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Earn more and spend less! 5 tips on how to use your points and miles better in 2024

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.

Like many other travel enthusiasts, we make it a point to cross off a few destinations from my travel wish list every year. However, the challenge lies in finding the most economical way to do so. Although many TPG readers often use credit card rewards for flight bookings, some of us are left feeling like we are never quite sure if we’re truly getting the best value from our rewards.

To address this, we made it a New Year’s resolution a few years ago to help our readers understand how to maximize their points and miles. By using your rewards more efficiently, you can minimize your travel expenses and explore a greater number of places.

Here’s an approach to maximizing travel rewards without needing to become an expert in award travel.

Use Chase points for Hyatt stays

Park Hyatt NYC
A room at the Park Hyatt New York. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Whenever I plan a trip, I consider using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book my flights. However, there is so much more you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for — including hotels, experiences and sporting events — to help reduce the cost of your vacation.

For example, you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a Hyatt stay by transferring them to World of Hyatt. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG One Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, but Hyatt points are generally worth significantly more.

For example, 25,000 World of Hyatt points are enough for a standard free night at a Category 6 property like the Great Scotland Yard Hotel or the Park Hyatt Chicago. Redeeming these points could get you into a room that would otherwise cost more than $500 per night on most dates. World of Hyatt gives all members waived resort fees on award stays, which can add to the savings.

If you want to earn fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points, consider adding the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to your wallet.

Related: How I’m spending 1 million World of Hyatt points

Learn how to transfer credit card rewards

You might consider using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel directly in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, but let’s look at what that means for a one-way flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD).

I picked a sample flight that would cost $428.60 if I booked directly on United’s website.

Booking a flight from SFO to IAD

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel through the portal at 1.5 cents apiece. So, this flight would require 28,573 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and redeem for this flight through Chase’s travel portal.

Alternatively, you can book this flight for 15,000 MileagePlus miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees. Remember, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio.

Booking a flight from SFO to IAD using miles

Of course, when you transfer credit card rewards to an award program, you usually won’t earn frequent flyer miles on your ticket (which you typically would accrue when booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal).

Check award rates with transfer partners before redeeming rewards directly through your credit card issuer’s travel portal. It may make sense to transfer rewards to book award flights or stays when paid rates are high or award rates are low.

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points

Track your points and miles

Young Woman relaxing on sofa and Shopping Online With Credit Card and Laptop

Using your points and miles properly is difficult if you don’t track them accurately. Luckily, there are many ways to track your points and miles.

Many of us used to track our rewards manually in a Word document, but this was time-consuming and cumbersome to keep up to date. So, you might want to use an automated tool. One option is the TPG App, which keeps track of all your balances in the same place, automatically calculates their value and gives you a heads-up when they will expire.

The TPG App gives you a snapshot of where you stand and can help inform your travel plans. When you log in, you’ll see where you have the most rewards with the accounts you’ve synced (and the value using TPG’s valuations).

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

Sign up for all loyalty programs

American Airlines Delta DCA

Many people fail to sign up for every loyalty program because they think they’ll never really fly JetBlue or stay at a Hilton. But that mindset has cost travelers millions of points and miles.

Even if you aren’t loyal to one airline or hotel chain, signing up for the program when you fly or stay means adding more rewards to your balance whenever you use the program again. You might even get extra perks, such as free Wi-Fi during your hotel stay, just for being a member.

While you might not want to join every program out there today, consider ensuring you have a frequent flyer number listed on every flight you take. Doing so will build up rewards in various programs that could eventually get you a free trip.

Related: These airline and hotel programs offer free points when you sign up

Use online shopping portals to stack award points

holiday shopping online

I buy items online regularly, but I could earn more rewards on my purchases by going through the shopping portal of my preferred credit card, airline or hotel. These portals are essentially online shopping malls that partner with thousands of merchants. By starting at the portal rather than going directly to the retailer’s site, you can earn bonus points or miles on thousands of items.

For example, let’s assume you want to buy a transfer or tour through Viator. If you go directly to the Viator website, you’ll only earn rewards for your credit card purchase. If you instead click through the AAdvantage shopping portal, for example, before making your purchase, you could snag extra rewards.

Should you prefer earning cash instead of points and miles, you can explore online shopping portals like Rakuten and TopCashback. We recommend using a shopping portal aggregator each time you make an online purchase to find the program that offers the best return for your merchant.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

Bottom line

With the start of a new year, there are numerous possibilities to modify your strategy for earning and redeeming points and miles. By following a few straightforward changes, such as ensuring you have a frequent flyer number associated with every flight you take, you can be significantly rewarded. Personally, I am already envisioning my next adventure using reward points.