One of the first things to do if you’d like to enter the lucrative miles and points hobby is sign-up and join free travel loyalty programs for airlines and hotels. Also known as Rewards Programs, they’re your gateway to the wonderful world of cheap travel. And best of all? It won’t cost you a cent.
1. Airline and Hotel Credit Card Sign-ups
The most lucrative source of miles and points for most is large credit card sign-up bonuses. If
you sign-up for an airline or hotel’s credit card, you’ll be explicitly asked for your loyalty
program membership number. If you don’t provide one, a number will be auto-generated for
you. You may even have an existing number with points in it. But if you don’t know it, the
bonus points will go to your new, auto-generated account. Some accounts can be merged,
some can’t–it depends on the program. I find it’s best to start off on the right foot by picking
your membership number shoe and storing it with your others. Organization is key to success
in this hobby.
2. Mile and Point Transfers
Some bank travel rewards cards offer the ability to transfer miles and points to specific airlines and hotel partners. To transfer, you of course need a membership number to transfer to. Best to have your favorites at the ready. Incidentally, the best card in this class is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I’ve had one for years, and it’s like a swiss army knife of points.
Status. Rhymes with flatus and reeks of snobbery. However, having status in a loyalty program may confer a number of benefits that don’t stink. For travel loyalty programs, airlines and hotels won’t provide much for signing up. Not so with car rental agencies. With just a membership number and a smile, you’re often able to stand in an expedited pick-up line. Or skip the lines completely and go straight to the garage to get your car. I’ve had terrific luck with this using Dollar / Thrifty (same company) at MCO – Orlando’s International Airport.
Signing up – Pick Three
So you won’t be overwhelmed, pick three of each of the following to sign-up with. Everyone’s tastes and needs are different, but here are my favorites:
Call me biased. Please. Just don’t call me in the wee hours of the morning. While there are other methods for storing loyalty program membership numbers, I prefer storing mine in a home grown miles and points tracking spreadsheet. I update it semi-regularly and make it available free to readers. Use the FreqFlyer tab and explore the others. The AppliedFor tab is especially helpful when going for credit card apps. Hover over the column headings of the AppliedFor tab and you’ll be rewarded with info and tips on credit card applications.
So there you have it. A journey of a free, or heavily subsidized, trip begins with a single step. Take it.