When Should you Start Getting Miles and Points?

I’m going to tell you what you already know – that you can’t wait to start piling up miles and points and then expect to get them when you need them.  If you’re joining our army of wanderlusters, arm yourself now so that you’ll be when ready when it’s time to battle monotony.

Pamplona City Walls (Photo from PensionPasadena.com)

I’ve told you that I have a bit of España-philia (please pardon my dramatic metaphor), so I’ll illustrate with the story of the Siege of Pamplona.  Pamplona is a city in the Basque country near Pyrenees, better known for the San Fermin festival, wherein a cadre of angry bulls chase white and red-clad drunks down cobblestone streets.  It’s also a fortressed city, which was nice to have in the early 19th century when Napoleon battled for control of Europe.  French troops occupied the city in 1813, but Henrey O’Donnell and the Kingdom of Spain wanted it back.  The city was so well-fortified that with a little pinch, the Spanish were able to simply cut off supply lines and leave the French to starve.  Once they had exhausted their supplies and eaten pets and pests, they had no choice but to give up.  Their fortress was worthless once it was empty.  The moral? Prior planning prevents poor performance.

Now, if you don’t have 100,000 Ultimate Rewards you won’t wind up starving, encased by the walls of a stone fortress, with armed oppressors outside.  But… you may find yourself in a vegitative state, surrounded by a sound-dampening cubicle while your friends put their toes in the sand.  I don’t know about you, but to me that actually sounds worse.

But I will say this, I was able to pounce on an incredible combination of deals to get my family booked to Panama in January.  I’m not sure whether it was a glitch or what, but for a moment in May, AA had $300-$400 flights to Central America (50% of normal fares).  Because my UR rewards spend like cash, I effectively doubled their value and booked 6 RT flights to Panama for 54k UR, 60k US Bank points, and $240 out of pocket.  Not bad for flights that would normally cost $4800.

I can’t tell you how many people come to us in urgency, hoping to swing something at the last moment and have found themselves having to spend their hard-earned money on flights and hotels (shameful, I know).

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be reckless in your credit card applications.  We want you to follow the same good advice that we’ve been giving about being prudent, but sensible when it comes to making those decisions.  Ask yourself the important questions:

  • Will the effect on my credit cause me to pay more in interest on other debts?
  • Can I meet the spending requirement making purchases I already intended to make?
  • Do I have the discipline to pay off the card immediately?
  • Is the annual fee tolerable (or is it waived)?

If you’ve already decided, and you know what you’re going to do, do it.  We’ve seen reward bonuses shrinking lately, and there’s not much to suggest that it will change for the better.

When it comes to registering for promotions we pass along, you’ve got to do that with all the recklessness of a teenage boy.  Shoot first, ask questions later.  We sent so many of you to the Club Carlson promotion, which only took the first 100k and 40k registrants, to pile up massive Gold Point accounts (I’m sitting on a cool 222,000), and yet we still didn’t get enough in the door.  Two weeks had passed before I realized that my parents and my brother had yet to get in on the action (by the way, we’ll soon be helping you spend them).

You need to have an email that you’re not afraid to dole out to every promotion that comes around.  You need to be willing to be spontaneous when glitches drop commas off airline prices.  You need to learn how to think “how can I make that happen” in lieu of “I can’t make that happen.”  These are the traits of wanderlusters.

Chase Ink Bold Business Card Offering up to 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

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8 Responses to When Should you Start Getting Miles and Points?

  1. Derek B says:

    I feel like I’ve been posting a lot recently, but I’m getting really excited about wanderlusting. How do you find the really good deals on international flights? There are just so many places to go and I’ve found that it’s kind of a pain to find the good deals unless you have a place in mind already. My wife and I would be pretty up for anything as long as its a good deal but is there a place to go where you can sort flights by cost and not necessarily by destination? How do you guys do it?

    • bradleyjai says:


      Comment away, buddy! We’ve been doing this for a year and a half and now we finally feel like we’re getting some discussion.

      As you can tell from my travels, I have a thing for Central America. It meets all my needs – it’s cheap, it’s relatively close, and it’s diverse enough to get a different experience in each place.

      I’ll just tell you outright, you need to go to Costa Rica. It’s a great first trip because you can speak English or Spanish, and spend dollars or colones. You’ve got jungle adventure and great beaches. You’ve got culture and good food.

      That said, be willing to spring if the opportunity presents itself.

      Let’s start with what you’ve got. Certain programs are better for specific uses. Tell me what you’ve got and I’ll tell you where you can go. AA miles are great for Central America and Europe. Delta may be a good option to the Caribbean.

      Where you’re on the East coast right now, you may be able to get some great deals to either of those places.

      I know Icelandair sometimes has screaming deals, too… and that’s a “don’t miss” destination.

      Stay tuned, too, because if you have some of the Club Carlson Gold Points, Sheldon has a Russia/Eastern Europe treat for you.

      • Derek B says:

        We’ve got about 150k club carlson points and we have the chase sapphire preffered card which I’m pretty sure I just hit my spending limit on so we should have around 50k points on there. Other than that, like I said we are just starting. It’s not like we need to take the trip that soon but I want to be on the right trajectory. I did sign up for a US Airways card too the other day because it makes sense for my work, everything is US Airways here in South Carolina and I travel once or twice a month on them and I can double my points and get some extra perks, well worth the card expense. My credit is pretty good so I’ve been thinking about getting some other cards, but since we just moved we’ve had quite a few credit pulls in the last 2 months so I may just need to hold off (but I’m ready for any thoughts on this too).

        Costa Rica would be perfect, so now that there is a goal in mind we just need to get things lined up to make it happen. Thanks you guys!!!

  2. Nick says:

    Can you explain this further? I’m not following how you booked six tickets priced at $300-$400 each for the amounts stated.

    “Because my UR rewards spend like cash, I effectively doubled their value and booked 6 RT flights to Panama for 54k UR, 40k US Bank points, and $240 out of pocket. “

    • bradleyjai says:

      Nick- Sorry, I got a little zealous there. I looked at it again and I actually had to spend 60k of my US Bank points. I was remembering it even better than it was.

      I have two daughters and two sons. I booked my wife and two girls with the US Bank points (which get any ticket under $400 for 20k). I booked my boys and myself with the UR rewards. I had 54,800 which got me $685 and the RT flights to PTY were $309 each. I paid $242 out of pocket.

      Plus, because I’m booking with bank points, not FF miles, I’ll get 5,980 miles for each of us, resulting in a total of 35,880 (another RT flight to Central America).

  3. Ken says:

    Does US Bank send you a 1099 each year for the value of the points? It’s a checking acocunt right?

    • bradleyjai says:

      No, my US Bank program is the Flexperks credit card. I used to get it on debit purchases as well, but that’s gone away.

      I have never received a 1099, though it sounds like that is a possibility from Citi. I haven’t heard about US Bank issuing 1099s.


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