Before you charge off into the world of miles and points, take a minute to think about your travel goals and how you can get there. Then choose two or three airlines with mileage programs that you think will best help you reach your destination. It’s best to start with one mileage program in each of the three alliances: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam. Those links take you to the overall lists of partners in each alliance, or use these direct links to the most common specific programs:
Get a System.
Set up a system to keep track of all the growing miles and points balances you’ll soon have in your new accounts. A simple table in Evernote, Dropbox, or an Excel or GoogleDocs spreadsheet that you update periodically will do the trick. You can also consider enrolling in an online mile-managing service like Award Wallet that helps frequent flyers keep up with credit card points and memberships in multiple loyalty programs.
Get a card… or two, or three.
Check your credit score and apply for a credit card or two that will give you points or miles in the program you’ve signed up for. Two good choices to start with are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card and the Starwood Preferred Guest® card. Both of these cards provide a big signup bonus, and their points are transferable to multiple partners for flexible redemptions. Keep up to date on new card offers and the best credit card mileage bonuses by subscribing to receive Cards for Travel updates.
Spend about 30-60 minutes each month working on earning miles and sign up for additional mileage & points programs as needed. Start by following promotions issued by the airline programs you’ve selected, and sign up for our free updates to receive the latest and greatest mileage deals available.
Redeem and Repeat.
Spend your points and miles. For best results, always choose high value redemptions. Remember that you can always earn points in one program and then redeem them to fly with a better partner for the same cost—sometimes even lower. Earn miles with United, travel on Air New Zealand or Lufthansa. Earn miles with American, fly high with Qantas or Cathay Pacific. Earn miles on a flexible rewards credit card and use them on the airline that works best for you.