The One Thing You Need to Do Every Day to Protect Your Miles

I’ve written about six first steps to getting started in miles and points.

  1. Sign up for a free account at to track your miles and points. A great way to keep everything easily organized.

  2. Choose the right rewards credit card. If you’re just getting started, the best one for you is probably Chase Sapphire Preferred. It will give you 40,000 points to start once you spend $4000 on it within 3 months. Add a free authorized user to your account and make a purchase for another 5000 points. These are great points to accumulate because they transfer to several different airline and hotel programs whenever you want, and the card earns double points on all travel and dining purchases. Plus it’s a Visa with no foreign transaction fees so you can use it almost everywhere.

  3. Put all of your spending on your rewards credit card. Pay it off in full every month.

  4. Whenever you shop online you should see if you can earn miles or cash back for what you are going to buy anyway. I generally start at to check my options.

  5. Sign your rewards credit card up for the dining for miles program of your favorite airline. I prefer American miles.

  6. Always register for promotions. You never know which ones you will qualify for, and you will never remember what’s available. For instance, you may not plan to stay at a Marriott hotel but you wind up on a cancelled flight .. or a new trip comes up. It takes a few seconds, and you wind up earning points and free nights.

The very first one — sign up for an account — isn’t just a great way to begin organizing your miles. It’s also a great way to protect your miles.

I read someone’s story yesterday about their American AAdvantage mileage account being compromised. Someone changed the address and email address on their account, and proceeded to book Cathay Pacific first class awards for someone else using their miles. They managed to catch it before any of the flights were taken.

This can happen to anyone, in this case the person who did it clearly obtained the account password. Changing the email address meant the accountholder wouldn’t get a copy of the tickets being issued, or mileage statements showing lower account balances.

The best way to fight account hacking, where your mileage balances get drained, is to use a mileage tracking tool like Award Wallet. There are others, of course, but that’s the one I use.

By entering your account numbers into their system it’s not just more convenient for you to log into your accounts, but you’re much more likely to track your balances day in and day out since you can do it with a single click.

Get into the habit of updating your account balances each day. That way you’ll see right away when miles disappear, and you can act quickly to defend your accounts.

Airlines like United and Delta that make it difficult for services like this to check account balances reduce account security. I don’t check my United or Delta accounts every day, because it’s hard and I don’t remember to. Their legal nastygrams make member accounts less secure.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I use the AwardWallet mobile app, which actually sends a notification to my phone whenever there is a change in balance. That’s how I caught someone trying to transfer 40K SPG out of my account and Starwood was actually able to halt the transfer to an airline program.

  2. I use Award Wallet, too, but if someone every got that password, you’re really screwed since it stores all the passwords for all your accounts in there.

  3. I don’t understand why people hack an account and use it to book flights. The flights will be under their name. They can get caught really easy. How can you get away with that.

    Maybe they know something I don’t. *shrugs*

  4. Gary- With AA I thought you must book an award flt with a credit card having the same name as the acct the miles are coming from. I have never been able to book an award from my acct using someone else’s credit card.

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