A Mileage and Point Total Update

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my husband and I apply for new credit cards every 3 months or so to pad our mileage and point balances which enables us to travel about 3 times a year. We will sometimes apply earlier than 3 months if an offer is particularly good. But, in general, this schedule allows us to accumulate the required miles and points for our family of four to travel throughout the year. And given that we’re only a few months before the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to review our mileage and point accumulations and perhaps identify gaps for next year.

HAVE A PLAN

Before going over where we stand, I do want to mention a few crucial aspects of collecting airline miles and bank or hotel points. While we will sometimes apply for a big credit card bonus without knowing exactly how we’ll use those points, for the most part, we have an idea of where we would like to travel about 18 months in advance. This allows us to identify the best way to get to our desired locations and what types of miles and points that we need to do so. Of late, there have been more and more mistake fares or serious sales to places that are on our wish list. In these cases, we let our destination choose us, rather than us choosing our destination (like our Belize trip). But for the most part, planning well in advance allows us to choose our route and our class of service.

Award availability opens up about 11 months prior to travel and we generally book almost as soon as availability opens up. We’re a family of four and getting four seats on the same flight, especially in business class, can be a challenge. So, we want as many options as possible and booking 10 – 11 months in advance gives us that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been contacted by clients through my award booking service looking to travel over the peak holiday period about two months in advance. And almost every time, I have to tell them there is no availability…

PAY OFF YOUR BALANCE IN FULL EVERY MONTH

Travel rewards from credit card sign ups can be addicting. Once you’ve got the application cadence down, it’s great to see your balances grow and your possible destinations expand. But you must not fall victim to carrying a balance in exchange for these rewards. That’s what the banks are hoping for and depending on how long you carry a balance, they’ll make their money back and more from you in exchange for these initial rewards. Beat them at their game and don’t succumb to carrying a balance!

MANAGE YOUR REWARDS AND CREDIT CARDS

When you start applying for lots of credit cards and have a stack of cards that you no longer use in your sock drawer, it’s time to make sure you have a spreadsheet tracking your application data. We use a simple Excel spreadsheet that includes the following:

  • The exact name of the credit card applied for (there are similar cards out there and in a year from now you won’t remember whether you applied for the Southwest Plus or the Southwest Premier Visa)
  • The bonus (50,000 Hilton Honors Points, for example)
  • The annual fee and if it’s waived for the first year
  • The required spending to receive the bonus ($2,000 in first 3 months, for example)
  • The date applied
  • And who applied for the card (only applicable for a couple – instead of one spreadsheet per person, we keep both of our data on the same spreadsheet)

This data allows us to monitor years and years of miles and points accumulation with very little effort. And it is sooo helpful to know when the last time you applied for a given card so that you know when you can apply for it again.

And to keep track of our award balances (credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points) we use AwardWallet. They keep track of all of the balances for every family member that I help manage awards for (I manage awards for 12 family members at this point). This is an indispensable tool in our arsenal and it’s free! There is a nominal charge to display the program expiration dates, but there are also free upgrade codes floating around the interweb…

These are the important requirements for starting and maintaining large award balances through credit card sign ups. I have heard so many horror stories of someone violating one or more of these and their balances or credit worthiness ultimately suffer.

So, without further ado… Here’s how we’ve done so far this year…

AIRLINE MILES:

  • Virgin Atlantic: 90,769
  • American Airlines: 53,000
  • Alaska Airlines: 178,000
  • United: 109,948
  • Delta: 104,000
  • Southwest: 52,000 (another 52,000 pending)

TOTAL: 587,717 miles (another 52,000 pending)

HOTEL POINTS:

  • Hilton Honors Rewards: 183,957

TOTAL: 183,957 points

BANK REWARDS:

  • BarclayCard Arrival: 43,000
  • Chase Ink Cash Ultimate Rewards: 33,000
  • Citi Thank You Points: 53,000
  • Capital One Spark Cash Back $1,090

These ones are hard to total because the way that they are used are vastly different.

** Some of these totals are exact and some are estimates based upon the rewards received and the spending requirement met.

We have one more application round each for the rest of the year so these totals hopefully will go up, but I’d say we’ve done pretty good so far. Right now we have only two trips on the horizon for next year and we’ll have plenty of miles to achieve these travel objectives. We try to leave one vacation “slot” open in case of a mistake or sale fare, but we may end up filling that with another award trip if nothing comes up.

Overall, the credit card churning game to reap travel rewards is stronger than ever. But redeeming the miles can be a challenge if you’re not aware of how to maximize those points and miles. Make sure that you’ve tried every angle before giving up on a trip. If you’re booking in advance, it’s quite likely there is something out there that will work. And if you can’t find it, don’t hesitate to ask for help!

How have you done this year? What trip are you collecting your miles and points for?

Spread the word!
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Facebook

Our Frugal Life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *