Top 6 Mistakes Every Beginner Makes

Editor’s Note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

There’s a reason why dozens of detailed, comprehensive resources exist for maximizing points and miles: It’s a complicated hobby. If you’re new to it all, you’re suffering from an information tornado and trying to navigate potential pitfalls and mistakes—it can feel like they’re everywhere.

At one point or another, points and miles humble us all. It doesn’t matter your background, personality, strengths or weaknesses — there are mistakes that all beginners (and even seasoned pros) make.

Let’s take a look at six of these mistakes in the hope of saving you from the painful realization that you’ve just given up on — or missed out on — important values.

Believe that all points and miles are equal

Think of loyalty money like foreign cash. You can “buy” the same products (in this case, flight and hotel rewards) in different currencies. However, depending on the currency you will be using, the amount of currency required will vary considerably. Just as one US dollar is not equal to one pound, one Chase point is not equal to one American Express point or one American AAdvantage mile. Each currency has its own unique value.

Adding to the confusion are banks like Capital One, which refer to its rewards as “miles”. If we go to dinner and I ask why do you use American Express® Gold Card to pay instead of yours Chase Sapphire Preferred® Carddon’t say because Amex Gold earns 4 points for every dollar spent while your Sapphire card only earns 3.

A better answer would be that you value a Amex Membership Rewards higher score than Chase Final reward the point. That way, you’re comparing the value of rewards earned, not miles earned. So make sure you understand the value of the currencies you’re collecting and figure out which will most effectively help you reach your reward travel goals.

Don’t understand airline partnerships

In my opinion, this is the biggest knowledge barrier that a beginner has to overcome to maximize the redemption amount. Redeem partner-operated miles Airlines flight usually gives the most value for your miles. But for those who have never heard of this concept before, the idea of ​​using Delta SkyMiles fly KLM is a concept as alien as trying to use Euros to pay for groceries in the US


The process of redeeming miles on partner flights is also confusing for beginners. When booking a partner flight, it’s important to remember that you do everything with the program for which you own the miles.

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So in the above example, you want using Delta SkyMiles on Delta’s website or with a Delta phone agent to book a KLM flight and pay the price Delta charges. If you later need to redeem your ticket, you can do so through Delta. There is no mile transfer from Delta to KLM. In fact, you don’t do anything with the carrier (in this case, KLM) until it’s time to check-in and fly.

Related: 5 ways to level up your miles redemption game

Transfer points before availability is confirmed

Points are transferable like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards are the most valuable and highly coveted loyalty currencies. They offer flexibility through a variety of airline and hotel transfer partners — giving you multiple ways to make award-winning travel a reality. However, they can easily trip beginners when it’s time to redeem them.

Before transferring these points to a specific airline partner, you need to do everything possible to make sure the bonus seats you want are actually available and will still be available for booking when your points show up in your airline account.

Some airline websites — such as those of United Airlines, British Airways and JetBlue — are known to show seats in the initial search results as available, only they cannot be identified. received on the final payment page. We call this “virtual availability”. You need to confirm with the agent over the phone that the seat you want is actually available before transferring your Chase, Amex or Citi ThankYou points to the airline.

Some programs, such as American AAdvantage, even allow you to keep the award ticket There is no required mileage in your account, so be sure to inquire about that option before transferring.

Lack of organization

You may think you’re organized, but points and miles will put that notion to the test. your follower credit scorecard registration date, bank account login, payment date, Minimum spending requirement, annual bonus, annual fees and loyalty currency that you hold is a difficult task. Not keeping these organized could mean hundreds of dollars in interest and late fees, or thousands of points and miles missed.

chasing status


The allure of holding a mid-to-high end airline or hotel status can result in unwarranted behavior and significant costs — in terms of both time and money.

My personal rule of thumb about status is pretty simple: Unless you travel frequently for business (sponsored by your company or client), allow yourself to earn and enjoy status benefits spontaneously. However, you should be a free airline agent and Avoid the chase. The only exception is if you are targeted for top status via challenge or match, and you can get it done with most organic travel.

Before the pandemic, I received dozens of questions from readers who were pondering running mileage and incur hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in costs (plus days of their time) to achieve airline status; After all that, they may only use the status benefits a few times a year. Don’t let the airlines lure you in with their shiny elite cards and (dumping) status. In most cases, it’s not worth the idle tourist.

Related: Best credit cards to start elite status

Fear of annual fees

I completely understand beginners can’t understand pay $695 for credit card privileges. That’s a lot of money and will cause skepticism. True to form, I answer about 100 questions per week about what the reader should get their next credit card; a sizable portion of these people said that they don’t mind paying the annual fee.

As a beginner, it is important not to be shocked when looking at the annual fee. Instead, let’s analyze all the benefits the card and its loyalty program have to offer. If you are offered a Business class tickets to Europe in return for $95 you’ll probably take it. Well, some regular cards have a sign-up bonus that could potentially get you that ticket—you just pay the annual fee. (Fees are usually waived for the first year.)

Similarly, recurring travel benefits such as lounge accessairline credit, primary car rental insurance, trip delay protection and the concierge service could easily justify an annual fee. So don’t avoid the card just because you see a fee – do the math and see if the charge makes sense to you.

Related: A Guide to Credit Card Annual Fees

bottom line

These beginner mistakes aren’t meant to discourage you from chasing scores and miles, but rather to raise awareness of potential mistakes. It’s important to set realistic expectations and remind us all of the time and effort it takes to truly maximize our loyalty portfolio. So proactively protect against mistakes and make sure to contact the forum for help when you’re unsure!


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