The key to leveraging your expenses to earn incredible travel experiences is knowing what to do with those beautiful points once you’ve earned them and, most importantly, what not to do if you want to receive their maximum value. Specifically, I’m sharing five mistakes you need to avoid when redeeming points for travel.
Knowing how to get tons of value from your points and the pitfalls to avoid along the way can literally be the difference between getting tens of thousands of dollars of value from your points versus getting only hundreds of dollars in returns. If you feel like you’re not currently maximizing the value you’re getting from your points, today’s episode is for you.
Tune in this week to discover five mistakes that stop you getting maximum value when redeeming points for travel. These mistakes are not only common, but they have the largest potential negative impact on your ability to get a ton of value from your points, so I’m sharing what they are and how to avoid these mistakes so you can get unbelievable value from your points.
Welcome to Point Me to First Class, the only show for employed professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners who are looking to optimize their higher-than-average expenses to travel the world. I'm your host, Devon Gimbel, and I believe that your expenses are your greatest untapped asset if you know how to leverage them. Ready to dive into the world of credit card points and miles so you can travel more, travel better, and travel often? Let's get started.
Welcome back to the Point Me to First Class podcast. This is an exciting week in Point Me to First Class land because enrollment is officially open for the Points Made Easy course, my online course that helps you master points earning and redeeming so that you can book the travel you're dreaming of using points instead of putting it on your wish list to maybe be able to do 20 years from now.
Points Made Easy has already helped hundreds of people leverage their expenses to earn and use points for the travel that matters most to them. I'd love to help you do the same exact thing, but you only have until this Saturday, October 21st, to enroll before doors close until next year. To learn more about the course and join the final enrollment of this year, just go to www.pointmetofirstclass.com/pointsmadeeasy.
In honor Points Made Easy being open for new members to join this week, I'm going to be doing something special here on the podcast by bringing you some bonus episodes all week long to give you a sneak peek inside the course, to hear from past course members about how Points Made Easy has changed the way they travel using points, and share with you some of my points secrets that I usually just keep for Points Made Easy course members. But today is regular podcast day, and I've got a great episode prepared for you. So let's dive in.
You all know by now that your expenses can be some of your greatest assets, if you know how to leverage them. The key to unlocking the unbelievable potential of your expenses to get you thousands of dollars’ worth in travel experiences comes down to just two things. Number one, earning as many points as possible for the money you're already spending. Ideally, much more than one point for every dollar you spend that you can put on a credit card.
If you listen to last week's episode, you'll know that one of my very favorite ways to do this is to take advantage of online shopping portals to accelerate your points earning for online shopping and to be strategic about maximizing points earning methods like online shopping portals, especially when their bonuses are at their highest like in the final quarter of the year that we're coming into.
But the second key to unlocking the unbelievable potential of your expenses to get you thousands of dollars’ worth and travel has to do with knowing what to do with those beautiful points once you've earned them and also what not to do with those points if you want to get maximum value from them. That is what we're gonna be diving into in today's episode.
Specifically, I'm going to be calling out the top five mistakes you can make when redeeming points for travel. Some of these are mistakes I have personally made and learn from over the last 10 or so years that I've been in this hobby. Some of these are mistakes I've observed others making as they get more experienced in this hobby.
The five mistakes I'm going to be covering today are not only some of the most common ones to make when it comes to redeeming points, but they're also the ones that can have potentially the largest negative impact on your ability to get a ton of value from your points. So I want to be sure that you know what these mistakes are, why you want to avoid them, and most importantly, what to do instead so that you can get the most value from your points possible.
Because one thing is for sure. If you can avoid making these mistakes, you stand to be able to book more travel, more expensive travel for fewer points, and experience a whole lot less frustration and disappointment when it comes time to turn your points into travel. So sit down, buckle up, and get ready to take some notes because I am not holding anything back on this episode.
I am super caffeinated, and, in case you can't tell, I'm feeling pretty feisty about this topic because knowing how to get tons of value from your points and what pitfalls to avoid along the way can literally be the difference between getting tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of value from your points versus getting only hundreds of dollars’ worth in value.
