Explaining Points And Miles To Newbies

Aloha from sunny Honolulu! An interesting work project has me back here for the third time this year. The nature of the project I’m working on has myself and a few others driving around the island for most of the day. As a result, there’s plenty of time to discuss topics other than work. Yesterday, points and miles came up while discussing travel experiences. As my colleague began to talk about his “awesome” Delta credit card, I paused for a moment. Explaining points and miles to newbies isn’t easy, and I didn’t want to be dismissive of his efforts to accrue miles.

Establishing Goals

I think the first thing to assess when trying to help a friend of family member is their travel goals. Flying first class around the world might not be everyone’s goal, and that’s fine. Sometimes people just want to take their families on vacation every year for as little as possible. Each goal might necessitate a different approach on amassing points and miles.

Identifying A Home Airport

This is really important. I’m fortunate to live in a city where most major airlines have a presence. Not everyone is so lucky. Ask them what airline they typically fly, this could have a major impact on a points and miles strategy.

Don’t Feed Steak To A Baby

As most hardcore points people do, I charge everything I spend. From there, each purchase is routed to one of three cards depending on the category. Currently, my spend is broken up like this:

  • Travel & Dining: 3X Points Chase Sapphire Reserve (5.4% Value)
  • Gas: 3X Points Amex EDP (5.4% Value)
  • Groceries: 4.5X Points Amex EDP (8.1% Value)
  • Everything Else: 2X Points Amex Blue Business Plus (3.6% Value)
American Express Everyday Preferred – Great transferable currency card

Explaining this is pretty overwhelming for somebody that just opened their first airline credit card. Instead, I casually mentioned to my colleague that several Amex cards earn more Delta Skymiles than Delta’s own line of credit cards. In this case, he was generally interested in learning more so I started to explain the value of transferable currencies. Sensing that this was a hobby of mine, he then began peppering me with follow-up questions for the next 30 minutes or so. It beat talking about the weather…

Bottom Line

For various reasons I don’t publicize this blog to most family members and friends. But every once in a while it’s fun to help people get started in the points and miles hobby. Unfortunately there’s no magic bullet to giving advice. Everybody’s goals and knowledge level is different. I think starting small with giving advice is always best. Usually a simple switch from an airline card to a transferable currency card is the quickest way to get newbies on the right track. From there it’s explaining how this is a hobby that’s constantly evolving. I always recommend people insert a few points and miles bloggers into their Twitter or Facebook feed. The rest usually takes car of itself.

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