Middle Age Miles

Points-and-Miles Program Basics & Redemption Basics

This article is part of Middle Age Miles’ series, “How to Get Started” with Credit Cards, Points and Miles.

Points-and-Miles Program Basics & Redemption Basics

In our last “How to Get Started” article, we covered Credit Card Basics.  Now, let’s move on to the basics of points-and-miles programs, including the basics of how the points and miles in various programs can be redeemed.  And of course, that’s the fun part – actually using our points and miles for fun travel!

This can be a complicated subject.  Every points-and-miles program has its own unique rules and ways in which you can use the points or miles you earn.  But there are some general categories and common characteristics of certain points-and-miles programs that can help us understand the programs and their redemption options better.  That’s what we’ll cover in this “basics” article.  The nuances of particular redemption options within particular programs are far more involved, and far beyond the scope of a “basics” article.  We’ll have many articles on Middle Age Miles about the program nuances and how you can best utilize the loyalty programs and your points for great travel options.

A quick aside – Because this article is about points-and-miles programs, we will not discuss cash-back programs here.  That means we won’t be talking about Discover’s cash-back program here, and we won’t talk about other cash-back cards like the Citi DoubleCash card or the Barclays Uber card.

First, let’s break the major points-and-miles programs into 3 buckets:

(1) Card issuer programs

(2) Airline programs

(3) Hotel programs

Signing Up for the Programs

We’ll start with the card issuer programs, because they’re the easiest to “sign up” for.  In fact, there’s not any “sign-up” needed at all.  When you get a new credit card from a card issuer like Amex, Chase or Citi, the card issuer will automatically enroll you in their points program.  We’ll talk more later about when and how a card issuer’s points may be combined (pooled) across cards and across users.

For airline and hotel programs, you will have to go to the designated website for each particular airline’s or hotel chain’s loyalty program and sign up for an account.  Our recommendation is that you go ahead and sign up for all of the airline and hotel loyalty programs that you think there is any chance you will use – even if you think it’s unlikely that you’ll use them.  (And keep all of your account numbers, usernames and passwords together somewhere – on a chart, in a spreadsheet, or in an online program.  Update it immediately every time you sign up for a new program.  You will thank us for this advice later!)

There are several reasons that it makes sense to sign up in advance.  For example, hotel loyalty program members often have access to better rates that non-members cannot get.  Loyalty programs, especially the hotels, run promotions for members that can be quite valuable.  You’ll want to have access to these promotions, and you’ll want to be on the email distribution list so you’ll be notified of the promotions and receive links to easily register for them.  On the airline side, some airlines require you to have an account in order to search for award tickets.  And some loyalty programs require an account to be open for a certain period of time before you can transfer miles into them.

To help make things easier for you, Middle Age Miles has compiled links to the sign-up pages for many airline and hotel loyalty programs, which you can access here:  [add link to sign-up pages here]

Types of Programs – Their Basic Characteristics & Redemption Options

Within each of the three “buckets” of points-and-miles programs, there are different types of points and miles with different characteristics and redemption options.  Let’s examine the different types of programs further.

(1) Card Issuer Programs

(a) Card issuer programs where the points can be transferred to specific air and/or hotel programs or used to book travel at a fixed rate.

Examples:  American Express Membership Rewards points; Chase Ultimate Rewards points; Citi ThankYou Points

These are the most flexible points of all, and there is substantial value in having points in these programs and keeping them there unless and until you need to transfer them to a specific program for a particular redemption.

In these programs,there are two primary ways to redeem your points for travel:

(i) Transfer points to a specific airline or hotel program (where you can in turn redeem the airline/hotel points for travel) (Points Transfer Redemptions); and

(ii) Use your points to book travel at a fixed rate through the card issuer’s travel booking portal (Travel Portal Redemptions).

For Points Transfer Redemptions, the card issuers partner with specific airline and hotel programs and allow you to convert your card issuer points into miles or points with the specific programs.  Amex, Chase and Citi each have a dozen or more transfer partners.  [Middle Age Miles has prepared charts of all Credit Card-to-Airline Transfer Partners and all Credit Card-to-Hotel Transfer Partners, which we hope you will find helpful.]

The card issuers set a pre-defined ratio for these points transfers, with the ratio often being 1:1, that is, 1 card issuer point can be converted into 1 mile or point in the airline or hotel program.  For example, Amex Membership Rewards points can be converted into Delta SkyMiles or British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio.  Similarly, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be converted into United Mileage Plus miles at a 1:1 ratio.