So if you're not currently maximizing the value that you're getting from your points, if you're feeling a little intimidated or confused about the best ways to get the most from the points that you have already saved, or if you're wondering if you could be doing even better when it comes to redeeming your points, by the end of this episode, you should be able to pinpoint exactly what you're doing wrong and what to do instead.
Your days of redeeming your hard earned points for one domestic economy flight a year are over, my friends. Like I said, I'm not wasting any time this episode. So we're gonna dive in and start with the number one biggest mistake you can make when it comes to redeeming your points. That is not understanding the potential value of your points.
Here I am talking specifically about the value of a flexible or transferable points currencies like Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, or Bilt points because it's the transferable points currencies that hold the highest potential value, in my opinion. So I want to make sure you really understand how valuable these points can be. Conversely, how much you can potentially lose out on if you don't know the best ways to use these points.
The main reason that most people don't understand the potential value of their points is simply because your credit card issuer isn't telling you. They're not telling you the whole story, at least. Here's what I mean.
If you have any of the transferable points currencies I mentioned, you're likely pretty familiar with logging onto your account and seeing your points balance listed. Usually somewhere in your credit card account, it will show you different options that you have for redeeming those points and how much cash equivalent value you can expect to get from each redemption method.
Now, I'm not going to go through all five of the major transferable points currencies and list out all of your redemption options with each one, but I am going to use Chase points as an example so that you can see the massive discrepancy between how Chase values your Chase points and what you can actually get from them.
So here is the first critical thing for you to know when it comes to redeeming your transferable points. You have two main options for what you can do with those points. Number one, you can redeem them through your credit card issuer directly. Or number two, you can transfer your points out of your credit card account and into the frequent flyer or loyalty account of an airline or hotel transfer of your credit card issuer. More on that option later.
Let's first take a look at option number one, redeeming your points through your credit card issuer directly. As I mentioned before, each of the major transferable points currencies will have different options for how you can redeem your points through that issuer. But I'm going to use Chase as an example.
When you log on to your Chase account, you should see very clearly your Ultimate Rewards Points balance posted. Once you click on your points balance, you'll go to the Ultimate Rewards portal and see several different options listed for all the ways that you can redeem your points.
So right now I have a little over 790,000 Chase points sitting in my account, and I have a couple of different options for how I can use those points directly through Chase. One option for using my Chase points is called pay with points where I can redeem my points to pay for some or all of an eligible order with Amazon.com or PayPal.
This is arguably the worst way that I could use my Chase points since Chase tells me that with this redemption option, my 790,000 points are worth a little over $6,300. Meaning that with this redemption option, my Chase points are worth less than one cent each, around 0.8 cents each to be exact. Just for reference, getting 0.8 cents of value from any of your transferable points is terrible. So please never use this pay with points option.
Clearly, using Chase points to offset the cost of an Amazon or Pay Pal purchase doesn't offer a ton of value. But what about the other options that Chase shows you for how you can use your points? Perhaps you'd like to exchange your Chase points for gift cards. I love a gift card to Target as much as the next girl, but this option doesn't offer a lot more value for your points.
Chase tells me that my 790,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth a little over $7,900 if I want to exchange them for gift cards, but what about if I just want straight cash-back instead? Cash is more flexible than a store specific gift card after all, and Chase does offer the option to cash in your points for cash-back that will get directly deposited into a checking or savings account, or you can choose to redeem your points for a statement credit.
According to Chase, my 790,000 points are also worth a little over $7,900 if I choose one of the cash-back options. so whether I want a boatload of subway gift cards or just want to cash out my points entirely, they're worth a whopping one cent apiece.
No doubt redeeming your Chase points for some gift cards or straight cash-back is a more compelling option than the pay with points option since you're getting at least one cent per point in value from each year points rather than 0.8 cents per point in value.
