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Since JohnnyJet gets new readers every day, I thought I would write a quick guide for beginners to the world of rewards travel.

Know Your Credit Score

If you plan on applying for any travel rewards credit cards, then you should know and monitor you credit score. It’s that simple. There are plenty of free sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and even some credit cards that let you see your credit score for free, but I pay for a full service through Wells Fargo where I can monitor all three bureaus and keep a tally of my inquiries.

You should also know what factors go into your credit score.

Understanding your credit score and the impact a new credit card application or closing has on it is very important. You don’t want to play around with your credit.

Also, if you can’t manage your credit card spending, you shouldn’t apply for any travel rewards credit cards at all. It’s that simple.

But if you know your credit score, and it’s in good condition, you can leverage it for insane travel through rewards miles and points.

Have a Goal 

If you’re just starting out, make sure you have a specific goal that you’re working towards. This helps you know which miles and points to earn. Also, it’s easy for some to become focused on earning, earning, earning, but then they feel some sort of guilt about using their hard-earned miles or points. Nonsense!

You should be redeeming your points, because they don’t earn any interest in your accounts. Don’t be a points hoarder! There’s always going to be an upcoming devaluation, so earn & burn, baby.

When my wife and I started out, we wanted to go to Europe, specifically Italy (Jordan had seen “Under the Tuscan Sun” a few too many times). So I started researching what miles I needed to get there. Two credit card applications later, we had our airfare covered. I couldn’t believe it.

Know What Travel Cards to Apply For 

My favorite type of rewards points are transferrable points, which simply means points that you can transfer out to travel partners. Transferrable points give you more flexibility because of the multiple travel transfer partner options, and because they can be redeemed at a higher value than fixed value points.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred out to travel partners. One of those partners is United Airlines. Once you transfer your points out to United, you can book a round-trip ticket to Europe for only 60,000 miles in economy. This is easily worth $1,500.

Fixed value points can serve a purpose, and I do collect them. But for beginners who want to travel internationally and/or in business/first class, it’s important that you start earning transferrable points, or airline miles, first. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points can all be transferred out to multiple travel partners. Here’s the best standard personal card from each program:

  • Ultimate Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Membership Rewards: Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Thank You Points: Citi Premier® Card

It’s also worth noting that it’s currently a little harder to get approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so it should be the first card you apply for.

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Read, Read, Read

Once you’ve decided to do this, you might as well dive in. There are a ton of resources online about how to earn and redeem miles & points to get the most value. Use the google search feature on our website to search past articles, so you can learn to travel like you never thought you could before.

An example of something that can be difficult for new readers to understand is alliances, but understanding alliances opens up the possibilities even more. Here’s the quick explanation: If you have miles in an airline’s loyalty program, then you can use those miles for any airline that’s a partner or is in that same alliance. The Star Alliance and oneworld Alliance offer the most value. For example, if you have any British Airways Avios (UR transfer partners) you can fly American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and any other partner airline with your Avios miles.

Also, understanding each program’s routing rules, fees, and award charts will help you get the most out of your miles.

Don’t be intimidated if it all sounds daunting. You can easily book most award flights on the major airline’s websites, but diving in a little deeper will reap you even greater rewards. For example, even though I used American Airlines miles to book Cathay Pacific first-class flights, I didn’t search for award availability on the AA website. I searched the British Airways website for Cathay Pacific award flights. Once I found the award availability I was looking for, I then called AA at 1-800-882-8880 and spoon-fed them the flights.


This hobby can be extremely rewarding. But don’t get started before knowing your credit score. Only consider this if you can manage your credit card spending. After that, it’s as simple as picking a goal, learning the cards to apply for, and finding ways to maximize your points. Trust me, your efforts will be well spent!

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Johnny Jet Editorial

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

2 Comments On "Newbie Refresher: Getting Started with Travel Rewards, Miles, & Points"
  1. shirley stamen|

    I am trying to figure out best way card to get 2 business class tickets lax to Italy in September 2017. I have substantial points on Amex Platinum and American Airlines
    Should I get a Chase Preferred to get the best return
    I will qualify
    Thanks so much
    You are helping two friends celebrate their 75 bdays❗️??

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Hi Shirley,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and congrats on your 75th bday!

      Here’s our post with tips on the best miles to use for award flights to Europe. Your best bet for business class is most likely going to be flying United or one of their partners. AA is an option too, but it may be harder to find business award class availability.

      Yes, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the first personal travel rewards card we recommend to readers, since it earns the most flexible points. Even if you don’t transfer your Ultimate Rewards points out to United, you can still use the points for hotels, car rentals, and more. You can see more details and apply for the Sapphire Preferred here

      I hope this helps!

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