Tips on Rewards Travel

Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon, who created the Million Mile Secrets blog, last year introduced me to the world of traveling for free using credit cards responsibly to earn airline miles and book hotel rooms. I can hardly believe, couponer that I am, that this was an entire world I knew nothing of until a year ago!

Lucky me, I was able to get these smart folks to answer a few questions for us new to the rewards travel game. Enjoy!

Q: As a newbie to rewards travel, I find it all a bit overwhelming. How would you advise getting started in terms of where to get basic beginner information and which/how many products (cards, etc.) to start with?

Daraius Dubash & Emily Jablon: First of all, rewards travel isn’t for everyone. You should have a credit score of at least 700, be able to use credit responsibly and be organized. If that sounds like you, then you can use credit cards to help you travel for much cheaper than you would otherwise.

Start with a travel goal, and then apply for the card that will help you reach that goal. Start with one credit card and get comfortable with tracking your minimum spending and paying off the balance each month. Then, once you are comfortable, you can apply for more cards. Daraius and I have a Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points travel in 10 easy steps, so I always point people there if they want to learn more.

Q: What are the most common questions/concerns you get from new people to the hobby?

Daraius Dubash & Emily Jablon: A common concern is how will applying for cards affect their credit. If people use credit responsibly, then their credit score can actually increase. That’s because their credit utilization ratio decreases because they have credit they are not using.

Another concern is meeting the minimum spend. We recommend people put all of their spending on credit cards, but people should be careful not to spend more than they otherwise would. We posted an article called 40+ Powerful Ways to Meet Your Minimum Spend Requirements that’s been helpful for people trying to meet their minimum spend.

Q: Do you think this will become like Extreme Couponing where the companies cut down on these offers if too many people take advantage of them?

Daraius Dubash & Emily Jablon: The credit card industry is very saturated in the United States. The average American has four credit cards. That means that banks will need to continue to compete to attract new customers, which means that sign-up bonuses aren’t going away anytime soon.

However, the airline industry is consolidating, and decreased competition means higher prices for consumers. This means that travelers can still use miles for flights, but they may have to use more miles to do so.

This is a cat and mouse game and there will always be changes. But the game won’t go away!

Q: What other resources would you recommend to someone getting started to give them a good overall look at the basics?

Daraius Dubash & Emily Jablon: is a great tool to manage all of your airline and hotel frequent traveler accounts in one place. You can track the point balance and expiration date for most accounts. And there are lots of great blogs with free information!

Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you were first starting?

Daraius Dubash & Emily Jablon: Start slowly to get comfortable with using credit cards for rewards travel. Don’t cancel your oldest credit card. Use your miles how you want to, and don’t hoard them.

What would you like to know from Daraius and Emily?

I can’t recommend their blog highly enough. It is easy to understand, updated with great information everyday, they offer free giveaways weekly and it’s ideal for beginners. I read it every day!


  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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