Updated: Jan 18
Welcome to Pack Your Points! My name is Kenny Hasbrouck and I’ll give you the breakdown of how my wife and I use travel credit cards, loyalty programs and other travel hacks to help enhance our travel adventures while saving hundreds in the process. This post will be to lay the foundation of points and miles basics down before we get into the more fun and detailed stuff.
Pack Your Points was created to show you how to use credit cards to your advantage. I will show you how to leverage the perks and benefits given from travel credit cards to enhance your travel experience and save money while you do it.
I played professionally in Europe for over 10 years before I learned about travel credit cards. In the last 3 years, with the added help of my wife (who’s better than a travel agent when it comes to trip planning), I’ve become somewhat of a travel guru using points and miles to leverage amazing experiences at a fraction of the published price. Now, I want to share what I learned with all of you.
Through my personal traveling experiences and the use of my credit cards, I’ll be able to give you real time examples of how to leverage your points and miles. I’ll show what perks and benefits are presented to you with travel credit cards as I bring you along with me on our adventures. PYP will be updated weekly for tips, new benefits, credit card changes, answered questions from the comment section or emails to make sure everything is completely understood and more. I’ll be available to help you get the best and most efficient use out of your travel credit cards.
Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards have become one of, if not, the best tools when it comes to enhancing travel while saving money. With constant sign up bonus offers and new benefits added yearly, just holding a travel credit card can be extremely beneficial. There are many different types of travel credit cards. Airlines, hotels, train companies, cruise lines, gas stations and transferrable points cards. All travel credit cards with perks and benefits, big and small. If they're worth it to you, will be dependent amount your lifestyle, spending and travel habits.
I never understood the importance of loyalty programs until getting into travel credit cards. As a frequent traveler, committing to one or two companies has become extremely beneficial. From free breakfast to late checkout, a free membership can turn into thousands of dollars (euros) in value!
Points and Miles
Travel points are broken down into two types. You have Hotel points and Transferrable points. Let’s go through both to get you a better understanding.
Hotel points are what you earn from a specific hotel brand. The only way to earn points is by becoming a member of that hotel. The membership, which is called a “Loyalty program”, is a easy process to set up and it is usually free, if not always, to become a member. Make sure you’re only giving them a name, address, and email because if it’s more, you’re probably signing up for a credit card. These points are accumulated from stays at the hotel, your linked loyalty accounts with other companies and co-branded Hotel credit card spend.
Transferrable points are earned with specific credit card companies. You’re then able to transfer them out to different travel companies for airline miles and hotel points. The main three banks that earn these points are American Express, Chase and CitiBank. There’s many more but for simplicity, these are at the top of the food chain and are the most known. Transferrable points have the widest range of multiple point earning categories, which makes them the easiest to earn. They have categories from groceries, gas, dining to streaming services, phone bills and utilities. The biggest draw with Transferrable points is the strength of the points earned. You get more bang for your buck usually when transferring these points out to transfer partners for flights and hotels. I know it sounds like chemistry but I’ll walk you through it on Pack Your Points soon, so don’t worry.
Airline miles are what you earn from a specific airline. The only way to earn points is by being a member of that airline. The membership, which is called a “Loyalty program”, like with hotels, is a easy process to set up and it is usually free to become a member. Again, make sure you’re only giving them a name, address, and email because if it’s more, you’re probably signing up for a credit card. These miles are accumulated from flights with that airline, flights with partner airlines, linked loyalty accounts with other travel companies, shopping and travel portals through the airline and airline credit card spend.
Do they expire?
Hotel points and airline miles do expire. While Hotel points can be saved by stays at the hotel or partner hotels, co-branded credit card spend or using the hotel points to buy things through the hotels website with your points. Airlines are a little more complicated. Domestic airlines are like the hotels. You can save your miles from expiring with flights on that specific airline, using your loyalty number partner airlines or co-branded credit card spend. The International airlines rules vary and are much more difficult to keep up with. Some of the major International airlines don’t allow you to save your miles, even if you fly weekly! For the most part, you have to fly and use your miles within 3 years but there will be a dedicated post on this topic to keep your points and miles safe.
How to Gain?
