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So I’ve flown on 25+ business class flights on five star airlines, stayed at 3 different private villa hotels and have accumulated over 2 million airline miles and hotel points. All in the last 4 years alone! Oh and I make less than $40,000 a year… And no I’m not in debt.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve figured out how to use the credit card points the system to my benefit.

Can anyone do this? Yes. But it’s not for everyone. For real.

So you know when you buy something that has a mail in rebate to convince you that you’re actually paying less? Only about 15% of people actually go through the hassle to send in the paperwork. And even those who do, 99% forget all about it after they put in the mail. So now the company can claim they never got it and the chance of you following up are about 0-1%.

You get the gist. Credit card companies, airlines and hotels are exactly the same way. They entice you with loads of points, miles and dream vacation. But secretly they expect you not to maximize their value.

Case in point: Did you ever get a catalog of electronics from an airline excitingly telling you how you can “use” your miles for a brand new tablet? For like 120,000 miles you can buy a tablet that’s worth $175. Meanwhile those same miles can buy you an experience of a lifetime that usually costs close to $10,000.

So here are my 10 Commandments of the Mileage Game.
(If you can’t follow these, than this game is NOT for you.)

 

  1. Know the value of points you accumulate and how to get the most of them. Say you blow 50,000 United miles on a domestic first class standard award, this game is not for you. My brother actually did that a couple years ago and it still hurts me to think about it.
  2. Ignore all advertisements for credit card sign up bonuses with taglines like “miles you can use” or “that’s more than enough miles for a free roundtrip ticket” etc. (Yes, I’m talking to you Capital One!)
  3. Pay all your credit card bills in full EVERY month. The moment you start paying interest or late fees due to negligence or overspending, you cut up all your credit cards immediately. This rule is non negotiable!!
  4. Know what’s in your wallet. Every credit card has different benefits and bonuses, know when to use them and for what.
  5. DO NOT let miles or points expire. AwardWallet.com is a great tool to help you with that. Also before you cancel a card, be sure you aren’t going to lose the miles or points that card has earned you.
  6. Do not pay any credit card annual fee without getting some sort of incentive from the Credit Card issuer or if the benefits outweigh the annual fee. (You should still call for an incentive though.)
  7. Actively look for ways to get the most out of your miles and points. Promos, loopholes, and even mistakes. Also be sure to be on the lookout of devaluations from the airlines and make your plans before they go into effect.
  8. Do not jump on every offer or opportunity. Only zero in the offers that help you plan that dream vacation or give you the miles you need.
  9. The simple way is not always the best way! Like using 30,000 British Airways to fly British Airways Across the Atlantic is a terrible idea (once you notice the $500+ fuel surcharges)
  10. Don’t give away miles and free tickets to people who don’t value miles and points. They will disappoint you. (Yes it happened to me.)