Points Intervention: Maximizing Your Miles

May 19, 2015

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I get a ton of e-mail from readers asking for advice on how to maximize their points earning, whether it’s for personal use, business or both. This week, we’re featuring a new Points Intervention series where I help individuals and small-business owners get their awards earning on track.

In this episode, you’ll see me doing something I never thought I’d do: throw money away. Luckily there was no trash can in sight, so I eventually got my bills back. Watch the video below to understand why I was so moved that I actually crumpled up currency!

Intervention: Carissa Reiniger Episode 2

Yesterday I introduced you to Carissa Reiniger, a small-business owner who hasn’t been using points and miles to her advantage. She travels internationally for business and pleasure, and her employees do, too. While she does have American Airlines AAdvantage elite status, she’s not using it to its fullest potential. (In fact, she doesn’t even have a points-earning credit card — an issue we’ll address tomorrow.)

Maximize Those Miles

In this episode, we focus on Carissa’s membership in one airline loyalty program. Carissa reached Platinum status with American AAdvantage and has been there for about three years. She’s not sure how close she is to reaching Executive Platinum, but as I told her in the video, “Today is the first day of your points-earning life.”

She’s also in a good situation with how often she flies American, because unlike United or Delta, American has not switched to a revenue-based mileage program, in which you earn miles based on how much money you spend, not on how far you fly.

More Miles with Credit Card Purchases

Aside from banking those miles when she and her employees fly, she should use credit cards to add to that success. When she reaches $40,000 in spending in a calendar year using the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card, she will earn 10,000 AAdvantage elite-qualifying miles to help her get up to that next level.

points intervention

Even More Miles with Elite Status

What’s the big deal about elite status? Well, as many TPG readers know (and as Carissa now knows, too), Executive Platinum members get perks such as complimentary upgrades, more bonus miles, free checked bags and access to first-class airport lounges when traveling internationally (even if you’re flying coach). If you’re flying a lot and making a lot of purchases, you might as well use these little perks that make travel more pleasant while earning more free flights.

Even More Miles with Partners

Because American Airlines is a Oneworld partner, Carissa’s AAdvantage status and miles count toward travel with other Oneworld partners including Qantas (for travel to Australia, where Carissa frequently visits) and Qatar (for business trips to the Middle East). Anytime she flies with a Oneworld partner, she earns miles that can be used on any other partner airline. Similar benefits come with membership in Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan.

Double Dip with Business Extra

I keep learning more about how Carissa is almost doing it right. In this video, I was happy to hear the good news: She’s enrolled in the American Airlines Business Extra program, which allows a company’s employees to earn two Business Extra points for every $10 spent on eligible fares with American or any codeshare partner, while earning them individual AAdvantage miles at the same time. In fact, I was so happy to hear this that I gave her a solid high-five.

But then she dropped the bad news: Carissa failed to give her Business Extra number out to her employees for over a year. You know what that means, right? Click on the video to see my reaction.

Identifying the Challenge

The first step to change is figuring out where to start, and at least Carissa now knows what she must do: buy her flights using a points-earning credit card, take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses and give her employees the account number to earn Business Extra points when they book company travel. These are baby steps, but they’ll make a big difference.

Tune in tomorrow when Carissa and I will discuss choosing a credit card. There are many, many options, so it’s important to know exactly which card is right for you.

Episode 1: How To Start Earning
Episode 3: Choosing the Best Transferable Points Program
Episode 4: Personal vs. Business Credit Card
Episode 5: Maximizing Hotel Stays

If you or your small business need a Points Intervention, email intervention@thepointsguy.com.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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