These transfers are one-way – that is, Amex/Chase/Citi points can be converted into airline/hotel points and miles, but importantly, the airline/hotel points and miles cannot be converted back into Amex/Chase/Citi points.  Thus, before you transfer Amex/Chase/Citi points to an airline or hotel partner program, you need to be very sure that this is what you mean to do.

Once points have been transferred into an airline or hotel program, they are pooled with your points in that program, and they become subject to the same rules as other points and miles in the specific airline/hotel program.

For Travel Portal Redemptions, you use your points to book travel at a fixed rate through the card issuer’s travel booking portal.  The redemption rate may vary depending on what credit card you hold with that issuer.  For example, if you hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can book travel through the Chase travel portal at 1.5 cents per point – that is, you can redeem 30,000 Chase UR points for a flight that would have cost $450 if you paid cash. If you don’t have a Sapphire Reserve but you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred card, then you can book travel through the Chase travel portal at 1.25 cents per point.  If this is your situation, then you can redeem 30,000 Chase UR points for a flight that would have cost $375 if you paid cash.

The Amex/Chase/Citi travel portals generally work with most major airlines (including international carriers).  And importantly, you will actually earn miles on your airline tickets purchased through Amex/Chase/Citi’s travel portals.  It is also possible to book hotels and rental cars through these travel portals, and on Chase’s portal you can even book tickets for certain tours and activities.

Amex MR Travel Portal Redemptions are made through Amex Travel.

Chase UR Travel Portal Redemptions are made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Citi TYP Travel Portal Redemptions are made through the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal.

(b) Card Issuer programs where the points are redeemable for statement credits at a fixed rate.

Examples:  Bank of America Travel Rewards points; Capital One Venture Card “miles”; US Bank FlexPoints and other rewards points

In these programs, points or “miles” have a fixed value.  The points or “miles” cannot be transferred to airlines or hotels; rather, you simply redeem them for statement credits for certain categories of charges.

For example, if you have B of A Travel Rewards points, you can redeem them for statement credit “to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees” at 1 cent per point.

Capital One Venture Card “miles” work similarly.  You can redeem them by using the “Purchase Eraser” at 1 cent per point, to offset travel-related purchases such as redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, baggage fees, or for charges from other travel providers such as online travel agencies and tour operators.  Capital One also has an online travel portal where you can use your Venture Card “miles” to purchase travel at 1 cent per point.  [I’ll note here that Capital One confuses things by calling its Venture Card points “miles.”  Capital One “miles” are fundamentally different from the miles you earn through airline loyalty programs.]

US Bank has a unique program called Real-Time Mobile Rewards.  This feature allows you to redeem points for travel at 1.5 cents per point, without requiring you to book through US Bank’s travel portal.  Real-Time Mobile Rewards redemptions are subject to certain minimum purchase thresholds.  Once you enroll in this program, US Bank will text you when you make a qualifying purchase on your US Bank credit card, to ask you if you want to redeem points for your purchase.  If so, just reply with “REDEEM” and you’re done – the statement credit will be applied to your account, and your points will be deducted.  This simple and immediate points redemption method is very useful.  Separately, US Bank also has a travel portal where you can book airfare, hotels and rental cars for 1.5 cents per point.

(2) Airline Loyalty Programs

(a) Airline loyalty programs where the cost of a ticket in points/miles is tied directly to the fare if paid in cash.

Examples: Southwest Rapid Rewards points; JetBlue TrueBlue points

In these types of programs, points can be used for all flights that are bookable with cash, and the cost in points is tied directly to what the fare would be if you were paying cash for the ticket.

On Southwest, the value you get from redeeming its Rapid Rewards (RR) points is astoundingly straightforward – it’s 78 RR points for each $1 of base fare (that’s $1.28 cents per point, in the way we typically look at things).  Thus, if the base fare for a ticket would be $300, then a redemption will cost you 78 * 300 = 23,400 RR points.  Ultimately, this becomes slightly more complicated because of taxes and fees. (Frequent Miler has a good article explaining the details here.)  Because of this methodology, Southwest’s redemption rates are reliable.  You’ll never get truly outsized value for your Southwest points (and you’ll never have a “luxury” redemption since there’s no first class or business class), but there is little complexity and there are no “bad” redemptions.

