A great way to get a grasp on this points game came from a tip we found on a Flyertalk thread by AndreaRH. Thank you for your contribution:
What she had to say:
I was in your situation a few years back and here are the things that have helped me become a much more savvy traveler…
- Read the forums (FlyerTalk and Milepoint) religiously. You’ll get a lot of tips just by following threads that relate to you. It’s also helpful to read forums for programs that you aren’t actively participating in because it will help you decide which programs may be best for you to join.
- Read the blogs. My daily hit list includes:
- Frugal Travel Guy (Rick Ingersoll)
- The Points Guy (Brian Kelly)
- View from the Wing (Gary Leff)
- One Mile at a Time (Ben “Lucky” Schlappig)
- Subscribe to InsideFlyer magazine.
- If you can get to one of the frequent traveler seminars, do it! I just went to Frequent Traveler University and I learned quite a bit. Another popular educational event is the Chicago Seminars (which FTG posts about regularly). There’s one coming up on October 12–14 2012.
- Create a tracking system for your miles and points. You can simply use an Excel spreadsheet or use a program like AwardWallet.com. I do both … a spreadsheet to track what’s pending and AwardWallet to see where I stand at a glance.
- Decide if you are going to get into credit card applications. You need to have excellent credit, be able to pay off your balance every month, and keep track of the spend requirements and annual card anniversaries. This isn’t for everyone. Read all about it at Frugal Travel Guy. He’s the guru when it comes to credit card deals. Follow his advice and you’ll be fine. With credit card applications, you’ll need to study what deals are available and what has been offered in the past. For example, Chase has offered a 100,000-mile deal on its British Airways-branded Visa card twice in the past. Knowing that information, I’d suggest that you wait to get a Chase British Airways Visa until that deal is offered again in the future. You also need to know which cards are good to apply for and which aren’t. Reading these forums will give you that info.
- Since you’re interested in getting upgrades, you’ll need to learn about fare classes. (Only certain fare classes are upgradeable.) Read these forums and get a subscription to Expert Flyer. This website shows flight/seat availability, award and upgrade availability for many airlines, and fare information.
- You’ll need to decide which programs you’re going to devote your energies to. That will depend on 1) your home airport and 2) your travel goals. Think about where you want to go in the next few years and research who flies there and what hotels you’d stay at. Then look at airline alliances…which is best suited to get you where you want to go? I like oneworld and focus on American Airlines (where I’ve got Lifetime Gold status) and British Airways. I can then use miles from either of those programs on any OneWorld partner, like Cathay Pacific, LAN, Qantas, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Finnair, etc. I find it easy to earn miles (butt-in-seat and promo bonuses) on both American and British Airways. (My Chase BA Visa card nets me 1.25 BA miles for every $1 I spend on the card.) My secondary program is Continental/United and they are part of Star Alliance. Lots of great partners as well.
- A key strategy is the ability to transfer miles/points to the programs you’re most interested in. Check out American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. MR transfers are instant in many cases and Starwood transfers are lucrative…transfer 20,000 points and it turns into 25,000 miles.
- Don’t bypass promotions like TopGuest. It might sound like a waste of time to earn 50 points here or 50 points there, but it all adds up.
Start applying these techniques now and you’ll be a master before you know it.
The Rookie, Shannon
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day FlyerTalk is giving away A FlyerTalk Luggage Tag & Hoodie combo for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (with your First Name, Last Initial, and 3 letter airport code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.