Getting Started

Almost everyone is interested in free travel and reading frequent flyer miles sites like mine can be a bit overwhelming due to the sheer amount of information available.  What I provide on this page is a simple 3 step plan to getting started in the frequent flyer game.  Once you have completed these steps, you can move on to our “Easy Quarter Million” and get started earning your points and miles for free travel.

Note: This part will be a whole lot easier if you do it on a desktop computer instead of a phone.

Start TodayStep 1: Sign up for the most useful frequent flyer programs.

This is sort of an obvious step to earning miles and points but since there are hundreds of airline, hotel, and other programs available which ones should we sign up for?  Since the programs sometimes offer promotions for new customers, I prefer to sign up for just the core programs initially and add the others either when I need them or when there is a promotion for free points for doing so.  Click on each of the links below, fill out the information and write down your login information for each one on our Getting Started Worksheet that you can print out.  This part is important because you will be using it for step 2. Please note that we are adding Qantas due to its excellent award search engine rather than actually accumulating points on it.  Also while there is a ton of information on each signup page about the programs, don’t worry about reading it all right now, just sign up for the programs so we can get you started.  You can always go back later to read the promotional materials. Make sure to complete the confirm your email step for the programs that have it as well.

Step 2: Sign up for AwardWallet

AwardWallet is a great free tool for tracking almost all of your frequent flyer and points information in one place. It will also let you know of any points or miles that are about to expire so you can take action to make sure that doesn’t happen. It has a mobile app that will free you from having to carry around a wallet full of loyalty cards and will give you all of your account numbers in one centralized spot.  While there are other similar quality sites, this is the one I use and the one I recommend.

Now take each of the logins you created before from your worksheet and add them one at a time.  Once you have them added, with a single click it will transfer you to the loyalty site and log you in automatically without you having to enter the login information again.

If you have a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android you can also now download the AwardWallet app and have all of this information available on your phone as well!

Step 3: Check your credit with Credit Sesame or the credit bureau’s.

If you just want a quick look at your credit, a good free service to use is Credit Sesame.  It takes a quick look at your Experian credit report (one of the three big credit bureaus) and gives you a score as well as advice on how to improve your score.  Once you get more into it, I suggest getting the individual reports from the three bureaus as we show you in our Credit Repair 101 page, but for a quick look, Credit Sesame will do.  It takes three easy steps to view your information. The following are screen shots of the respective pages.  Click here to actually enter your information, but read on if you want an overview before you start.

A) Enter your email and password (the below is just a screen shot)

B) Enter your name, address and Social Security Number.  Only select the first checkbox so you don’t sign up for the credit monitoring service. Again, the below is just a screen shot.

After you hit get my data, it will ask you some verification questions about your debts to make sure it is really you who is trying to access this and not someone else using your info.  Answer the verification questions they ask, such as car payments and car types, or simply not my information if none of the answers apply. Assuming you can answer the questions successfully, you will get moved onto the next step.  If you didn’t answer the questions correctly, it may require you to contact the bureau directly to find out why.

C) You may have to hit ok on one more screen, but you then should be looking at your Credit Score on the left side of the screen!  If your credit is 740 or above it is considered excellent and you should be able to get any type of credit card you want.  Between 680-740 is considered good, and between 640 and 680 is fair.  If your score is 680 or under, you should probably check out our Credit Repair 101 article to help get some of the bad information off of your credit report. While you are doing that, why not look at some of our No Credit, No Problem articles?

That’s it!  If your credit is 680 or above you can probably just go to getting started earning miles with our Easy Quarter Million Miles program.

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  • Karen

    Thanks so much John! I am learning how to get all this going. This helps tremendously! 

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  • Nelson Maldonado Bello

    Hey John! Don’t know if you remember me from the parties in Miami but I’m a close friend of Ben (the french guy) Anyway, Thanks for all this, really! Quick question though; Out of the list you wrote for “the most useful frequent flyer program credit cards” is it possible to pay one credit card with another credit card through a “cash advance” or “balance transfer” and still earn the points on all cards? In other words what I’m asking is if i have 3 credit cards that you mentioned and I put in 1000 dollar debt on CC1 through BlueBird, can I use CC2 to pay CC1 and then CC3 to pay CC2 so that when I pay off CC3 I have earned point for all three credit cards?

    • TravelWithMiles

      You won’t get points for cash advances or balance transfers (except in special circumstances such as the 10K balance transfer special of the US Airways card). You could just put $1K from CC1, $1K from CC2, and $1K from CC3 all in BB. Then you will have $3K in BB and you can make 3 payments of $1k each to CC1, CC2, and CC3. If you are trying to “float” a debt you could put $1K on CC1, then when it comes due, put $1K on CC2 then use that $ (via bluebird) to pay off CC1, then a month later when CC2 is due, put $1K on CC3 (via BB) then use that to pay off CC2, etc. Not sure if that is what you are asking though. You can put up to $5K a month through bluebird so it is an easy 5K miles if you just charge it then pay it off immediately.

  • Javier

    Do you apply for all at the same time, a few every few months, or pick and choose who has the best initial offers and stick with them?

    • TravelWithMiles

      For people who want to get started who already have good credit, I recommend the Easy Quarter Million and applying for the cards in order. For credit scoring recommendations I would say apply for the first 3 all at once if you are comfortable doing that. Typically Chase and Barclays (the issuing bank for some of the cards in that article) will only approve one card in 30 days so I would say apply for the first 3 cards. Then apply for the last two after 30 days have passed. At the end of the day you should do what you are comfortable with and if the whole idea of a few new cards scares you then go more slowly. This is a marathon, not a sprint 🙂

  • Javier

    Sorry for posting all over the place! If I apply for cards, can I/should have I my wife apply also for more rewards?

    • TravelWithMiles

      No problem, I love the questions! It helps me decide what to write about next. And yes of course! Twice the cards, twice the miles, twice the trips! Just make sure to be diligent and disciplined about your spending and don’t use a bunch of new credit as an expense to buy more than you would have without it. And make sure to pay your new cards on time religiously and meet your spending requirements in time to get your sign up bonuses!

  • JP Campbell

    cool site 🙂 will this approach work with charges and things bought for my business?

    • TravelWithMiles

      Absolutely JP! In fact the Chase Ink Plus which is a business card has one of the best possible earning rates of 5 points per dollar spent on Telecommunications and Office Supply expenses. It makes me hundreds of thousands of miles.