But Chase can do better than that because you can also choose to use your points to book travel directly through Chase including booking flights, hotel stays, or rental cars, and this option offers the highest potential value for your points when redeeming them directly through the credit card issuer.
Depending on which specific Chase rewards card you hold, your points can be worth up to 1.5 cents apiece. Meaning that my 790,000 Chase points could be used to book travel directly through Chase worth almost $11,900. On the surface, this option sounds great. Certainly the most lucrative all of the options that Chase offers for how you can use your points directly through your credit card account.
Especially because the entire thing that I and other points fans constantly scream about is how much you can save on travel using your points. But this is exactly why I'm doing this particular podcast episode and highlighting this as the first and biggest mistake people make when redeeming their points because it is a costly one.
There are actually lots of reasons why I don't recommend using most transferable points currencies to book travel directly through your credit card issuer, but I'm not even get into all of that today. Instead, I want to focus entirely on why this is a mistake from the perspective of how much potential value you lose out on when you use your points this way.
Here is the key thing to understand about using your transferable points to book travel directly through your credit card account. Whether we're talking about using Chase points to book travel through Chase, Amex points to book travel through Amex, or any of the other transferable points currencies and their travel portals.
The value that you're going to get from your points when you use them to book travel directly through your credit card account is going to be low. Whether you're getting one cent per point in value, 1.25 cents per point in value, or 1.5 cents per point in value from your points, all of those values are comparatively low.
Here is the second key thing to understand about using your points to book travel this way. When you use your points to book travel directly through your credit card account, the value that you get for your points is fixed. Meaning that it is determined by your specific credit card company, and it does not change.
In the example I'm using of my Chase account, Chase has determined that each one of my Ultimate Rewards points is worth 1.5 cents in value. When I use those points to book travel directly through Chase, no matter what kind of travel I'm booking.
My 790,000 Chase points are worth $11,900 towards the cost of travel whether I book 20 domestic economy flights with all those points, one international business class flight with all of those points, or rent five rental cars for a week with all of those points. I am never going to be able to get more than $11,900 worth of travel from my 790,000 Chase points as long as I use them to book travel directly through Chase. The same is true of your transferable points, whether you have Chase points or a different points currency.
Before I talk about what you can do with your points instead in order to get way more value out of them, I just want to reiterate the point that when you redeem your transferable points directly through your credit card account, you will probably have several different options available for how you want to use those points.
You heard that Chase has a pay with points option, a cash-back equivalent option, and the option to book travel directly through Chase. Each of these options offers a slightly different value for each of your Chase points, somewhere between 0.8 cents per point in value up to about 1.5 cents per point in value.
If that was all you had to choose from, picking the option where you get 1.5 cents per point in value would obviously be the best one. In my case, that would be the difference between getting $11,900 in value from my 790,000 Chase points instead of getting $6,300 in value from the same exact number of points.
But here is what you have to understand about the transferable points currencies. There is an entirely different option for you to use them to book travel that allows you to drastically increase the potential value you can get from those same points. This is what your credit card issuer isn't telling you, or at least they're not being completely transparent about the potential value of using your points with this different option.
The option I'm talking about is taking your transferable points and moving them out of your credit card account and into the frequent flyer or loyalty account of an airline or hotel transfer partner of your bank. This is precisely why these types of points are referred to as transferable points because you can transfer them out of your credit card account and directly into an airline or hotel loyalty account.
You don't have just one option for which airline or hotel you can transfer your points into. Each of the transferable points currencies, remember that's Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, or Bilt points has its own menu of airline and hotel transfer partners that you have access to with that specific type of points.
Chase, for example, has 14 transfer partners that you can transfer your Chase points to. American Express has 20 transfer partners that you can transfer Amex points to. Capital One has, I think, somewhere around 18 transfer partners. The transferable points currencies don't have identical transfer partner menus, but there is significant overlap between some of them.
