pay attention to the account again, or you nervously check your points/miles account thinking your points are going to expire after a week (like that moldy milk in your fridge).

Whichever is you, stop. Here is the most important thing to know:

Most US based rewards program points/miles expire after 18 months of no activity.

“No activity” being the key part of that sentence. Which means zero points earned and zero points redeemed.

That means that every time you earn or redeem a single point your 18-month clock starts over. Giving you more time to avoid the dreaded “your points are about to expire” email.

RELAX. Your points aren’t going anywhere.

Relax

So, forget your “newbie” label.

If you can conquer these 5 common beginner mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to the big leagues – where traveling the world for next to nothing is more than just a dream.

Wheels Up,

Luke

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Blog

How to Use Amex Starwood Points to Fly to Hawaii

Hi Travel Junkies,

Today we wrap up our Hawaii coverage by tackling the last major points program, Starwood Preferred Guest.

To recap, here are my previous overviews of how to fly to Hawaii using points with the other major points programs:

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Amex Membership Rewards

Citi ThankYou Points

BryceinHawaii

With so many ways to fly to Hawaii for free it’s easy to sit back and relax

Let’s get to it.

 

How to Earn Starwood Points

Starwood points are a bit harder to come by than points from other major programs. In fact, there are only 2 major credit cards that can be used to earn this valuable rewards currency.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Card by American Express (“SPG”) – The Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express comes with 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months. The card has a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year. Continue Reading

Blog

Mother’s Day: Earn Bonus Points with Mom and AAdvantage Bonus Miles

Mother’s Day is this Sunday (May 8th) and if you’re anything like me, you forgot to get something nice for mom.

Lucky for you, I’ve got your back this year.

Check out these last minute opportunities to earn extra AAdvantage bonus miles shopping for Mother’s Day, and rack up bonus points with mom in the process.

MothersDay1

Shopping Portals Are The Key

Your key to acing Mother’s Day this year is unlocked through the wonderful world of shopping portals.

If shopping portals are new territory for you, check out How to Use Shopping Portals to Boost Your Millage Earnings to get the juicy details.

Basically, shopping portals are third-party sites that offer you an incentive for shopping at various retailers through their portal. Continue Reading

Blog

My Honeymoon Cost Next to Nothing and How I Did It

Luke Sims – 10xTravel Contributor

I was twenty-two, fresh out of college, and about to marry my high school sweetheart – paying for a honeymoon was the last thing I wanted to do.

Oh yeah, did I mention I just bought an engagement ring, paid a NYC apartment deposit (ouch), and hadn’t started my job yet?

Enough of my pity party, the bitter truth is that we all want to take incredible trips and it’s never the right time to blow thousands of dollars.

But, this was my honeymoon… I wanted to take my wife on the trip of a lifetime.

That’s when I stumbled across 10xTravel. I read the free e-book, sent Bryce my sob story, and discovered that the honeymoon of our dreams wasn’t out of reach.

So, piece-by-piece I put together a honeymoon that was almost as great as the sex was (too personal?) and it was an adventure that we’ll never forget.

Luke_Honeymoon_1

 

Where are we going?

We had no idea where we wanted to go.

We didn’t want to do the typical Cancun sit-on-the-beach honeymoon (not bashing it), so we typed in “unique honeymoon destinations” and this picture popped up: Continue Reading

5 Thoughts, Blog

5 Thoughts: Vienna

I had the pleasure of visiting Vienna for a couple days in February of 2016 on a trip to Central Europe.

(Here’s how I was able to do it for next to nothing using points/miles)

Here are 5 thoughts I had after my trip.

Vienna1

1) Compared to other major European cities, Vienna is just “Ok”

Vienna checks all the boxes that make for a fantastic place to visit. History, culture, food (more on this later), museums, activities, etc.

The problem is that Vienna is not particularly notable for any of these things. It’s just “ok” at all of them. Which makes for an experience that is best described as “just ok”.

Sure, there are a ton of museums in Vienna. But none of them contain any can’t-miss works of art or historical artifacts. Continue Reading

Blog

How to Use Citi ThankYou Points to Fly to Hawaii

Hi Travel Junkies,

Today we are continuing with my mission to put Hawaii back on the map for you (from a points/miles perspective).

We have already covered two of the most popular types of points programs in weeks past.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Amex Membership Rewards Points

Today I want to continue with my quest by introducing you to another very popular rewards program, Citi ThankYou Points.

BrycePhotobombedinMaui

Being photobombed in Maui

Here we go.

