True story: I helped my dad book a roundtrip ticket from the U.S. to Europe for $95. No, it wasn't a glitch fare, and no, it wasn't on one of those discount airlines.
It was points. 40,000 airline points, to be exact. I could have gotten him to Europe and back for 25,000 points, but unfortunately the dates didn't work out.
So how did my dad go from having no points at all to having enough points to travel to Europe in a few months?
To add another element to this equation, a few months ago my dad had absolutely no points. Zero. After booking his flight, he now has about 13,000 airline points left, and that number is growing by the day.
So how did my dad go from having no points at all to having enough points to travel to Europe in a few months? Well, thanks to my trusty resources and some creative thinking, I was able to help him and the rest of my family fulfill their dream of going to Europe this summer, all with the use of points.
Here's how I helped my dad do it, step by step:
Step 1: Understand Airline Points and Miles (At Least a Little Bit)
The world of airline points and miles is vast and, to be honest, pretty confusing. I am a beginner when it comes to this stuff, but I have found that even knowing a little goes much further than knowing nothing at all. This great beginner guide from Million Mile Secrets will help you start to understand how points and miles work.
Step 2: Pick an Airline Loyalty Program (or Several)
Not every loyalty program is equal. One of the things I have learned since beginning my airline points and miles journey is that some programs are better than others. Do some preliminary research and decide which program (or programs) is right for you. Also, while there is no limit to the number of loyalty programs you can sign up for (at least I don't think there is), it's good to have a few you're primarily focused on so that you can accrue the most points and miles with these programs.
Step 3: Sign up for that Loyalty Program's Credit Card (But Wait for the Deal!)
Many loyalty programs offer credit cards that help people accrue miles as they spend money, and often times, these credit cards will be offered with a deal. An example of a deal would be something along the lines of, "Apply now, spend $3,000 in the first four months and receive 60,000 airline points with the card fee waived in the first year." Of course you can apply for these credit cards without the deal, but I highly recommend you wait until there's a good incentive and then apply. The deal is a game changer!
Step 4: Use Your New Credit Card and Wait for the Points and Miles to Show Up
It's not enough to get the loyalty program credit card, you have to actually use it, but make sure to do so responsibly. That means as you are fulfilling the requirements of the credit card deal, you should be making your payments on time. My dad knew he had expenses coming up, so once he got his new loyalty program credit card, he used his card for those expenses, paid his credit card bill and then waited for the points to appear in his account. Unfortunately, airline points don't show up immediately; you have to reach the required amount and then have it show up on your billing cycle. Once you see the amount on your billing cycle, you should also see your newly acquired points.
Step 5: Determine the Best Use of Your Points and Miles
You now have your points. Hurray! So what do you do with them? To answer this question, I often turn to The Points Guy. He is an airline points and miles guru with a slew of knowledgeable contributors who write about how to make the most of these various loyalty programs. Each loyalty program is different so it's important to understand how your particular program's points and miles work. Then you can start to determine how to use them to your advantage.
Step 6: Book Your Reward Travel
After you've done your research on how to best use your miles, it's time to book your reward travel. Availability can sometimes be limited so make sure to check the airline's award availability chart and plan accordingly. In the case of my dad, he used 40,000 airline points for a roundtrip flight from New York to Germany and only ended up having to pay $95 in taxes. That's it!
Step 7: Add On As Needed
When using award travel, I like to add on as needed if my airline points don't cover the entirety of my trip. So, using the example of my family, we used reward travel to fly from New York to Germany, but our final destination was Italy. Luckily, once you're in Europe it's much more affordable to get around, with plenty of plane and train options to choose from. We booked regular roundtrip tickets between Germany and Italy at a low cost and took our European summer vacation to the land of pizza and pasta.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Once you've earned your airline points and figured out how to use them, you're ready to sit back and enjoy your trip! My family certainly did. Here is some proof:
Have you used airline points and miles to travel? If so, what tips have worked best for you?