JetBlue is slightly different from Southwest.  The number of TrueBlue points required to redeem for a flight is tied directly to the fare.  However, the redemption value is different for different flights.  From what I understand, for the most part JetBlue’s redemption values range from roughly 1 cent per point to roughly 1.75 cents per point, with an average redemption value around 1.4 cents per point.  (Doctor of Credit has a short article with more detail here.)

Redemptions of Southwest and JetBlue points are straightforward – go through the booking process on the airline’s website and select “Points” as your payment option.

Southwest point redemptions include the fantastic benefit of having no change fees or cancellation fees.  Simply change or cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes prior to your departure time for a full refund of your Rapid Rewards points.  JetBlue, on the other hand, has change and cancellation fees for award reservations.

(b) Airline loyalty programs where the mileage cost of a ticket is not tied to the cash fare; for example, the mileage cost may be determined by a chart or by dynamic redemption rates.

Examples: Alaska MileagePlan miles; American AAdvantage miles; Delta SkyMiles; United Mileage Plus miles

These are the programs where it’s possible to get tremendous outsized value for your miles, particularly when flying international business or first class. For example, a MileSAAver-level award on American for an AA round-trip business class flight from the US to Europe costs 115,000 AA miles.  Those tickets regularly sell for $4,000 and up.  Based on a $4,000 ticket, the redemption value would be 3.5 cents per AA mile.  Our baseline value for AA miles is 1.25 cents per AA mile, so as you can see, the outsized value you can get by collecting and redeeming these types of miles is tremendous.  We could come up with similar examples of outsized value in the Alaska, Delta and United programs.  And these types of opportunities simply do not exist in programs where redemption cost is tied directly to fares, like in the Southwest and JetBlue programs.

Unfortunately, this upside of these types of programs is closely related to their downfall.  Saver-level availability for business and first class can be very limited.  At times it’s non-existent for your preferred destination or routing.  And even when it’s available, it may be limited to certain days and flights.  This can become a source of great frustration.  You may feel like you have to become an expert in finding award space and redeeming it to get great value out of the programs.  And at times there may not be any availability at all for the redemption you want.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of mileage redemption charts under these types of programs.  For example, here is Alaska’s award chart for flights that start and end in the Contiguous US and Alaska:

As you can see, Alaska bases its redemption costs on the length of the flight (700 miles and less; between 701 and 1,400 miles; between 1,401 and 2,100 miles; and longer than 2,100 miles).  And even at that, there can be a wide range of redemption costs for any particular ticket.  For example, a trip less than 700 miles in the Main Cabin will cost from 5,000 to 30,000 miles each way.  The trick for these flights on Alaska would be to find and book the flights that cost just 5,000 miles!

Here’s another example chart, American’s chart for flights originating in the Contiguous 48 US states, in the Main Cabin (economy/coach) (note that these are also one-way prices):

Let’s look at the most standard award, a one-way flight between two locations in the Contiguous 48 US states, of more than 500 miles.  At the MileSAAver level, this flight will cost you 12,500 AA miles.  However, at American’s sole discretion, it can offer the same flight at the AAnytime Level 1 rate of 20,000 AA miles, or at the AAnytime Level 2 rate of 30,000 miles.  Again, the trick is to find the Saver-level award space!

Delta is slightly different from Alaska/American/United, in that Delta does not have published charts of redemption rates.  Instead, you search on Delta’s website, and it will tell you the number of SkyMiles required for a particular route and dates.  In that way, Delta can be more flexible than Alaska/American/United, but it is also much less transparent.  [Certain Delta co-branded credit card holders also have a “Pay with Miles” option, where Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed toward flights at an effective rate of 1 cent per SkyMile.]

Another standard – and extremely useful – characteristic of these types of programs is the ability to redeem miles on “partner” airlines.  American, Delta and United are each members of worldwide airline alliances, and you can redeem their loyalty program miles on flights operated by their alliance partners:

  • American is a member of the oneworld alliance (which includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines (JAL), Qantas, and others)
  • Delta is a member of the SkyTeam alliance (which includes AeroMexico, AirFrance, KLM, Korean Air, and others)
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance (which includes Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Turkish Airlines, and others)

In addition to alliance partners, American/Delta/United also have other non-alliance partners whose flights can be booked with American/Delta/United miles.  For example, American miles can be used to book flights on Alaska Airlines, Etihad, Fiji Airways, and others.