Transferring points from your credit card account to an airline or hotel transfer partner account is as simple as clicking a button. Inside of your credit card account, you can easily link your specific airline or hotel loyalty accounts to your credit card account. When you want to transfer points over, all you have to do is select the transfer points option. Click which specific airline or hotel loyalty account you want your credit card points to be transferred to, and choose how many of your points you want moved over. It's really as simple as that.
The reason that you should consider deeming your points this way by actually moving them out of your credit card account and not choosing any of the redemption offers that are listed inside your credit card account is because when you do this, your points no longer have a set fixed value assigned to them.
Remember how Chase decided that the most my Ultimate Rewards points are worth when redeeming them for travel directly through Chase is one and a half cents per point? How does that compare when I transfer them out of my Chase account and into an airline frequent flyer account of one of Chase’s airline transfer partners?
\Well, there's not one definite answer for this because when you move your transferable points out of your credit card account, like I said, they no longer have a fixed value. Instead, their value varies depending on the points cost of the flight or hotel stay that you use them for. This points cost can change even for one flight offered by one airline just different days of the week.
But here is the critical thing for you to know. Instead of getting at most one and a half cents per point from my Chase points when I redeem them for travel directly through Chase, I can potentially get two, three, five, seven cents per point of value or more from the same number of Chase points once I've transferred them out of my Chase account.
In dollar value, that means that my 790,000 Chase points would be worth at most $11,900 for travel if I use them to book travel directly through Chase. But if I transfer my points out of Chase to one or more of their many different airline or hotel partners, I could actually get anywhere from $15,800 to $55,300 or more worth in travel.
Now, you are not always going to get seven cents per point in value from any or all of your transferable points. But over the years, I keep pretty good track of how I use my points and averaged out among all of the flights and hotel stays that I have booked, I tend to get an average of five cents per point in value from my transferable points. Sometimes I get a lot more than that. Sometimes I get less than that. But over all of my travel, I get an average of five cents per point in value from my transferable points.
Meaning that for me those 790,000 Chase points will likely be worth at least $39,500 in travel booked. I think that you would probably agree with me that getting $39,500 worth in travel beats the hell out of getting $11,900 in travel just by moving my Chase points out of my Chase account and leveraging Chase’s transfer partners to book travel directly.
That is why I think the single most important thing that you can do to maximize the value of your hard earned credit card points is to understand that redeeming them directly through your credit card account, regardless of which redemption option you choose, is going to significantly decrease the potential value that you can get from those points. And why the number one mistake you can make when using your points is to redeem them directly through your credit card account instead of transferring out to an airline or hotel transfer partner of your points currency.
Now I want to take a second here and add an honorable mention for top mistakes that you can make when redeeming points for travel because I think it's relevant to this particular point. That is, for most people, it's a mistake to transfer your points out of your credit card account and into the airline or hotel loyalty account of one of your points currency’s transfer partners before you've confirmed that the flight awards that you want to book or the hotel stay that you want to book is actually available using points.
That is because points transfers from your credit card account into an airline or hotel account are one way and irreversible. You cannot send your Chase points over to your Air France account, change your mind, and then send them back to Chase. Once your points are transferred out of your credit card account, they're not coming back. So please be sure to confirm that the flights or hotel stay that you want to book using your points is actually available before you transfer points out of your credit card account.
All right, let's move on to mistake number two when it comes to redeeming your points for travel. That mistake is not having the right points. When I say the right points, I don't mean that one specific type of points currency is actually the single best or the single most valuable one that everybody should have. I don't actually believe that at all. What I mean when I say the right points is having the type of points that's going to be the most valuable or useful to you based on how you want to use them and what flights or hotel stays you want to book using points.
You might be wondering right now but what if I don't know yet exactly how I want to use my points? Or how do I know if I have the right points for my travel plans? So I'm going to give you some guidelines and recommendations so that you don't accidentally make the mistake of not having the right points.
But first, I want to give you an example of what not having the right points might look like. I will often see someone post a question like I have a ton of Delta miles, and I want to book two business class flights to Europe. I see that United has some great points flights. How can I use my Delta miles to book the United flights?
