Points collecting: where to start

I’ve written a few posts now about award nights available for various festivals or events, yet I’ve neglected to start with a primer for the uninitiated points fiend.  And well, I’m still not going to write one.  Because quite frankly there are true experts out there, and there would be no point in putting in that time and effort to create yet another points primer.  So instead I’m going to make a few points about where to start, and then list a few links to the best primers for the collecting newbie.

1.  Figure out which airline and hotel programs you want to collect points with.  If you travel for business and your company pays for only certain hotels or airlines, go with those (free points!).  If you have certain aspirations that you want to start saving points for, then pick a hotel or airline that will get you to that place.  It’s all about making the points work for you, and that doesn’t mean changing your whole life because of point collecting.

2.  Start looking for opportunities.  Look at your spending habits, and then look at ways you can make points from that spending.  Does your grocery store have a point programs, or partner with an airline (like Safeway in Alaska, with Alaska Airlines)?  Or do you do all your shopping online?  There are tons of online stores that partner with airline and hotel programs through their online shopping portals.  Do you go to restaurants regularly? Because many restaurants also are part of the Rewards Network program.

3.  Look at your credit cards.  Do you have good credit and can pay off your credit card monthly?  I only ask the second question, because you don’t want to get in a dangerous credit situation.  If the answer is yes to the two questions, you may want to consider getting a points-earning credit card.  Once you do, follow a blog of someone who writes about deals on that credit card and to learn about tips and bonuses.  Credit card bonuses can be quite lucrative in the States especially.

4. Learn from the best.  Once you figure out the first two things, you are really home-free. Is there more to figure out and learn?  Uh, yeah… but start slowly by finding a few blogs that align with your interests and follow them regularly (the most informative blogs have multiple posts per day).  I will provide suggestions below.  Also, consider joining a frequent flyer forum.  For the newbie, the most friendly site out there is MilePoint.  Flyer Talk is the most popular, but it is haunted by both experts and know-it-alls (and unfortunately there is little patience for newbie questions).  

So have a look at my resource list, and go to it!  If you have a particular interest and you need help finding resources, please comment and I’ll give suggestions.

INTRODUCTIONS TO ALL THINGS POINTS

  • The Points Guy has an awesome Beginner’s Guide.  I think opening up an account with EVERY airline/hotel is a bit over-doing it, so I would skip that suggestion he gives.   But he has an extensive list of programs with explanations under each.  He also details how to manage your accounts with sites like Award Wallet.
  • One Mile at a Time‘s recent post “How to Choose a Frequent Flyer Program” is also a good place to start if you need help figuring that out.  Especially if you don’t fly too often but want to enjoy perks from a credit card.

ONLINE SHOPPING

  • One Mile at a Time has the best rundown on the shopping portals and how they work in this post.
  • The Points Guy’s Beginner’s Guide also has a comprehensive list (after you read One Mile at a Time’s blog, that is).

CREDIT CARDS

You will probably find more resources about credit cards than anything else (well, sometimes it feels that way).  Let’s be honest: bloggers make money off credit card links.  Well, not me.  I wish.  Until then, pick your favorite blogger and choose a link on their page to help support their work.  Here are my favorites:

  • The Points Guy: ‘Top 5 Credit Cards‘ has the best current deals for the US.
  • View from the Wing’s ‘Advice: Credit Cards‘ page is a compendium of individual posts that cover just about everything you should know about credit cards.
  • Rewards Canada is THE PLACE to get any info you want about, well, anything you need to know about points collecting in Canada. And that includes their analysis of Canada’s best credit cards, and their Guide to Choosing a Credit Card (complete with table AND flowchart… *swoon*).

DINING

  • The Points Guy has a good article with the various links.  He’s also a bit of a foodie it seems, so it would be fun to follow him if you like your chow.

KNOW YOUR TICKET

Just because you have a reservation, doesn’t mean you have a ticket.  Know the difference, because it may save you someday.

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS

Other blogs try to address the subject, and there are some good articles out there on many blogs.  But hands down, there is only one great points website with a focus on family.

  • MommyPoints has you covered.  Everything from your child’s first flight to strategies of making travel as comfortable for your child as possible.  She gives reviews of hotels from a parent’s perspective as well, and covers a myriad topics about family travel.

So that’s a good place to start.  By all means, if you need additional resources, please feel free to comment.

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