Have no doubt: the points and miles game can be complicated. Keeping track of what credit card is best to use at which location, finding award availability across a variety of carriers and finding the best deals when paying based on the cash rate are all made easier with some of the great tools out there. Here are our seven favorite:
It’s no secret that one of the quickest ways to amass a large amount of points and miles in many programs is through credit card sign-up bonuses. Indeed, we have a whole page dedicated to these deals for a reason! Still, signing up for new credit cards is a weighty financial decision for most people.
We’ve spoken about the potential risks and potential benefits that come with the territory. The best way to judge the impact of sign-ups on your credit is to track your credit score. CreditSesame.com allows you to do just that. The free service uses credit bureau Experian’s data to develop its score.
CreditSesame’s credit score is a guesstimate and will differ from the precise FICO score reported by one of the credit bureaus, but the service has been proven to be close to the mark for most consumers. Competing service CreditKarma.com offers similar functionality based on TransUnion’s data. Combined, it and CreditSesame.com can help you stay on track financially as you begin earning piles of miles.
Next to credit card sign-up bonuses, the bonus miles offered for online shopping are probably the fastest way to earn miles quickly. By simply spending money you needed to spend already – and clicking through a referral link on your way – you can earn miles on every dollar spent.
Evreward.com (Every-reward, get it?) is an outstanding tool for identifying what shopping mall or rebate site offers the best discount for almost any online merchant. Their database is kept up to date with limited time offers, so when great values like 12 AAdvantage miles per dollar at JCPenney come up, you’ll not be left in the dark.
Evreward.com lists promo codes for many retailers, as well, and offers a bookmarklet compatible with most browsers that allows you to see the best rebate or miles-earning opportunity for the online merchant you’re currently visiting and get right back to shopping.
Have trouble keeping track of which card is best to use where? Category bonuses are a critical opportunity to maximize your points-earning potential, but it’s easy to get cards mixed up. Wallaby helps keep everything in order for you. Integrated with Foursquare, the app helps you easily select your current location (or search for one you’ll visit later) and discover which card is best to use for that merchant.
The app will rate each of the cards you’ve added and explain why it received that ranking based on the type of points or cash back you can earn by using that card. Wallaby is well worth the few minutes of setup time required upfront to tell the app which cards are in your personal portfolio. Even though much of this information is pretty hard-wired for me, I still double-check using Wallaby to make absolutely certain I’m earning as many miles as I can!
Ever wondered where online booking engines get their data? Turns out almost all of them retrieve their results from the same core software called ITA. Acquired by Google a while back, ITA has its very own search function that strips out the selling aspects of online travel agencies and focuses on providing the clearest, most versatile, most transparent look at seat availability.
ITA’s great for searching even basic domestic flights, but can prove essential in tracking down the best routes for multi-city itineraries. It’s also great for tracking down affordable business and first class fare opportunities. Although ITA doesn’t search award fares directly, you can use the system to gauge award availability pretty reliably based on the seat codes the system shows. Here’s a great crash course on how to use routing codes when searching ITA.
ITA is perhaps most valuable when taking advantage of free travel offered by cards like Barclaycard Arrival. Cards like this earn points that are redeemed as statement credits toward travel expenses. So, finding the cheapest cash flight using ITA also means finding the lowest-miles option when making this kind of redemption.
Are you a fairly seasoned points and miles earner looking for the best award redemption possibility and know exactly what program (or programs) you want to redeem points in already? AwardNexus might just be your new best friend. The freemium tool searches by airline alliance and points program to find the best redemption possibility for you.
With support for a variety of OneWorld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam airlines, AwardNexus can help you discover redemption possibilities you may not have previously considered. As we’ve seen in the past, using miles from one carrier to travel on a partner carrier can often be a powerful way to increase your miles’ flexibility, avoid fuel surcharges and fly on the best carriers possible for your seating class.
The gold standard of the online travel communities, Flyertalk is the regular hangout for many of the globe’s smartest travelers.
With an exhaustive array of forum categories, up to date tips, tricks and information about every points and miles program imaginable can be found here. The site has its own shorthand, though, so if you find yourself confused, check out the Flyertalk Glossary to learn the lingo!
Yes, Google. This may seem like a joke but I’m perfectly serious. Not sure if a certain itinerary is possible? Want to double check the award chart for an airline, or discover what partners it may have for travel in your neck of the woods? Uncertain if your airline’s route map offers a stopover opportunity?
Even if you think you’re sure, double-check. Chances are you’re not the first one to try to book the trip you’re looking for, and even if you are, chances are someone’s booked another trip that closely resembles yours. The points and miles community is incredibly savvy and very willing to share its tips and tricks with others. A simple search might take you to a blog with a step-by-step guide for the trip you’re planning, or with just the chart you needed.