How to Earn Citi ThankYou Points

Citi offers a variety of different cards to suit all needs. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Citi ThankYou Points

Citi ThankYou Premier Card – Citi ThankYou Premier comes with 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months. The card has a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year. Continue Reading

Blog

How to Use Amex Membership Rewards Points to Fly to Hawaii

Hi Travel Junkies,

Last month I promised to help put Hawaii back on the map for you (from a points/miles perspective) and provided an overview of how you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to get there.

Today I want to continue with my quest by introducing you to another very popular rewards program, American Express Membership Rewards.

BryceDolphining

Less money spent on flights = more money available to swim with dolphins

Let’s get to it.

How to Earn Amex Membership Rewards Points

Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards points are incredibly valuable because of their flexibility to transfer to a number of different travel partners in multiple airline alliances.

Yes, they can also be redeemed for things like shopping and gift cards but we are not going to cover that in today’s overview. The value of these redemptions is mediocre at best.

WayToUsePoints

Amex Membership Rewards can be earned with a TON of different credit cards but today I want to focus on the most popular ones. The Platinum Card, Premier Rewards Gold Card, and Amex EveryDay Preferred.

The Platinum Card – The Platinum Card by American Express comes with 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months. The card has a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year.

Platinum comes with a variety of other travel perks, including lounge access, a $200 airline fee credit, and a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

Premier Rewards Gold Card – The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (“PRG”) is currently offering a signup bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months. You also earn 3x points on airfare, 2x at gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x on all other purchases.

PRG has an annual fee of $195 that is waived for the first year.

There is also a business version of this card that has a signup bonus of 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. Continue Reading

Blog, Success Stories

Reader Success Story – Family Trips to Australia, Florida, and Canada for Next to Nothing

Hi Travel Junkies,

I love unapologetically bragging about how awesome my readers are.

And one of the ways I do this is by sharing reader success stories, which allows you to see just how powerful points/miles can be (and provides a blueprint for you to create a similar trip).

Today’s reader success story is of particular interest just because of the sheer amount of cheap travel that Leah and her family were able to book.

Over the last 12 months they have traveled to South Florida and Australia and already have another trip booked to spend a couple days in Canada. All for pennies on the dollar.

And today Leah is going to tell you how they did it.

Take it away, Leah.

LeahYoder-1

Leah and her family in Sydney, Australia

The best thing about the points/miles hobby is that once you “get it” everything seems to fit together nicely.

Your view of how credit cards, frequent flyer miles, and other types of points all work completely shifts and you start to see opportunities everywhere.

That’s exactly what happened for me just a few months after I discovered Bryce’s blog, 10xTravel.com. His site has been a source of constant information for me, and I’ve been able to use his user-friendly step-by-step breakdowns to plan a number of family vacations for next to nothing.

Let’s start with our trip to Fort Myers, Florida.

After reading Bryce’s article about the Southwest Companion Pass my husband and I decided to try to earn one. My husband is self-employed so we opted to get both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card, which were each offering a bonus of 50,000 Southwest Miles at the time. Continue Reading

Blog

How to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Fly to Hawaii

Hi Travel Junkies,

Those of you who have joined my Insider’s mailing list know that the very first task I ask you to complete is to pick a dream destination and write it down.

Those of you who haven’t joined yet are missing out on some of my best material. No worries, you can join here:

Download The Free Ebook

Tired of paying too much to travel? Get my step-by-step guide on how to travel the world for next to nothing.

 

I also ask my new readers to share their dream destination with me so that I can provide a few tips to help make it happen.

Their most popular choice?

Hawaii, and it’s not even close.

BryceHawaii

Hanging out in Maui

At any given time there are at least a dozen 10xT readers in America’s 50th state.

(Keep an eye out next time you’re there. They’ll be the ones asking the hotel to split their bill across 4 different cards to maximize their points haul)

For many people, Hawaii is the ideal vacation destination.

Unfortunately, Hawaii can feel more like a dream then an attainable vacation spot (cue coins clinking into a piggy bank).

Which is why I am going to take some time over the next few weeks to bring Hawaii back on the map for you.

No, I’m not going to go into detail about what volcano to visit, what sunscreen to use, or even what hotel I recommend (though I am a big fan of the Andaz Maui)… we can get into all of that later. Continue Reading

Blog

Introducing the Newest Member of the 10xT Team: Luke Sims!

Hi Travel Junkies,

Today I am very proud to announce the addition of a new (and very talented) member of the 10xT team, Luke Sims!

Luke’s official title will be “Travel Guru/Contributor” (I love letting people create their own titles), which means he will be sharing amazing content on 10xT as well as helping all of you make your travel dreams become travel realities.

Here is what he has to say, in his own words

Luke Sims

Hey Travel Junkies,

My name is Luke and I’m addicted to travel hacking. I was baptized into the game when Bryce helped me put together an incredible – and completely free – honeymoon back in September, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Continue Reading