Alaska is not a member of a major worldwide alliance, but it has a number of partners where you can redeem Alaska miles.  Alaska’s partners include American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Icelandair, and others.

For most redemptions in these programs, the starting place is the airline’s website.  Search for flights and click the “Redeem Miles” or “Search for award travel” box (or the like).

However, it’s important to know that not all of the available redemptions may show up on the airline’s website.  For example, if you’re searching American’s website, award availability on its partner British Airways will show up, but award availability on JAL won’t.  So, if you want to redeem your American AAdvantage miles for a JAL flight, you’ll have to search for availability somewhere else (such as JAL’s website), find the flights you want, and call AA to make your award booking.

It’s also critically important to consider the surcharges for taxes and fees that can be imposed for award bookings in these programs.  Surcharges vary a lot between different programs and redemptions.  To take a common and blatant example, consider an award ticket using American AAdvantage miles to go from the US to London.  If you book a flight on an American Airlines plane (the common terminology is, “on AA metal”), the surcharges will be minimal, only a few dollars.  However, if you book a flight using AA miles on British Airways metal, the surcharges will be hundreds of dollars.  Thus, in this example, you’ll always want to look for an award where you’ll be on an AA plane.  The catch, not surprisingly, is that you’ll find much less availability for saver-level redemptions on AA metal than on British Airways metal.

Also note that many of these types of programs have close-in booking fees for award redemptions so that you have to pay extra if you are redeeming miles close to your departure date.  For example, United charges a close-in booking fee for redemptions made within 21 days of departure.  In addition, generally, changes and cancellations to award tickets will incur charges in these programs.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the general characteristics of these programs and their redemptions.  We have published charts giving our baseline values of miles in the major airline loyalty programs, which you can access here (US airlines) and here (international airlines).  And going forward, we’ll teach you more on Middle Age Miles about redeeming miles and getting great value from them!

(3) Hotel Loyalty Programs

(a) Hotel loyalty programs where redemption costs are not directly tied to the room rate (generally based on a chart wherein different hotel properties are redeemable at different point levels).

Examples:  Choice Privileges points; Hilton Honors points; Hyatt World of Hyatt points; IHG Reward Club points; Wyndham Rewards points

These types of hotel loyalty programs are much like the Alaska/American/Delta/United airlines loyalty programs we just discussed, in the sense that redemption rates are based on a chart.  Generally, a hotel chain groups its hotel properties into various categories, and establishes a standard redemption rate for each category.  Hyatt’s award redemption chart provides a good straightforward example:

As you can see, you can redeem 5,000 World of Hyatt points for a “Standard Room” at a hotel in Category 1.  (At our baseline valuation of 1.5 cents per Hyatt point, that’s about $75 in value.)  Alternatively, you can redeem 2,500 Hyatt points plus pay $50 for a night in a “Standard Room” at a Category 1 Hyatt hotel property.

The Choice and IHG programs work similarly to Hyatt.

Hilton is slightly different in that it recently moved away from strict category designations and a standard chart.  However, each hotel has a maximum redemption rate for a “Standard Room.” Hilton requires you to search the Hilton website or app to see the Points prices for your specific dates and destination.  (Hilton also makes higher-tier rooms available for points redemptions, but the redemption rates for these “Premium Room” awards generally provide poor value.)

Wyndham is the most straightforward program of all for redemption costs – you can redeem 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night for a standard room at any Wyndham hotel.  (Wyndham also offers points + cash “Go Fast” rewards for 3,000 points plus a cash payment that varies by property and date.)

Redemptions in these programs are generally straightforward – just go to the hotel’s website and search for rooms, making sure you check the “Redeem points” box (or similar function).  Alternatively, you can call the hotel chain’s reservations line to make award reservations.

For the most part, award reservations can be canceled for a full points refund, up to a few days before the check-in date, which gives these hotel points some good flexibility.

We have published charts giving our baseline values of points in the major hotel loyalty programs, which you can access here.  In our articles on Middle Age Miles, we’ll help you find great ways to use your hotel points to achieve the best value for your travels!

(b) Hotel loyalty programs like in (5) above, but where the points also may be transferred to airline loyalty programs at a reasonable rate.