Gaining points and miles have become extremely easy over the years with new multiplying categories emerging monthly. There’s an ongoing battle between all of the companies involved with travel, that creates a great opportunity for people like us. This battle has created more and more opportunities to gain points and miles without needing to travel often. In the past, in order to gain enough miles for a round trip flight from JFK to LAX, you’d need to have flown 10 times to gain the miles needed. Now, you can use your airline credit card that has that 2x back on groceries for one year and you’ll be able to take two round trips with no problem. New ways to earn points like linking your loyalty program to your Uber and Lyft are becoming the norm so stay tuned and I’ll keep you up to date.
Cards with Membership
I’ll speak a lot about loyalty programs and how useful they can be to have in a future post. Some credit cards come with automatic higher tier in their program but all co-branded credit cards come with automatic enrollment into their loyalty program. That’s the only way you can accumulate points and miles with credit card spend. Some of the higher tiers are useful and some are pointless. I’ll go through them all in the future.
Using Points and Miles
Using your points and miles will be the fun part! Yes, that is the reason we get travel credit cards in the first place but when you start to see the discounts involved while enhancing your experience, you’ll see the fun involved too. Points and miles can be used for everything, literally. I’m not saying that all redemptions of your points and miles are good but you have the possibility for everything if needed. You’ll understand what good and bad redemptions are and I’ll walk you through step by step the full process.
Saving money on travel was the reason I fell in love with travel credit cards. While you do pay an upfront annual fee on most of the better travel cards, in the end, if you choose the right card, you’ll get more value than your annual fee. In many cases, you can more than double you annual fee with some of the perks and credits. That’s just adding up the dollar value given directly back. If you value the perks and benefits of loyalty programs, insurances on travel and purchases, travel protections, airport priority, etc. the way my wife and I value them, your travel credit cards annual fee becomes a small down payment compared.
Building my credit was the reason I got my first two credit cards. Also, I thought too many credit cards would eventually hurt my credit. 20 credit cards later, at a credit score of 823, I’m here to tell you that it does not hurt your credit. It helps your credit as long as you practice good habits!
One of the best examples where we got the most use out of Multiple Rewards points (Amex point) was our Honeymoon, which also was to celebrate our 7th year anniversary. We spent $1,415 for an 11 day trip to the Seychelles. That’s $129 a day with flight and resort included. This was not a budget trip, actually it was the opposite. The original cost of this trip of we would been $18,500 all together if paid straight up. Yes, you read that correctly. We paid 8% of the original cost while flying First and Business class with Emirates and staying in the Hilton Seychelles Northolme which is a five star resort. These are the possibilities that are open to you when you’re holding some of these cards. That bucket list trip you thought you’d never be able to afford, is now affordable! This trip was on the high end of getting the best use out of your points and miles because that’s what we were planning to do. We did not plan to spend $18k but our travel credit cards helped us make it that much more special.
Extravagant trips are not the only way to use points. We used the bulk of our Marriott Bonvoy points for our stay in Atlanta, GA. We stayed for 21 days at the Residence Inn there because of work. We were able to save $2,600 on the room rate because we used our Marriott Bonvoy points. We covered 13 nights with points and paid the rest. We also gained Marriott’s most important loyalty status along the way but I’ll get into that in the future.This wasn’t the highest redemption we could have gotten for our points but we used them to save money which the main goal at the end of the day.
Pack Your Points will have the full breakdowns of our trips showing the perks and benefits associated with travel credit cards and loyalty programs. I’ll detail everything from booking the trip to reviews from our experiences after. Expats and domestic travelers alike, PYP is here to help you leverage your perks and benefits to enhance your traveling experience and save you money!
Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!
I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your own homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page and channel are for entertainment purposes only.
If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help. BUT, if you want me to make a decision for you, I cannot do that for you.
Here are REFERRAL LINKS to the credit cards mentioned in today’s post. By using them to apply, you’ll be supporting the website and channel because when approved, I’ll receive bonus points and miles as well!
Schwab Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHImXb?xl=cp105f
Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/NATASHkCtJ?XLINK=MYCP
Amex Green Card
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHga7A?xl=cp105f
Hilton Honors Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHyfW4?xl=cp105f
Hilton Surpass Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEH60vq?xl=cp105f
Hilton Aspire Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHMKdm?xl=cp105f
Bonvoy Bold & Boundless Card by Chase
Earn 3 Free Night Awards with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card or 1 Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for a card. Learn More.