The problem here is that some types of points, some points currencies give you a lot more options for how to use them than other types of points do. Often the type of points that have the least amount of flexibility and the least amount of options for how you can use them are airline or hotel specific miles or points.
For example, maybe you have a bunch of Delta miles in your Delta account because you fly them often, or you have a Delta credit card that you put a lot of spend on. Or maybe you have a lot of Southwest Airlines miles because you fly them often or have a Southwest credit card that you put a lot of spend on.
When you have a bunch of miles in a specific airline frequent flyer account, you can only use those miles to book travel available through that one airline. Which means that your options for how to use those miles or what airlines you can book travel on using your miles is severely restricted.
You can have 500,000 Delta miles, but if Delta charging 300,000 miles for the same exact flight to Brussels that Air France is charging 55,000 points for, you're out of luck. You can't move your Delta miles out of your Delta account and into another airline frequent flyer account like Air France or Virgin Airlines. This is true of all airline or hotel specific miles and points with very limited exceptions.
Once you have points in an airline frequent flyer account or hotel loyalty account, those miles or points are fixed to that account and can only be redeemed for travel offered by that specific airline or hotel. That is incredibly limiting when you compare having fixed airline or hotel specific miles or points to the alternative, which is earning flexible or transferable points.
Flexible or transferable points currencies are not specific to a single airline or hotel. Rather, these are exactly the points that you can earn using rewards credit cards from any of the five major rewards card issuers that I talked about earlier in this episode, namely Chase Ultimate Rewards points, American Express Membership Rewards points. Citi Thank You points, Capital One points and Bilt points.
What makes the transferable points currencies so powerful is that when you have one or more types of them, your options for using those points for travel are significantly increased because each of the transferable points currencies has a menu of at least 10 or more airlines that you can move those points to.
You can have tons of Delta miles, like I mentioned, but you can only use those to book flights that are available directly through Delta's website. Or you can have a transferable points currency, like American Express points, which you can transfer to Delta Airlines or Cathay Pacific airlines or Air France airlines or Hawaiian Airlines or Singapore Airlines or 15 other airlines.
Transferrable points have two major advantages over fixed or airline specific miles that you might be accruing. As you've heard, when you have transferable points, you have so many more options for airlines and hotels that you can transfer those points to, which means that you have a much higher chance of being able to book flights and hotel stays at the lowest points prices. When you only have one type of airline miles or one type of hotel points, it won't matter if there's an amazing point deal through another airline or hotel program. You simply won't have access to it.
The other major advantage that transferrable points have over fixed airline or hotel specific miles and points is that you can earn a lot more points with transferable points earning rewards credit cards than you often can if you put the same exact amount of spend on an airline or hotel specific credit card. So not only will you have so many more options for using your points for better deals when you have transferable points, but you'll also have a lot more points available to you if you've been earning them with transferable points earning rewards cards.
So how do you know which types of points or which of the transferable points currencies is the right one for you? It's not too hard. Start by checking out the airline and hotel transfer partners have the five major transferable points currencies. This is just a quick Google search away. Focus on which points currency has the airline or hotel transfer partners that you anticipate wanting to be able to book travel with.
If you're starting absolutely from scratch and want to start earning points now and leveraging your current expenses by putting them on a rewards credit card now, but you're not sure yet how you want to use those points or which airline or hotel you'll want to transfer those points to eventually, do not sit on the sidelines and wait to get a rewards card or wait to choose one transferable points currency to start earning points with.
It's a bigger mistake to not be earning points at all or to not be earning transferable points than to have a transferable points earning rewards card that you can always switch out later or pair with additional cards. So just start somewhere. You can always expand or refine your rewards card strategy once you have a better idea of which points currency will be the most valuable to you.
All right, let's move on now to number three of the top five mistakes that you don't want to make when redeeming points for travel. That is not having enough points for the travel that you want to book. This is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, when it comes time to book travel, you don't actually have enough points to book the flight or hotel stay you want, even if you've avoided the first two mistakes and have the right type of points and have found a great deal for using your points with a transfer partner.