Example:  Marriott Rewards points

The Marriott Rewards loyalty program operates much like the other hotel programs discussed above, in that Marriott groups its hotels into categories and then charges a fixed rate for a standard room.  The Marriott redemption chart going forward (it changed as of 8/18/2018, and will change again as of 1/1/2019) looks like this:

The added feature of the Marriott Rewards program that distinguishes it from the programs we discussed above is the ability to convert Marriott points into miles in most of the major airline loyalty programs.  The ratio is 3 Marriott points to 1 airline program mile.  Plus, if you convert 60,000 Marriott points to 20,000 airline miles, you will get a 5,000 mile bonus; therefore, 60,000 Marriott points will convert to 25,000 airline miles.

For us, Marriott points have a baseline value of 0.75 cents per point.  If you convert into airline miles at the 3-to-1 ratio, we’d say you’d be giving up 2.25 cents of value for one airline mile.  At the 60,000-to-25,000 ratio, that changes the math a bit – we’d say this is roughly 1.8 cents of value for one airline mile.  We don’t typically value an airline mile at 1.8 cents, so we generally wouldn’t transfer Marriott points to airline miles at this rate.  However, this is a good enough conversion rate that there may be many instances where Marriott-to-airline conversions are extremely valuable.  Thus, the availability of Marriott-to-airline conversions is a great option to have in our bag of tricks to achieve great travel value.

Marriott points are like the other hotel loyalty programs we discussed in section (3)(a) above, in that reservations are made through the hotel website (or by calling in to Marriott’s reservations center), and award reservations can be canceled for a full points refund up to a few days before the check-in date.

(c) Hotel loyalty programs where points are generally redeemable for a dollar amount of credit at a fixed rate.

Examples:  Accor Hotels Le Club points; Preferred Hotels iPrefer points

In these programs, points are basically redeemable for hotel credit at a fixed rate, so they are very straightforward.

In the Accor Le Club program, you can redeem 2,000 points for a credit of 40 Euros against your hotel booking.  At the July 2018 exchange rate of 1 Euro to $1.17, that means that 2,000 Accor points can be redeemed for $46.80, resulting in a value of 2.34 cents per Accor point (this will fluctuate along with the Euro-to-USD exchange rate).  [Earning is 2.5 points per Euro spent if you have no elite status, up to 4.4 points per Euro spent if you have Platinum status in Le Club.]

In the Preferred Hotels iPrefer program, you can redeem 12,500 points for a $25 reward certificate that can be redeemed at participating hotels.  At this conversion rate, iPrefer points are worth 0.2 cents per point.  [Earning is 10 points per dollar spent if you have no elite status, or 15 points per dollar if you hold Elite status with iPrefer.]

Can Points/Miles of Different Members Be Combined?

Combining points or miles between different users can be very helpful in being able to reach the level of points needed to redeem for a desired award.  Each different program has its own rules about combining points or miles, so this can be a complex subject.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of all programs, but I’ll give you a few examples to show you some of the nuances:

  • Chase keeps a separate Ultimate Rewards (UR) account for each credit card.  You can manually transfer UR points from one of your cards to another.  You can also link cards of one household member to cards of another household member and transfer UR points between household members that way.  For example, I have separate UR accounts for my Chase Sapphire Reserve personal card, my Chase Ink Cash business card, and my Chase Ink legacy business card.  All of these accounts are linked, so I can transfer UR points from my Ink cards to my Sapphire Reserve card where the points are more valuable.  In addition, the UR account for Philly’s Sapphire Reserve card is linked to my accounts, so we can freely transfer UR points from Philly to me, to combine all of our points into one account.
  • Amex automatically combines the Membership Rewards (MR) points from all of your cards into a single Membership Rewards account.  MR points cannot be transferred from one person to another, and different people’s MR accounts cannot be combined.
  • Citi creates a separate ThankYou points (TYP) account for each credit card.  You can call TY customer service and have them merge your accounts into one.  Citi does not allow you to combine TYP accounts of different people.  It does allow you to transfer up to 100,000 TYPs per calendar year to another member, with the catch that the transferred points will expire 90 days after they are received.
  • Most airline programs either do not allow any miles transfers or sharing, or they only allow transfers at exorbitant rates that you should never pay.  British Airways is an exception in that it allows up to six household members to pool Avios in a Household Account.
  • Hotel programs have vastly different rules about points and transfers and pooling.  Here are a few examples:
    • Hilton is very generous – it allows a member to transfer up to 500,000 points per calendar year to another member, and it also has a points pooling program where up to 10 people can pool points (as long as your account has been open for 90 days, or for only 30 days if you have other activity in your account).
    • Hyatt allows people to transfer points from one member to another, only in connection with a specific redemption.  This is a clunky process that requires both members to complete and sign a form which is then mailed or emailed to Hyatt.
    • Marriott allows a member to transfer up to 50,000 points per calendar year to another member, for a fee of $10 per transfer (waived for Gold and Platinum elite members).

