Hi Everyone, I'm just wondering if anyone here on the Helpline is a points fanatic (I.e, you do credit card churns, obsessively monitor the FlyerTalk webites, come up with the most creative way to eek out as many points as you can, etc.). I have been doing a lot of reading about this lately and I feel like getting into the game (wading into the pool, not diving in head first). I am planning to put everything I can onto my credit cards and paying off every month. Right now I only have a CapOne Venture card, which is cash back, but I'm looking into getting some points-based credit cards. Just wondering if you have any tips for a newbie? Or maybe you know about some blogs that have great newbie tips? I've been reading Frugal Travel Guy and The Points Guy but I'm always on the lookout for other sites/blogs that have good info for a newbie? Tanks for any help you can give. :)
We've been churning credit cards for about 6 years. Our best year we earned 550,000 miles; average is about 250,000 per year. That's mostly sign-up bonuses from new cards (we're retired and aren't big spenders). We always have at least two miles-or-points earning cards going for each of us (my husband and myself). But don't even think of trying this unless you can pay off your cards every month and are very well organized. I have a spreadsheet listing when the card was opened, the "spend" needed to get the points (i.e. $1000 in 3 months), payment due date, website address, reward details. I set up all cards on auto-pay from my checking account and request an email reminder prior to each due date. I try to get the "spend" for each new card taken care of ASAP. I put everything possible on credit cards: insurance premiums, cable, phone and cell phone bills, newspaper subscriptions. I use credit cards for all purchases. Eleven months after activating the card, I verify that I've transferred all the miles or used all the points associated with it. Then I cancel the card, to avoid paying an annual fee. I have a couple of no annual fee cards (with no foreign transaction fees) that I keep active, in case the credit card companies decide to cut me off. But they just keep sending me offers. And I keep accepting them. I don't think all this activity has hurt my credit score; I actually think it has improved. Check airline and credit card websites to see the current offers. Flyer Talk will highlight these as well. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a good one, with a 40,000 mile bonus currently. It sounds like you're approaching this carefully, which is good. Playing this credit card game can be a lot of work, but the rewards are fun!
Choose an airline - mine is United. Sign up for Mileage Plus dining and only go to restaurant where you earn points. Sign up for Chase Sapphire and only buy things using their Rewards Mall (or United Shopping). Sign up and get extra cards for anyone in family eligible. Everything goes on credit card. Read flyertalk and sign up for any point earning scheme. Only use miles for "saver awards". My goal is to never spend a dime if you're not earning miles. My understanding is ght with Capital One you need 100,000 miles to buy a $1000/ticket but I use 100,000 and get RT Firt Class Saver tickets (which run $5k-ish) on United to Europe (only 70,000 got us to Peru and Macchu Pichu).
Christopher Elliott writes often that rewards programs end up costing you in the long run. You tend to pick the airline/hotel that gives you miles instead of the best deal at the start. For example, if you live near a Delta hub, you may think it's great that you get reward miles from them, but you pay more because Delta has less competition. Here's his column today that speculates that the bubble may soon burst on rewards. http://elliott.org/what/the-next-bubble-travel-loyalty-programs/#more-28212
I have noticed that the credit card mileage offers are getting smaller, and now almost always have a spending requirement (like $1000 in 90 days). I haven't seen one of the really big offers (like 100,000 miles from American or 100,000 points from Capital One) in a while. So the bubble may be getting ready to burst on rewards. But if it's not costing me anything to accumulate miles ... and I spend them quickly ... I can't really lose anything by continuing. You do have to choose your programs carefully. British Air did a big (100,000 mile) offer, but using those "free" miles for a flight to Europe cost around $800 in fuel surcharges. So we used our miles on the BA partner, American Airlines, for free trips to the Caribbean and within the US. Another issue was with Delta. My husband and I each accumulated enough points for a free 60,000 mile round trip to Europe but ended up needing 90,000 miles, so we each got another free Delta card (with 30,000 miles) and that took care of that. So I'm focusing now on United (for Europe) and Frontier Airlines (for domestic trips). From the Denver hub, we can get even last-minute Frontier round-trips for 20,000 miles. We each just got a free American Express with 50,000 points we can transfer to Frontier. Bottom line: if you pay off your accounts every month, and if you use the miles you accumulate, and if you cancel credit cards before you pay any fees, I can't see how affiliate cards can be considered a scam. We haven't paid for an airline ticket in 12 years, and fly to Europe and the Caribbean each once a year, plus occasional trips around the US. We're going one-way business class to Istanbul for 100,000 miles and $14.20; those tickets would have cost over $17,000 had we purchased them on the day we made the reservation.
No tips unfortunately. We try to build our miles with Delta since we are in Atlanta. Use American Express card as often as possible but I have to admit it is getting harder to get a good deal. Two years ago we got a 60,000 points tic (easily) but just last month our open jaw Amsterdam/London tic required 77,000 points and that took some time and date adjustments to score a deal.
As is always the case, half-truths, incomplete info, and some misleading stuff posted here, by well-meaning friends. No offense intended, but this forum is a terrible place for reliable, accurate and complete info on this subject. It's great for info on European travel. If you want reliable info on FF programs, look elsewhere. I say this as a 20-year veteran of these games, having done pretty much all my international recreational flights using miles, currently sitting on more miles than I can use anytime soon. There are oodles of opportunities out there now, there always are. I don't obsess over these things (others certainly do, but I figure life is too short to spend too much of it chasing points), that's not necessary, you can do just fine with some effort (as some here have done). But you do need to invest some of your time to learn how to play the game. This is the wrong place for that. My "tips for a newbie" is to look elsewhere and discount what you see posted here (other than this post, of course...). Good luck.
I love playing the game.
A couple of general tips: 1) Know how much a mile is worth to you. For example, if you want to use your miles for economy tickets and a RT ticket usually costs $1000 or 50,000 frequent flyer miles then you know that a mile is worth no more than 2 cents. Keep this in mind when you make decisions that involve miles. Don't forget to take into account any annual card fees. I think many people overestimate the worth of a point and make irrational decisions (e.g. buying a more expensive flight to get the points for a particular carrier). 2) Flyertalk and other websites provide lots of good info, but you have to put up with reading a lot of stuff by self-entitled travelers. A couple of years ago, I was staying 80 nights a year in the same hotel chain and flying twice a month on the same airline. I spent a lot of time on flyertalk (mostly while waiting in airports) and really increased the number of points that I earned. I learned about special promotions, surveys that gave you extra points, credit card deals, how to upgrade, etc. But I also had to waste a lot of time reading posts by people who were bent out of shape because the hotel didn't treat them like the god they thought they were. 3) To some extent, the "rich get richer" when it comes to frequent traveler points. For example, when I was staying frequently in the same hotel chain, I'd get targeted offers (e.g. sign up for this promotion and stay 10 nights in the next month and get 20,000 bonus points). Higher status usually means more points earned too. 4) Always answer surveys from the airline or hotel. Some of these lead to more points. For example, a survey from one hotel chain got me invited to be a member of a forum that provided feedback on their credit card. Participation in the forum got me extra points every month.
My brother in law has the "racer's edge." He owns a big city new car dealership, and every dealership expense that's possible to put on a credit card is charged. And I'm talking hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Needless to say they fly everywhere first class.
@Charlene... pretty impressive. I think you should start a business where you can handle everyone's FF accounts :))
I do OK with it and do manage to get a number of tickets and hotels for free, but can only commit so much time to it... but even with the amount of time I have I do try to work the system and get those tickets that are the most beneficial to me. Just do what you can and as long as it is not costing you more than you are gaining it's a win for you.