Getting Started With a Miles and Points Earning Credit Card
Right before Christmas, I went with a couple of friends to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week to stay in a beautiful luxury hotel on the beach. The most basic room at this hotel is $700+ a night, but for us, it was free using points I saved up on one of my credit cards.
If you already have an affiliation with an airline or hotel program, it might be a no-brainer to get a credit card associated with your program. Fly United? A United credit will get you more miles. Stay at a Marriott? Marriott has a good card.
If you don’t already have a loyalty to one program, of even if you do, there are some great cards out there that can help you earn points that are very flexible. Here’s what you should do:
- Apply for the card
- Learn about how that particular card earns points
- Use the card
- Once you have a nice points balance built up, start shopping for your free hotel flight
These are my favorite cards that have flexible points that can be used for both hotels and flights. They are great both experts and people just getting started.
1)Chase Sapphire Preferred
Cost: First year fee waved, then $95/year
The Sapphire Preferred is a great all-around card which earns points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. This program allows you to transfer points directly to a number of airlines or hotel programs OR book travel directly from the Ultimate Rewards portal. My dad has gotten a number of free flights this year just by putting his spend on a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points and then using the portal to book.
In this post, I show how easy it it is to convert Ultimate Rewards points into free flights.
2)The AMEX Everyday Preferred Card
Cost: $95 annual fee (not waived first year)
I just got this card recently but I’m loving it! This card earns AMEX Membership Rewards, and the idea is the same as the Chase card – these points are very versatile and can be used with a number of award programs or used directly to book travel.
This card will give you 1.5X on ALL PURCHASES as long as you make 30 transactions a month. There have always been purchases that you can only get 1 point per dollar on, but this card changes that. I’m putting any small purchase (to help meet the 30-purchase goal) on here, as well as anything else that was only getting me 1 point per dollar before. And of course I’m using this at every grocery store!
Scenario 1: I spend $500 at grocery stores per month. Each month, that’s 1500 points, and at the end of the year, thats 18,000 points, or more than enough for a free one-way flight. Just from buying groceries, which I would have done anyway.
Scenario 2: I was purchasing 2 business class tickets to Argentina on Delta miles, but my Delta account was 97,000 sky miles short of the 400,000 points I needed. I was able to transfer AMEX points to my Delta sky miles account, and book the award.
3)Starwood Preferred Guest
– 2x points at SPG Properties (Westin, Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Aloft, etc)
– 1x on all other purchases
– 10,000 points signup bonus after first purchase, plus 15,000 after spending $5,000 in 6 months
– 2 stays and 5 nights towards elite status
Cost: Free for the first year, then $65.
This card doesn’t have any good category bonuses like the other ones, but the payout of these points can be huge. This is the card I used to fund (via points) our week-long trip to paradise in Mexico.
Starpoints can also be transferred to many different airlines, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. Personally I prefer to save my Starpoints for stays at a St. Regis hotel, Starwood’s line of luxury properties.
Starpoints are harder to accrue than the other types of points, but they are also more valuable. I love to use this card for purchases that wouldn’t get a category bonus (like 2x on gas or 3x on groceries) with another card.
New Year, New Commitment to Travel
Start the new year by thinking about an amazing trip you’d like to take, and then commit to it!
Whether it’s educational, immersive travel or a vacation on the beach, credit card points are a way to significantly cut costs and make a luxury trip attainable for anyone.