For anyone wondering if learning to navigate the world of points and miles is worth it, I’ll give you one simple answer:
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-$200) is an unbelievable feeling. Just ask anyone who has done the same thing!
Enough about us – let’s get to the good stuff. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to collecting stacks of points to redeem however you want!
Table of contents
Learning How to Master the Points World
There are many ways to earn and redeem points! For example, see how we combined points with the British Airways “Travel Together” ticket to fly home in first class!
To do this, we made sure to put all our everyday expenses on the Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card, which earned us a “Travel Together” ticket with BA.
This means we pay using points for only one person; a companion doesn’t pay any points at all for the same ticket (just taxes and carrier fees)!
Now, BA has high taxes and carrier fees, but this works out to 2 first class return tickets from U.S. to London for the price of 1 economy ticket ($~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!
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!
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.