Omni Traveller

Budget Backpack Travel in Europe

Rewards Points: Fly For Less or Nothing

Flying all around the world needn’t cost nearly as much as you might think. If your schedule’s flexible you can find a round-trip ticket just about anywhere on this planet for under $1,000. And $1,000 is the upper limit of what you can expect to pay if you feel the itch to globe-hop. Once you start spending a little time regularly playing around with the fare aggregate websites you’ll realize deals like a $300 round-trip ticket from New York City to Panama are the rule and not the exception.

But who said you actually need to spend cold, hard cash to jet-set wherever you want, whenever you want? By intelligently using Reward Points you’ll be able to fly anywhere in the world paying nothing more than taxes on the ticket.


Reward Points vs. Frequent Flyer Miles

Reward Points are points (or miles) earned by using a credit card that offers Reward Points, through their various promotions and special offers. Many credit cards offer this feature as a bonus. The points you collect are redeemed for travel, merchandise, or cash back.

Frequent Flyer Miles are basically reward points (or miles) you earn based on every mile you fly on an airline. For example: After you open a Frequent Flyer account (always a requirement) with a specific airline, and you take a round-trip flight covering a total of 1,500 miles, than you’ll get 1,500 Frequent Flyer Miles deposited into your Frequent Flyer account. These are called “Frequent Flyer Miles “. Once you accumulate enough of Miles you will be able to exchange them for a free flight, a hotel rooms, or some other free gift.

Most of the “free gifts” you could receive trading in Frequent Flyer Miles are of drastically less value than what you could get by trading in Frequent Flyer Miles for an airline flight or a hotel room. Consider: Trading in 5,000 miles for a $20 magazine subscription is a pittance compared to waiting to collect 25,000 miles and trading that in for a free round-trip domestic flight.


In Essence, They Are The Same Thing

At their heart, though acquired differently, Rewards Points are the same as Frequent Flyer Miles. In fact, the Rewards Points you earn are not deposited into their own account, but they are deposited in with your Frequent Flyer Miles, awaiting redemption for the same flights, hotels, or gifts.


But Rewards Points Rule

The advantage of Rewards Points is that strategically you can take advantage of the most advantageous Rewards Points offers. This will quickly net you a massive number of miles that you can redeem to subsidize your globe-trotting aspirations.

But just how effectively can you hack the Rewards Points system if you dedicate a little time and effort to the practice?

Blogger Chris Guillebeau, an expert at gaming the Rewards Points system, earned 300,000 free miles in the span of a couple hours by doing nothing more than applying for credit cards. 300,000 is a lot of frequent flyer miles, enough to get you to Japan and back about 5 times, all by doing nothing more than filling out fields for an hour or two.

Sounds good? I thought so.


Disarming Concerns

Some people will balk at the above example and worry that applying for a dozen credit cards all at once for the sake of earning Rewards Points will ruin their credit rating. In fact, a lot of people opt-out of approaching the world of gaming the Rewards Points system because they fear the consequences; they worry taking advantage of special offers to earn Rewards Points might get them into trouble. The example I gave is an extreme example, and you may wish to take it more slowly. However, before we talk about the specifics of how to earn a boat-load of Rewards Points we need to address the following concerns.

First understand that applying for credit cards, even applying to a dozen credit cards all at once, isn’t going to hurt your credit rating. But getting rejected for a credit card application can hurt your credit rating. It’s a subtle distinction, but a crucial one. As long as your credit is good and you feel confident that you’ll be able to receive every card you apply for, then you don’t need to worry. You just need a healthy credit rating and good credit history. The credit card companies will not much care why you want so many cards, they will only care that you qualify for the cards you apply for.

Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind you probably aren’t going to earn a sizable number of Rewards Points from your normal, everyday credit card purchases. Unless you regularly put thousands or tens-of-thousands of dollars a month on your credit card you aren’t going to accumulate miles fast enough through normal, regular, everyday expenses to accumulate the points you need to fly the world, and no one in their right mind would suggest you indiscriminately spend money you wouldn’t otherwise spend for the sake of earning Rewards Points on meaningless purchases. Doing so amounts to spending dollars to get pennies back, and that math just doesn’t add up.

However, credit cards affiliated with airlines continuously run promotions where the math does add up. For example, many Rewards Points programs offer you large chunks of points (1,000-1,500) to eat at partnered restaurants. If you see there’s a restaurant you already like or have been meaning to check out on the list then using your card there is an intelligent way to earn oodles of points on a purchase you would have made otherwise.

Rewards Points programs are filled with these sorts of offers giving you the ability to earn tons of points without spending a dime on anything you weren’t already planning on purchasing, and many programs offer quick rewards for filing out surveys, checking out products in-store, sitting through no-obligation consultations, or otherwise taking a little time out of your day to help their advertising partners.

These sorts of small-ticket offers do add up over time, but when it comes down to it you can earn all the Rewards Points you will ever need by just taking advantage of a few large offers a couple times a year and making sure you use the points you do earn as intelligently as possible.