Miles & Points

There are other strategies and tactics, but the cornerstone of travel hacking is to maintain multiple accounts of Frequent Flyer miles and points. As your balances build up over time, you’ll be able to redeem the miles and points for valuable rewards all over the world.

Keep these principles in mind.

Always be earning. Each month, you should be adding to your mileage accounts. You can do this through ongoing opportunities and one-time opportunities, discussed more throughout this page. Sometimes you can set it and forget about it, other times you’ll need to be more active.

Have an idea of the general valuation for your miles and points. You can often eke out a value of at least 3 or 4 cents per mile. To be conservative, though, value them at 1 to 2 cents each.

Let’s look at a few examples

  • Basic Domestic Airfare: $250
    Required Miles: 25,000 ($0.01)
    Not usually the best use of your miles.
  • Airfare to Hawaii: $750
    Miles: 35,000 ($0.02)
    A good value.
  • Business Class Airfare to Japan: $4,500
    Miles: 80,000 ($0.05)
    A great value. International, premium cabin redemptions are often the best use of miles.

Key point: Most miles are earned on the ground. You don’t have to fly a lot to earn miles and points. On a given year, I fly at least 200,000 miles a year—which certainly counts as a lot. But remember that I earn at least one million miles and points a year overall. The majority of my miles (and those of most active travelers) are earned before we ever get on a plane or check into a hotel.

Redeem points and miles for high-value experiences. Focus on aspirational redemptions: experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.

Cathay Pacific First Class

(Cost: $9,750 or just 62,500 American Airlines miles)

Nearly a dozen times I’ve been fortunate to fly Cathay Pacific First Class to Hong Kong—from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, and London.


Sydney Park Hyatt

(Cost: $800/night or just 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points)

This is my favorite hotel in the world. I visit Sydney as often as possible and always stay here—but always with points.

Under normal circumstances I’d never be able to pay for these experiences with money. But I don’t have to pay with money—I can pay with miles and points.

Ongoing Opportunities

Always earn miles when you fly. Never board an airplane without providing a Frequent Flyer number!

  • Register for dining miles. (See the Dining Dash Adventure, where I visited twelve restaurants in one day.)
  • Shop through mileage malls. If you regularly shop from merchants including Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, and countless others, you can earn a bonus without paying anything extra.
  • If possible, do your banking online. BankDirect pays interest in the form of American AAdvantage miles. Fidelity pays a bonus of up to 50,000 miles in your choice of airline for opening an account. [Links: United | American | Delta]