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A few weeks ago I received a comment on my Facebook page from a friend who said he loved reading the blog (thanks!), but he still wasn’t quite clear on all the “points stuff”. He’s a smart guy, so he must not be the only one still confused by some of this “points stuff”. So, I’ll do my best to break down some of the basics of what they are and how to best start getting them. I’ll start by covering airline mile basics and then talk about hotel point basics.
Frequent flyer programs where you earn miles for each mile flown have been around for decades. They were created to help build loyalty to the airline and in return you got to collect miles toward future free travel as well as earn “status” with the airline if you flew a certain number of miles per year. I wasn’t a player in the game back when frequent flyer programs started, but now the magic number in the US is 25,000 miles. It is the magic number in two ways.
1. Flying this many miles per year on a single airline typically gets you elite status, albeit at the lowest tier. It varies from airline to airline, but often this can mean space-available first class upgrades on domestic flights, waived bag fees, priority baggage handling, access to priority (shorter) screening lines at the airport, and all-around better customer service. On a heavy flying year I *might* fly that many miles per year, but since most of them are on “free” trips that use miles, they don’t count. For the most part, only paid trips count towards earning miles for status this way.
2. The other way that 25,000 is the magic number for airline miles is that this is usually the number of miles required for a domestic economy round trip ticket in the Continental US, Canada, and Alaska. I have a toddler, family scattered around the country, and love seeing this country, so this is how I use the majority of my airline miles. Here’s the good news, you don’t actually have to fly a single mile in order to easily earn 25,000 miles that you can redeem for free flights.
If you have read many of my posts you have seen that the main way that I earn airline miles is through credit card usage and sign-up bonuses. Most rewards cards give you a base rate of 1 airline mile per 1 dollar spent on the card. So, if you spend $1000 on that card in a month you would earn 1000 airline miles. Of course, Mommy Points is all about getting way more than 1 mile per dollar a lot of the time by using bonuses and shopping portals – read more about that here. Sign-up bonuses are the other main way to quickly rack up the airline miles. Read all about getting a quick 50,000 miles via signing up for a Chase Sapphire card here and apply here.
Hotel points work in basically the same way as airline miles. You earn points both towards redeeming for free nights as well as towards status with the hotel. Status in hotels can get you upgraded rooms, free breakfast, point bonuses, access to lounges, and again, better customer service. Status is usually earned based on a required certain number of nights or stays in the hotel per year. Hotel points that can be used towards redeeming free nights are usually earned based on how much you paid for your room. For example, say you rented a Hyatt room for $150 dollars for one night. Hyatt gives a base rate of 5 points per dollar spent. That means that your one night stay would earn you 750 points. Hotels frequently have point bonuses on top of their base earnings that you can register for, so do some internet searching on the hotel’s website or flyertalk.com before your stay. I will also cover some of the best bonuses on this blog as well!
Just like with airline miles, you can really maximize your hotel point earnings through strategic use of credit cards as well. Again a base earning of 1 point per dollar spent on rewards cards is common, though some cards do give more to certain programs. As always, credit card sign-ups are the way to go for lots of points fast. The Chase Sapphire card that I keep talking about gives 50,000 points that can be used for many things including conversion to Marriott, Hyatt, or Priority Club (Holiday Inn) points at a 1:1 ratio. The number of points that it takes to get a free night depends on how nice the hotel is. Hotels chains usually divide their individual properties into “categories”. To continue with the Hyatt example, a Category 1 hotel starts at 5,000 points. An example of a Category 1 Hyatt is the Hyatt Regency North Dallas or Hyatt Place Denver Tech. Their highest category is Category 6 and that will set you back 22,000 points per night. Examples of a Category 6 are the Grand Hyatt New York and the Park Hyatt Paris. So, if you got the 50,000 points via the Sapphire card you could use them for up to 10 nights in a Category 1 hotel, 2 nights in a Category 6, or several nights at a hotel in categories 2, 3, 4, or 5. If you are curious, you can see Hyatt’s redemption chart here.
As you can see, there are many options and choices to make when it comes to earning and redeeming points. This makes them very useful (at least to me!), but it does make it complicated at first. Let me know if this helps those of you who are new to the points game – or let me know what questions you still have about basic points earning and redeeming and I will be happy to do my best to answer!
BTW two big posts coming…..one about an amazing deal for a Southwest Credit Card that gives you $833 in free travel for signing up and one about two BIG trips I am taking in order to bring great info back to you! (I’m so excited about that I could just about pass out!)