Beginner’s Guide To Credit Card Points | CreditShout

Beginner’s Guide To Credit Card Points

By Jack Krupey / June 24, 2019
Beginners Guide

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Many friends and readers have asked us how to get started with points and miles. We decided to create the definitive guide to using credit card points and miles.  

Before applying for a new credit card it is important to understand what your current credit score is and if there is any negative information on your credit report that can be corrected ahead of time before applying for one or more credit cards. 

You can use several free tools like

If you have past late payments or defaults you can engage a group like Lexington Law

Lexington Law will contact your creditors and attempt to remove any derogatory information.  One of our staff members had a few negative items on his report after the 2008 financial crisis and Lexington Law was able to remove a majority of the negative information. 

This is just one example and no guarantee but we do recommend speaking with them if you have negative information on your credit report. 

Part 2:  Decide which type of points to target

Best Type of Points

1. Transferable Point of Currencies

When most beginners think of points and miles they tend to focus on the airline miles aspect of the process. 

While this is ultimately important, in most cases it is recommended that a beginner focus on points that are TRANSFERABLE to multiple airline and hotel partners rather than just one partner.

There are a few major cards and programs that offer points that transfer to major airline and hotel programs:

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Ultimate Rewards points are generally thought of as one of the most valuable points currencies.  The points transfer to domestic airlines such as United as well as Southwest Airlines. 

They transfer directly to Hyatt Hotels which has generous redemption rates which have allowed our team members to stay in 4 and 5 star hotels all over the world.

Chase Bank has rules about how many credit cards you can have and how many you can have applied for in the past 24 months.  The rule is referred to as the 5/24 rule.

If you have applied for more than 5 credit cards in the past 24 months you are likely to be denied for apply for a new card.  For this reason we recommend most beginners to start with 1 or two cards from Chase.

Chase Cards have various bonus categories for spending including bonuses on travel, restaurants, internet advertising and many others.

We recommend that our readers review their spending habits and pick a card that provides bonus points that match their spending activities.

Most readers find that a combination of the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.  3x or 2x on travel and dining,  AND a Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% on all purchases) or Chase Freedom (Rotating 5% bonus categories) is the most efficient generator of points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points can be earned by the following Credit Cards

Featured BenefitsAnnual Fee

Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 points for signing up and spending $4,000 within 3 months$450

Chase Sapphire Preferred

60,000 points for signing up and spending $4,000 within 3 months$95

Chase Freedom Unlimited

3% cash back and spending $20,000 within the first year$0

Chase Freedom

$150 bonus and spending $500 within 3 months$0

Chase Business Ink Preferred

80,000 points for signing up and spending $5,000 within the first 3 months$0

Chase Business Ink

$500 cash back and spending $20,000 within the first year$0

Chase Business Ink Cash

$500 cash back and spending $20,000 within the first year$0
American Express Cards

American Express cards are the oldest and most recognizable points currency.   American expresss has 19 Plus transfer partners which is more than Chase currently has.

The only group that more transfer partners in Mariott Rewards which will be covered below.   

AirlineTransfer RatioEstimated Transfer Time
Aer Lingus1:1Instant
AeroMexico1:1.624 Hours
Air Canada1:1Instant
Alitalia1:1Instant
ANA1:148 Hours
Asia Miles1:148 Hours
Avianca1:1Instant
British Airways1:1Instant
Delta1:1Instant
El Al1000:20Instant
Emirates1:1Instant
Etihad1:1Instant
Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)1:1Instant
Iberia1:1~1 to 3 days
Hawaiian Airlines1:1Instant
JetBluea250:200Instant
Singapore Airlines1:1~1 to 2 days
Virgin Atlantic1:1Instant

American Express has a number of different cards for business in personal use depending on your spending habits as well as their Platinum Cards which has industry leading perks including status with Mariott and Hilton Hotels just for carrying the card.

Our recommended beginner combination is to hold both the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card AND the Amex Everyday Preferred Card which will maximize points for travel, dining, gas,and grocery stores.  