Even though this mistake is fairly straightforward, it's still really easy to make. Oftentimes not having enough points to book the travel that you want happens either because you don't actually know how many points you need to save for a specific award redemption, or because you didn't start planning far enough in advance to ensure that you have the time to earn the number of points you need so that you can book your award flights or hotel stays when they become available.
There's nothing worse than finding a fantastic points flight or hotel stay that has availability for the exact time and place you want to travel and realizing that you don't actually have enough points to book it. Especially if you're trying to book one of the award flights that's in really high demand, like snagging business class seats on ANA Airlines to Japan or booking a room during the week of spring break at the Andaz Maui.
You want to have enough points in your account so that you can confirm these bookings when they become available, which in some cases is 11 to 13 months in advance of your actual travel dates. We're going to talk more about how you can avoid making this specific points redemption mistake towards the end of the episode. So stay tuned.
But first, we're gonna move on to common mistake number four when redeeming points for travel. This is the mistake of not being flexible with some aspect of your travel plans. As you might have guessed from listening to this podcast episode, there is a certain amount of strategy that goes into earning and using points for travel, especially if you want to save a lot of money using points for the best travel deals.
But what matters just as much as learning the basics of how points work and mastering the strategy of earning and using points is the ability to be flexible when you're planning travel using points. Here is why. Booking travel using points differs from booking travel using cash in a couple of important ways. One of those ways is that when you're booking travel using points, there can be much greater fluctuations in the availability of flights or hotel stays, or the points price of those flights or hotel stays then what you're probably used to seeing when booking travel using cash.
Here's what I mean. If you're planning to travel during a certain period of the year, that's not one of the traditional popular holiday periods, the price of cash flights somewhere might not differ that significantly day to day over the course of a week or a few weeks. But when you're booking a flight with points, it's not unheard of to see the points price for the same flight to differ substantially from one day to another.
You could find a flight to Rome that costs four times as many points on the one specific day that you would prefer to travel than if you booked that same flight just a day earlier or a day later. Or you may prefer to fly to a destination directly and find that there are no points flights available on nonstop flights, but there are tons of options if you're willing to book an itinerary with one layover.
Some specific airline awards like Qatar Qsuites business class flights, or some specific hotel award stays like the Ritz Carlton Maldives are massively popular, not just because they're really fantastic products and you can actually book them with points when you might not ever. ever consider booking them with cash. But having your heart set on flying one specific airline using points on one specific date or wanting to book only one specific hotel state using points during a really popular travel time is a mistake.
I remember years ago when I was in medical school one of our deans told us as third year medical students starting to decide which specialties that we wanted to go into that as physicians, you could make a lot of money, you could have a really fulfilling career, or you could have a happy and healthy family and home on life. He said, “You can have any two of those things, but no one has all three.”
First, this might give you a little glimpse into the culture of medicine if you're not already intimately familiar with it. Second, I don't actually know if that's true for everyone. But I think what that dean was trying to tell us was to manage our expectations. Even though I absolutely want you to get everything your heart desires when it comes to booking travel using your points, I also want to help you manage your expectations. So I'm going to tell you something similar.
When using your points for travel, you can travel exactly when you want, you can travel exactly where you want, or you can score an amazing deal and save tons of money using your points. It is actually possible to get all three sometimes. But if you expect to be able to get all three all the time, you're either going to be very disappointed, or you're never going to use your points for travel.
This is especially true if you only want to fly premium cabins using points, if you're looking to book multiple business class award tickets on the same flight, or if you're traveling from a smaller or regional airport that doesn't have as many options for flights as a major international airport.
If you can be flexible with one of those aspects, travel dates, travel location, and points price, chances are very high that you're gonna be able to get great use from your points. Here's what that can look like. Being flexible with your exact travel date can mean the difference between finding a great priced award flight at an absurdly high price toward flight.
Now, I completely understand that a lot of you do not have a lot of flexibility when it comes to travel dates, whether it's because of your work schedule or trying to travel around your kids school schedule. You probably don't have endless flexibility to travel from a Tuesday to a Wednesday just because those dates happen to have the best points prices for flights.
