How Collecting Miles & Points Has Dramatically Affected Us

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Part 1 Featured

For anyone wondering if learning to navigate the world of points and miles is worth it, I’ll give you one simple answer:

Yes.

Collecting points has been an incredible experience that has massively altered the way my wife Erin and I travel.

Our goal with points (which may be different from yours) is to use them for luxurious travel that we’d never pay cash for, unless we were using some crazy discount.

By maximizing the number of points we earn, we’ve been fortunate enough to travel international business and first class many times – and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

Traveling in that sort of style and only paying a fraction of the cost (sometimes as little as $100-$200) is an unbelievable feeling. Just ask anyone who has done the same thing!

(Note: You can read more about “The Millers” here >>)

Enough about us – let’s get to the good stuff. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to collecting stacks of points to redeem however you want!

Learning How to Master the Points World

There are many ways to earn and redeem points! For example, see how we combined points with the British Airways “Travel Together” ticket to fly home in first class!

To do this, we made sure to put all our everyday expenses on the Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card, which earned us a “Travel Together” ticket with BA.

This means we pay using points for only one person; a companion doesn’t pay any points at all for the same ticket (just taxes and carrier fees)!

Now, BA has high taxes and carrier fees, but this works out to 2 first class return tickets from U.S. to London for the price of 1 economy ticket ($~950 per person + 170 points). Those first class tickets are usually priced at $5,000-$8,000 PER PERSON.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s an insane value to get them for ~$950 or less each!

If you’re flying elsewhere in Europe (besides London) with BA, it’ll end up being ~$650-$700 per person instead of $1,000, because London has higher fees and taxes. These are all little tricks you’ll learn as you read more content here on the site!

For a normal middle class family in the points world, a typical year can earn you about 1 trip for a small family, or maybe 2 trips for a couple without kids.

This math will obviously depend on your level of spending, which points you are collecting, and how many cards you have opened, but the point is this: it is very practical to assume you will get rewarded for your efforts!

Part 1 Couple Traveling

What Can a Typical Person or Family Do With Points?

A single person earning $40,000 per year could rack up anywhere from 20,000-50,000 points directly from their card spending, plus another 30,000-100,000 in sign-up bonuses.

On an airline, this is equal to 2-4 round-trip flights (around a $1,200-$2,400 value). At a hotel, this could mean anywhere from 2-10 nights.

A family of 4 with an income of $70,000 per year could earn anywhere from 40,000-200,000 points in a year. This is enough for roughly 6 round-trip tickets on an airline, or anywhere from 3-30 nights in a hotel!

All redemptions differ per airline, hotel, card, etc. but the point (pun intended!) is clear: having a strategy can be worth the time.

So what about you?

To help you understand where you might fit in, we’ve developed 3 fictitious families and spending patterns that will hopefully help you hone in a little more closely on how to execute your own travel and points strategy when reading card reviews.

We named our families the Kennedys, the Jetsons, and the Hartnells, and you’ll see them in sections of our articles where we work on figuring out the math and cash value of particular cards.

We’re confident you’ll learn about what you can do with credit cards and points here at Upgraded Points. To get you started, here are some example redemptions to help get the creative juices flowing!

Part 1 Model Family

Example Flight Redemptions

Flying from New York City to Los Angeles can be done on American Airlines for 25,000 points plus $11.20 in fees. That’s one year’s spending for a flight worth around $515 if you paid cash.

You can fly from Dallas to London on United Airlines for 60,000 points and $193.76 in fees. This could be earned with just a sign-up bonus and some extra spending, and would be worth $1,222 in cash.

Fly LA to Tokyo on Delta Air Lines for 80,000 points plus $277.16 in fees. Earn this $856 flight with a sign-up bonus and a year’s worth of spending.

Travel with British Airways from Chicago to Berlin in mixed premium/business class for 16,750 points and $1,090 in fees. That’s half a year’s spending plus fees for a $4,750 flight.

Example Hotel Redemptions

Book 3 nights in a Seattle Marriott hotel for $557, or spend 120,000 points and a $6 fee, which is a sign-up bonus and about a year’s worth of spending.

Stay in an Aspen Starwood hotel for 3 night for $1,555, or spend 48,000 points. Again, that’s a sign-up bonus plus a year’s spending.

You can book 7 nights in a Rome Hilton hotel for 1,267 euros (~$1,367), or use 420,000 points. The business traveler could earn this with a sign-up bonus and a year’s worth of staying at Hilton hotels for work.

Book an IHG hotel in Mexico City for 4 nights for $547, or use 100,000 points. This redemption is about equivalent to a sign-up bonus and 6 months of business travel in IHG Hotels.


Bottom Line: Endless opportunities for collecting and redeeming points exist. We’re here to help you figure them out so you can travel like a pro, too!

Part 2: So, What’s the Catch, Millers? >>

Photo Credits/Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Upgrade Featured Image: ScandinavianStock/Shutterstock
Couple Traveling: zeljkodan/Shutterstock
Model Family: Andresr/Shutterstock

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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FAQ

Where can I find a credit card guide or points guide?
This is our beginners guide to miles and points, and you can find the rest of the sections of the guide here!

The guide covers how points work, discusses loyalty programs, helps you understand your credit score, and explores other aspects of being a points user.

We have also added an Express Guide to Getting Started for those who don’t have time to read all this information.

What are credit card points and miles?
They are simply a “currency” you receive for spending money on your credit card. Rewards may be stored in a credit card points account or under a specific loyalty program account.

“Points” refer to rewards more generally, whereas “miles” refer more to the points you earn toward air travel.

How can you use credit card points for travel?
Credit cards collect points, which act as a currency that can be used with credit card companies to book travel.

Alternatively, the points can be converted into a hotel or airline loyalty account and used to book reward flights or rooms through the specific company’s loyalty program.

Which credit card points program is best?
This question will be answered later in the guide, but in general it depends on your own specific situation, spending level, preferred travel companies, credit score, and so on.

There are many factors that go into it, so you must learn a little more about these concepts to determine which is best for you.

What can I use credit card points for?
Points can be used for travel (the main focus of this site), but they can also be used to redeem experiences, shop for useful items, purchase gift cards, donate to charity, and more!

Each credit card and loyalty company has a variety of different ways to use your points.

What is meant by “redeem credit card points?”
When we say “redeem credit card points,” we mean using this “currency” of points you’ve collected (through sign-up bonuses, spending, or transferring points) for travel, shopping, and other redemption options.

On this site, we focus mainly on the travel portion of redeeming.

What or how much are credit card points worth?
We’ll provide ways to value the points later in the guide, and we will also offer other valuations throughout the site as we add more content. In general, 1 point is equal to $0.01 in the majority of points systems.

But, the way you redeem your miles can change their value. We try to get a minimum value of $0.02 per point, and at times they can go above $0.10 per point!

I don’t have any credit cards. Can I still learn anything here?
Certainly! Even if you are only collecting points via travel related purchases, we can help you get the highest possible value for any points you have in your loyalty accounts.

You can also learn some tips to travel more cheaply. We have guides to the ITA Matrix (part 1 and part 2) that help you find cheap airline tickets.

If you need help with passports, we have a guide on getting your first passport or renewing your old passport.

However, we definitely recommend getting credit cards, building up your credit, and utilizing all the great options out there so you can earn much bigger rewards and enjoy travel!

I don’t travel for business; can I still collect points?
Absolutely! Business travel is a great way to earn lots of points, but you can earn plenty of points for everyday spending by getting the right card.

Check out the rest of our guide sections and our credit card reviews.