Introduction to Points

What are points and miles?

I and many other points/miles enthusiasts are able to utilize points and miles to travel to lavish places for free or close to. Want to learn our trick of the trade? First let’s talk about what a point or mile is:

Point(s)- Generally thought of as hotel reward currency (i.e. Hilton HHonors) or credit card reward currency (i.e. American Express Membership Rewards)

Mile(s)- Generally considered airline reward currency (i.e. Delta Skymiles)

Points and miles are pretty much the same thing with just being a reward loyalty currency. I will use the terms points and miles rather interchangeably in my posts.

How do I earn points and miles?

There are many ways to earn points and miles. Below are ways you can pick up points and miles:

  • Paid travel
  • Credit card spending
  • Shopping portals
  • Dining programs
  • Other methods

Below I’ll explain the pro’s and con’s to each.

Alaska Airlines 737-900ER

Alaska Airlines 737-900ER

Paid travel

Much like other companies, airlines and hotels give their customers rewards through points and miles. Each airline or hotel chain will have their own loyalty program (or share a program with another airline i.e. Air France and KLM) and will award points differently. Most hotels will reward points based on spending i.e. a certain amount of points per dollar spent. Airlines will either award points based on actual miles flown or based on spending. For example Delta awards based on spending (5 points per dollar for non elite members) while Alaska Airlines awards based on miles flown (2180 miles for a one way flight between Atlanta and Seattle).


  • Paid travel yields the highest return of points on your spending
  • If someone else pays for your travel (i.e. you travel for work), these points are free
  • You can earn elite status which not only gets you more points, but you can get amenities like priority boarding, lounge access etc


  • Paid travel generally costs a lot of money

chase 50k

Chase Sapphire Preferred – One of my favorite credit cards

Credit card spending

Companies that offer credit cards really want your business and thus fight each other by offering lucrative credit cards with rewards and other great perks. This includes rewarding you by spending money on the credit cards they offer (1x point per dollar, 2x points per dollar, etc.), offering huge sign up bonuses for new card members (40,000 points, 75,000 points, etc), and offering perks like car rental insurance, lounge access, etc. Signing up for a few new credit cards every year can net you a large amount of points for travel every year. Sign up bonuses and regular spending is how I build up a large amount of points each year. You need to be strategic and select a few cards to target your spending with every year (unless you are able to spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year).


  • Earn rewards on your regular day spending
  • Credit cards offer bonus points categories like travel, gas, groceries, dining, etc.
  • Huge sign up bonuses can get you free flights, free hotel nights, and more
  • Responsible credit card usage helps your credit report


  • The less spending ability you have, the less you get awarded
  • Being approved for the best travel cards requires a great to excellent credit score
  • Irresponsible credit card usage can affect your credit report

southwest shopping program

Shopping portals

A few credit card companies offer shopping portals (Chase, Discover, etc.) as do airlines and hotels (well technically the airlines and hotels have partnerships rather than running them). The way shopping portals work is that you visit participating sites through their portal and then you are rewarded bonus points for purchases you make. In order to earn the extra points you must visit the online store through the shopping portal, use the credit card companies card i.e. Chase card in the Chase portal (unless you are using an airline or hotel shopping portal then use any card) and only use valid coupons or deals (generally the coupon must be found on the store website to still be eligible for the bonus points). Thus far, I’ve had great success shopping through both Chase and Discover’s shopping portals.


  • Earn points for purchases you were likely going to make anyways
  • Save both time and gas by shopping online
  • High points yields, some websites offer 10-20 points per dollar
  • Many credit card companies, airlines and hotels have shopping portals


  • You can’t use any coupon you want
  • The bonus points can take a while to show up in your account
    -Once I never got the bonus points and unfortunately the customer service reps gave a wait 6-8 weeks response
  • Not all your favorite stores participate in the shopping portals program

aa dining program 2

Dining programs

Much like shopping portals, airlines and hotels have dining programs. The way dining programs work is you visit a participating restaurant, dine at the restaurant, then review your experience. You earn these points in addition to your credit card points and thus make it possible to get several points per dollar on your dines.


  • You need to eat so why not get bonus points?
  • You earn points on top of credit card points and are thus double dipping
  • I’ve found myself to branch out with trying new restaurants that are part of the dining programs


  • Not all restaurants are part of dining programs and can sometimes only be specialty restaurants
  • You are limited to collecting points in one program (i.e. only receiving American Airlines miles, etc.)


All in all, there are many ways to earn points. Sign up for good rewards credit cards, dining programs and shopping programs and watch your points grow. Stay tuned for more!

-Points Tutor