But maybe you can be a little bit flexible. Maybe you can fly out on a Friday night instead of a Saturday morning, or you can return Saturday instead of Sunday. If you truly don't have any flexibility whatsoever in your dates of travel, being flexible in another aspect of your travel can ensure that you still have great points travel options to choose from.
You can be flexible with your departing airport or your arriving airport. I know that not all of you call JFK or O'Hare or LAX your home airport. So if you can get yourself to one of those large airports first, you'll likely have exponentially more options for award flights than if you're only willing or able to book flights out of a small regional airport.
Similarly, you might have your heart set on visiting Paris, but find that all of the direct flights there cost an absurd number of points. If you can fly into another airport in the vicinity, like Brussels or Madrid, and then take a separate shorter flight or a train to Paris, you can often find great priced points flights. It can be an opportunity to explore another destination on the same trip.
I already mentioned that booking a flight with one stop can sometimes cost far fewer points than booking a direct flight. Listen, I get it. When I travel, especially if I'm traveling with my little kids, the absolute last thing that I want to do is take a connecting flight or drag my kids through an additional airport. But this is where you get to prioritize what areas of travel you can be flexible in and how flexible you can be and the areas where you can't or simply don't want to be flexible.
Like I said before, you don't have to be flexible with every single aspect of travel. But if you can be flexible in at least one area, that can substantially improve your chances of finding great award travel to book at a great points price.
All right, let's talk about the last mistake you can make when you redeem your points to book travel. This is one that's become more and more relevant in the last year. That is the mistake of relying only on award search platforms or websites or subscription services for finding award flights. Let me explain.
Up until about a year ago, there really were no centralized websites that you could go to in order to search for points flights. Certainly nothing like the points equivalent of Google Flights where you could just punch in where you wanted to go, when you wanted to go there, and just have it split back all the different points options on all the different airlines so that you could just pick the one that suited you best for the least points price and go book a flight.
Instead, what you had to do for the most part was search each airline individually for where you wanted to go during which dates to see if that particular airline had points flights available and at what cost. Which means that for one trip, you could potentially be searching five or 10 individual airline websites all to see what your options for points flights were.
If that sounds a little bit tedious, you'd be right. Some airline websites are much more user friendly than others. But the fact is that searching for award flights has always involved more time and effort than running a simple Google Flight search for cash flights.
But recently there there's been a literal explosion of online search platforms specifically for finding a word flights or flights that you can book using points. Whether it's point.me, pointyeah.com, roam.travel, seats.aero, or others that I'm probably forgetting to mention, all of a sudden there are actually websites that can pull data from lots of different airlines to centralize an award search process that used to be extremely decentralized.
Don't get me wrong. I think a lot of these award booking websites and platforms are incredible and offer their users a great and convenient way to take some of the hassle out of performing award searches yourself. But I think it's a mistake to rely entirely on these websites to do the searching for you for three reasons.
First, none of the award search platforms currently cover all of the airlines that offer award flights. Even if you have subscriptions to several of the awards search platforms or use their free versions, not all airlines are supported by them. So you're always going to be missing out on some potential award flights if you don't know how to run award searches yourself.
Second, most of the award search platforms aren't refreshing their data second by second or minute by minute. Like it's literally not possible. So sometimes the results that you get from running in a word search aren't completely accurate. There may have been points flights available when the search engine did its most recent search, but that are gone when you go to book that flight simply because there can be lag time between how often the search results are updated.
Third, and I think personally that this might be the most significant reason, is that a word search platforms are becoming really popular for good reason. Like I said, they can be really powerful and convenient tools for finding award flight availability. But the more they gain in popularity, the more likely it is that an increasingly large group of people are all having access to the same set of award flight search results.
Meaning that if you don't know how to run award searches yourself, and you're only relying on an award search website to tell you what flights are available, you're going to be competing to book those flights with the same people who also aren't running their own searches and are also relying on the award search websites to tell them which award flights there are to book.
