This is the 1st post on how to accumulate and spend miles and points effectively. See previous posts for more info:Step 1: Acquiring Points and Miles – Laying the Foundation Step 2: Acquiring Points and Miles – Setting Up Step 3: Acquiring Points and Miles – Staying Organized Step 4: Acquiring Points and Miles – Accumulating
Before we go into the topic of how to accumulate miles and points we should mention that people’s goals differ. You should analyze your situation and answer a few questions:
What is my travel goal? In other words, what do you want to accomplish.
Do I want aspirational first class flights, comfortable business class, or am I satisfied with more flights in economy? The better the class, the more miles needed. Some want to see more places and have more trips. Others want to arrive in style or travel comfortably
Which airlines serve my closest/main airport(s)? Accumulate miles in the best partner airline of the alliances that serve that airport.
Which airline alliances serve the airports where I want to go? Accumulate miles in the best partner airline of the alliances that serve that airport.
How easy is it to redeem points and miles on my preferred airline and hotel chain? It would be sad to accumulate hundreds of thousands of points/miles only to realize that you are not able to use them when you’d like.
Am I accumulating for myself, a spouse as well or a family? Multiply the points times the number of people for flights. Hotels are a different story.
Am I a backpacker/hostel, a mid-level or a luxury hotel kind of person? Different situations call for different hotels but as a general rule: the nicer the hotel the more points needed. There are exceptions and great opportunities at some very trendy and luxury hotels.
Which hotels are present where I want to travel to? You should obviously accumulate in the program that has hotels where you’re going. Although diversification helps.
Do I prefer miles/points or cashback? Cashback can be helpful if you prefer reimbursement but normally you can get a better return by using miles and points for hotel stays and flights.
Will I be flying international, intercontinental or domestic flights? Different programs have different rules, some more generous that others depending on where you are flying.
Do I take advantage of all paid flights by me or my employer to get miles when possible? Each segment and mile can count towards status and your mileage balance if in the correct fare bucket.
Is hotel or airline status important for me? Benefits such as extra miles, upgrades, lounge access and priority boarding and seating make trips more comfortable and help rack up miles and points quicker.
If you are just beginning to learn about points and miles you will most likely not have all the answers to the above questions. Questions like what is an alliance, which programs are better, what are fare buckets, etc.
The next post will give you a basic idea on where and how to quickly get started.