Points and Miles Myths…Busted!

When people learn that I have a Points and Miles blog, they are either very interested, very skeptical…or both.  Most people have a hard time believing that this hobby is legal, that they don’t need to spend lots of extra money to earn thousands of points, and that it doesn’t take many hours per week to reap the rewards of Points and Miles collection.

These are all very expensive misconceptions!  Expensive because if you’re not using Points and Miles to pay for at least some of your travel, you are leaving hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on the table every year.

Bust a Myth

Today I’ll start a “Mythbuster” experiment.  Using a hypothetical example, I will “bust” the myths above, while showing you how to accumulate enough points and miles for a family of four to go on a 4-night getaway for free.  I’ll assume the following is true:

  • Each adult in the family is only willing to have/use one credit card.
  • Both adults in the family work full-time and go on an average of 1 business (or weekend) trip per quarter.
  • The family has expenses of $3,500/month including mortgage, food, and all living expenses.

Over the next week, I will spend no more than 10 minutes per day on this project, because I want to show that you don’t need to spend a lot of time to earn a lot of points.

The getaway trip that I plan will include flights, a hotel stay, and a rental car.  Points must be available within the next 12 months, with a target date of Summer 2014 for the vacation.

Laying The Groundwork

Let’s assume that this family wants to travel to Aruba from their home in Cincinnati.  The first thing they need to do is to research which airlines fly to Aruba, and how many points they would need for a free ticket.  They should also figure out which hotels in Aruba are appealing to them.  This will provide some structure to their points-earning strategy and give them a target.  We’ll do this first.


I set my timer for 10 minutes, and here’s what I was able to do before it beeped:

  1. First I went to kayak.com to get a sense for which airlines flew to Aruba from Cincinnati.  I noticed that United was an option, along with American.  Price was approximately $700/ticket.
  2. I went to the United and American sites to check award fares and learned that a round-trip “saver” flight on either airline would cost 35,000 miles.  This would mean that for a family of 4, we would need a total of 140,000 miles.
  3. I checked TripAdvisor to get a sense of hotels in Aruba.  I saw that Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club was TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice 2012 for Families.  I also noticed that there was a Radisson in Aruba, which caught my eye because of all the recent promos by Club Carlson.
  4. I checked the Club Carlson site and found out that an award night at the Radisson Aruba costs 50,000 points.
  5. I also checked the Marriott site and learned that award nights cost 35,000-40,000 points.
  6. I couldn’t believe that I still had time left on the timer, but I did, so I clicked through on the Club Carlson website to their co-branded Visa cards, then I clicked through on the Marriott site and took a look at their Visa cards.  I had time to quickly compare the two cards, but not enough time to do a thorough analysis before the timer went off.  I’ll start here tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to this experiment!  I’m hoping that I can debunk these pesky Points and Miles myths so more folks feel comfortable getting in on this amazing hobby.

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