6 Simple Steps to Get Started With Miles and Points and Make Your Dream Travels Happen

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

For the New Year, get started with miles and points. If you pay just a little bit of attention — really, just a little bit! — you can wind up with the sort of points that will give you vacations you couldn’t have even imagined before. You can travel more, you can travel better, and you can travel for less. It really is that simple.

When frequent flyer programs began, they used to give you 5000 miles whenever you depleted your mileage account. They were afraid that once you used your miles, you would have no more reasons to be loyal to an airline. With no miles in your account, you could just switch to another program.

They don’t do this anymore because they found that once people redeemed their miles, they kept earning miles — and earned them even faster. They were shown the value of the miles in a real way, it because even easier to keep going and earn more. And redeem more.

People in my office used to think that the kind of travel that I do is something unique to me, but then one person after another began replicating it. One big credit card bonus, an international trip in business class, and then the whole thing started making sense. And then another trip, and another and another.

It will work that way for you, too. Get started easily and the rest will come naturally.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign up for a free account at AwardWallet.com 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 50,000 points to start once you spend $4000 on it within 3 months. Add a free authorized user to your account and make a purchase within that same timeframe 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 evreward.com 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.

If you have a goal, that will help motivate you and clarify your choice of program. Where would you want to go? What airline has partners that fly there?

In the meantime, never pass up miles, always sign up for frequent flyer programs even when it’s not your primary program. The miles add up eventually.

And don’t worry, it’s a very frequent question, signing up for credit cards can be good for your credit score as long as you are responsible and you pay off your bills each month.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. My goodness, you must be getting a kickback from AwardWallet to list them as the #1 source for “free/discounted” travel. By no means should this be listed first for “newbies” looking to earning cheap miles/points for travel!

  2. Uh no. Yes there are plenty of transparent blogs like Doctor of Credit, Travel Blogger Buzz, Mile Nerd, Saverocity, Travel Is Free, on and on that don’t steer people wrong. They aren’t on BA though.

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