Again, since all airlines are not supported by the award search platforms, and they aren't always up to date, I still think that knowing how to run your own award searches means you have a better chance at finding more award flight options with less competition. So it is worth learning how to do it yourself. Even if you also use a word search websites in combination with doing your own award searches.
Okay, friends, there you have it. The top five mistakes that you can make when it comes to redeeming your points for travel. Now that you know what they are and why you don't want to make them, let's talk for a minute about how you be sure to avoid them. To go along with the top five mistakes that you don't want to make, here are my top five tips for ensuring your hard earned points get you as much value as possible when booking travel.
Number one. If you want the most options available to use for using points for travel with the highest potential value possible, make sure that you're earning points and at least one of the transferable points currencies issuers. That's going to be Chase points, Amex points, Citi points, Capital One points and/or Bilt points.
Number two, if there's a trip that you want to take using points, make sure that you plan ahead so that you can earn enough points of the specific points currency that you're going to need so that you can book the travel you want. The worst time to make a plan to earn points is when you actually need them to book a trip.
Number three, always consider transferring your points out of your credit card account and into the account of an airline or hotel transfer partner of your points currency if you want to tap into getting maximum value from your points. Just remember not to transfer any points until you found the airline award flight or hotel award say that you want to book using points and have confirmed that it’s available.
In order to do that, you'll need to remember tip number four, which is don't outsource your ability to find amazing award flights and points deals to award search websites or subscription programs in entirety. You have to learn how to run your own word searches, even just basic ones, or you could be missing out on a lot of great award availability.
Number five, finally, my last tip for getting as much value from your points as possible is to always remember that you are the best arbiter of how using your points will make you happiest. So if you decide that the best way for you to redeem points is to ignore absolutely everything that I've recommended in this episode then please do that because I'm not the one traveling with your points. You are.
Now I know I said I was going to highlight the top five mistakes not to make when you're deeming points for travel. But above all of the mistakes that I've covered today, please don't make the biggest mistake of all, which is to not use your points because you're afraid of wasting them, or you're worried about whether you're getting the absolute most value or best deal from them. Or you're nervous you might make a mistake somewhere along the way. Points are worthless if you never do anything with them, and they are meant to be enjoyed.
All right, everyone, if listening to this episode has highlighted one or more ways that you can improve the value you're getting from your points, but you're still feeling a little confused, a little overwhelmed, or a little intimidated about what to do next, I want to invite you to join me inside Points Made Easy, my six month online course that teaches you everything you need to know not only to earn the most amount of points possible for the money that you're already spending, but also how to redeem those points for the highest value travel possibly that you actually want to take.
I can hold your hand through the process so that you don't accidentally make one of the big mistakes that I covered today. Whether you're a relative beginner to points travel and want hands on support to avoid each of the mistakes I covered today, or if you're already really comfortable earning points, but you want to increase your skill at redeeming those points for top value, including getting confident about how to run your own award searches without taking hours of your time or stealing your sanity, I have got you covered in Points Made Easy.
Points Made Easy includes on demand lessons to guide you through understanding the fundamentals of earning and using points and also provides you with six months of hands on support from me personally so that you can get your points questions answered, and I can help you craft a pointer any plan that fits your specific expenses and travel goals and walk you through exactly how to use those points for your bucket list travel. Whether that's flying your parents business class for the holidays or taking an epic solo vacation to Indonesia.
Points Made Easy is currently open for enrollment for the final time this year but not for long. Doors to enrollment closes this coming Saturday October 21. So if you want to learn the skills to save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year on travel using points, now is the time to join. To learn more and sign up, just go to www.pointmetofirstclass.com/pointsmadeeasy. Enrollment closes in just a few days on October 21, 2023 so don't wait. I will see you all again here next week. Have a great week everybody.
Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of Point Me to First Class. If you want more tips on turning your expenses into travel, visit pointmetofirstclass.com to learn more. See you next week.