I started this blog to be able to provide an avenue to reach out to you - family, friends, our dear travel clients, and anybody for that matter. And by reaching out here, I can share something of value to me and I believe will be of value to you also if you have not been bitten by the travel bug.
For more than two years now, I have been collecting miles and points. And I am loving how this is all going for me. Although I admit to not being able to travel so much as I would like (believe me, there are many places I have not gone to but I do plan to...), I have been trying to start somewhere and found a place to and how to do it - and inch ever so closely to free travel. I have followed a tad lot of experts on this subject (on blogs, forums and them all online!). I claim no expertise on this, however, I think it is beneficial for everyone reading this, to maybe learn a thing or two or get to know where to start.
Dreaming of that trip to Japan? How about to Europe? I am! So where can we start?
First, sign up! Sign up for miles and points programs (Airline, Hotel, & other loyalty programs).
I started with Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan in 2009... Wait, you may ask, why did I choose Alaska? I was up for a trip to Seattle to visit friends up north when I decided to go this route. In choosing where and which programs to sign up for, consider them carefully. I chose Alaska primarily because of their airline partners - a good number of them - from Skyteam (Delta, Korean Air, Air France/KLM, etc.) and Oneworld (American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, etc.) airline alliances. At that time, I was already planning out ahead for the rest of the trips I took that year so Alaska was my best choice; it also happened that if I choose to visit my friends more often, I will definitely fly Alaska again, which I did. Alaska also, at the time, had many non-airline partners which I can earn points from - among them - MileagePlan Dining (Rewards Network) and MileagePlan Shopping (Online Shopping Portal, note: mileageplanshopping.com does not exist anymore). There are a number of considerations you have to make with your choice, although you can always sign up later!
You might have to do a little research on who's with who on airline alliances but here is an overview: In the US, you have an option for any of the three airline alliances. Delta/DL is with Skyteam; United/UA and US Airways/US are part of Star Alliance; American Airlines/AA is part of Oneworld. Alaska is not part of any alliance, this is a strategic move on their part and a huge benefit too. Discount carriers Southwest (and the soon to be merged/consolidated Airtran) and JetBlue are not part of any alliance either, however, JetBlue has some form of agreement with American Airlines.
Besides airline miles, also do consider hotel points programs. There are a number of hotel program offerings out there, to name a few: IHG, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Best Western, Choice Hotels, etc. I am a member of Starwood and a cardholder for their remarkable SPG American Express Credit Card.
A few runner ups to this sign-up strategy is joining some Online Travel Agency's rewards program such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity, Priceline and the like.
(Key note: Sign-up bonuses on credit cards offer the best chance of earning big; while double and/or triple dipping in earning these miles and points is possible with patience and an understanding of how it works. More on this in a future post.)
Second, manage your miles and points: as you earn, earn, and earn, you also have to keep track!
I use Awardwallet.com to manage our miles and points. There is a donation of an amount (to date, I think it is $5) good for about 6 months to keep you updated. They have also made available an ID card that lets you store all your miles and points program information on the card. Another option for monitoring your miles and points is Mileport.com.
Once you have signed-up, simply enter your usernames and passwords for your programs and whenever you update, it will automatically update those balances for you.
Third, Credit Card Strategy! Apply for credit card sign-up bonuses! But caution, you have to be wise and responsible in doing this!
You can apply for a host of credit cards with huge sign-up offers and earn rewards if your application (personal and/or business account) is approved, and complete the spend requirement of the offer. This is a note worthy strategy because many of these airlines and hotel programs have co-branded credit cards with which you can earn miles and points from. Some of the most popular ones are Chase credit cards and American Express (prime example: Starwood Preferred Guest or SPG). I have a few of the cards that I signed up for that I am earning from, among them is the SPG. This is definitely an easy way to earn without a lot of flying or staying at hotels. These offers change, so it will be wise to apply for the right card at the right time. If you do decide to "churn" miles and points this way, please exercise sound judgment and caution in doing so. It may be a losing proposition if you will apply for the wrong reason and only end up paying interest on these credit cards regardless if you earn miles or points because in the end it may be counterproductive.
Fourth, Spend and Earn Strategy!
Implement a spend and earn strategy by carefully timing and planning out your purchases that you normally would be making otherwise. You can earn for things like dining at restaurants, shopping (through online malls, etc.), entertainment, and many other purchases especially using with those miles/points earning credit cards. Some of the ones that offer chances of double or even triple dipping involve the online malls and other affiliate shopping portals where you can earn miles + points + rewards and sometimes even cash back plus a discount code/coupon or two!
EARNING MILES AND POINTS FOR FREE TRAVEL requires time, patience and a strategy or two to make this work and all worth your while. It is not guaranteed every time that you will succeed, but you will not know unless you try. There are many ways to doing this and you can be smart about it so you can be one extra mile closer to your reward - your next destination! More to come in the next installation!
Thanks to Daraius of MillionMileSecrets for the help and for his wonderful blog which you can visit here: www.millionmilesecrets.com. You can find a ton of useful information on his site, and on many others that I follow whose links appear on the right side bar of the website under Blogs that I follow.