Will My Points and Miles Expire?

Most loyalty programs have expiration policies for their points or miles.  The policies vary widely, but it is very important that you understand them and have an eye on your points to make sure you don’t inadvertently let them expire.  Let’s look at a few examples:

  • The credit card programs’ points generally don’t expire as long as you have a points-earning card open.
  • Airline programs’ expiration policies vary.  For example:
    • American miles expire 18 months from the date of your most recent earning or redemption activity.  As long as you have activity in your AA account at least every 18 months, your AA miles will never expire.
    • Delta has the most customer-friendly policy – SkyMiles never expire, period.
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards points expire 24 months from the date of your most recent earning activity.  If you don’t earn any Rapid Rewards points within 24 months, all of your points will expire.  Redemption does not reset the expiration clock with Southwest.
    • United‘s expiration policy is the same as American’s – United miles expire 18 months from the date of your most recent earning or redemption activity.
  • Hotel programs’ expiration policies also vary substantially.  For example:
    • Hilton Honors points expire 12 months from the date of your most recent earning or redemption activity.  As long as you have activity in your Hilton Honors account at least every 12 months, your Hilton points will never expire.
    • IHG‘s expiration policy is the same as Hilton’s, 12 months.
    • Hyatt is the same as Hilton and IHG, but with a more generous 24-month clock.
    • Marriott is the same as Hyatt, 24 months.
    • Wyndham is more complicated and challenging.  Wyndham accounts are canceled after 18 months of inactivity, which is essentially the same as the points expiring.  In addition, though, Wyndham points expire 48 months after they are first deposited into your account, even if you have other activity in your account.  Thus, you can’t stockpile Wyndham points indefinitely – you’re going to have to use them within 48 months or lose them.
    • Choice is also different and challenging.  Choice Privilege points expire at the end of the year that is two calendar years after the points were earned.  For example, points earned now in 2018 will expire on December 31, 2020.

We at Middle Age Miles urge you to keep track of your accounts so that you don’t let your points expire, and strongly consider using a program like AwardWallet that will send you reminders if your points or miles near their expiration dates.

Will My Points and Miles Devalue?

One of the certainties of the points-and-miles world is that things will change.  Earning rates will change, redemption rates will change, program rules will change, credit card rules will change – and on and on.  Almost always, these changes are unfriendly to the customer.

It is pretty much a universal truth that miles and points will become less valuable over time.  Redemption rates generally only go in one direction – up.

If you read much in the miles-and-points world, you’ll see many people espouse a strong earn-and-burn strategy.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

That said, I don’t think building up points balances is always a bad thing.   To us, what’s most important is to have a reasonable game plan about your points and miles.  For example, for Philly and me, we know that we will have more time and less money someday when Philly retires from her corporate job.  We don’t mind building up some point balances to use later.  We know that devaluations will come.  Yet, most times, programs will give advance notice of devaluations, which allows you a chance to redeem points or miles before their value goes down.

Here’s another example – a few months ago, I had an opportunity to buy Choice Privileges points at a very favorable rate (through the Daily Getaways sale, for those who know that that is).  Philly and I haven’t stayed in a Choice hotel in years.  But I purchased 125,000 points.  Why?  The huge sweet spot for Choice Privilege points is for hotels in Scandinavia.  We didn’t have any specific plans for a Scandinavian trip, but I thought there was a very good chance we’ll make one before the end of 2020 as that region has been on our radar for a trip for the past couple of years.  And worst case, we’ll find a nice hotel like a Cambria to use our points later, even if it’s for a stay-cation at the new one near our house in Plano.  But hopefully my strategy will pay off with a fun high-return stay in Scandinavia!  That’s part of the fun and excitement of the points-and-miles world.


I hope you’ve enjoyed our article on Points-and-Miles Program Basics & Redemption Basics and learned something from it.  We’ll have many more articles on Middle Age Miles that will delve much deeper into points-and-miles programs, earnings, and redemptions.

Good luck with your journey to fulfill your travel dreams!

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