Top American Express Card Options
Featured BenefitsAnnual Fee

Amex Gold Card

  • 4X points at restaurants worldwide
  • 4X points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25K in purchases
  • 3X points on travel
$0 for the first year

Amex Everyday Preferred

  • 3X points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6K in purchases
  • 2X points at U.S. gas stations
  • 1X points on your other purchases
$95
Best Amex Card for frequent travelers looking for status and perks
Mariott Bonvoy Cards

Since the merger with starwood both American Express and Chase issue Mariott cards. They earn Mariott’s own points currency.

Mariott Bonvoy points can be used at Mariott, as well as Ritz Carlton and former Starwood preferred guest properties such as Sheraton and W hotel.

Additionally Mariott points can tranfer to many different airline partners including a additional bonus points for every 60,000 points transferred.  

Generally 60,000 Mariott points will transfer to 25,000 airline miles for many programs but you should consult their chart before transferring.   

Each card provides 15 nights towards elite status with Mariott Hotels as well as a free night certificate for hotels up to 35,000 points per night depending on the card you choose

Chase Mariott Cards
Citi ThankYou Rewards
Featured BenefitsAnnual Fee

Citi Thankyou Preferred Card

  • 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months
  • 2X at Supermarkets & Gas Stations for the first $6,000/year
  • 1X on All Other Purchases
  • Round Up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase — with no cap
  • 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou® Points you redeem/year
$0

Citi Premier Card

  • 3X Points on Travel including Gas Stations
  • 2X Points at Restaurants and on Entertainment
  • 1X Points on All Other Purchases
$95

Citi Prestige Card

  • 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months
  • 5X Points at Restaurants and on Entertainment
  • 5X Points at Restaurants and on Entertainment
  • 1X Points on All Other Purchases
$495

Citi Thankyou Preferred Card for College Students

  • 2X at Supermarkets & Gas Stations for the first $6,000/year
  • 1X on All Other Purchases
  • 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou Points you redeem/year
$0

The Citi Premier and Prestige Cards provide bonus categories for spending up to 5 Times points of select categories such as Airfare/Resturants.

These cards can be comparable to the Amex Gold/Everyday or Chase Sapphire and Freedom combinations mentioned above.   

Citi Thankyou points are a newer currency than American Express but transfer to a growing number of airline programs.  

Capital One

The newest card program to offer transferrable points currency.   Capital One recently started allowing points transfer to certain airline programs.  

While their network of transfer partners is the smallest it is worth keeping an eye on them as they add future transfer partners.  

Capital One also historically has offered cash back so it gives you options to use a card for cash back OR if it makes sense transfer to a partner.

Part 3:   Sign up for Airline and Hotel Frequent Flyer Programs

Part 3 - Sign up for Airline and Hotel Frequent Flyer Programs

Depending on where you live and what your travel preferences are there are multiple programs you should sign up for.

We recommend using a tool like Award Wallet, Points.com, or Tripit to manage your frequent flyer accounts similar to how you might use Mint.com or Personalcapital.com to manage your finances.

What accounts you sign up for really depends on where you live and what your travel preferences are.

We recommend starting with whatever airline is prominent in the area you live and then potentially adding select partners that may share the same alliance as your home airline.

For example, if you live in Atlanta you likely fly Delta a lot.   You should sign up for a Delta Skymiles Account.

In addition to Delta you may want to also sign up for a Korean Air Skypass account and a Virgin Atlantic Account.  Both of these programs also are transfer partners of some of the credit cards listed above and in some cases can have the same flights available for less miles than on Delta itself.

If you are in Chicago or Houston you likely fly United Airlines.  United is a member of Star Alliance the largest of the airline alliances.  

In addition to signing up for a United MileagePlus account you should consider signing up for Air Canada’s Aeroplan and Avianca Lifemiles both of which are also star alliance partners and can provide you interesting options to transfer points and book awards.  

American Airlines Flyers should also consider signing up for British Airways Executive Club as well as Iberia’s frequent flyer program as both of these airlines have unique options for flight redemptions both on their own, on partners, and or even on American Airlines Flights.

2. Airline Credit Cards

While we recommend starting with a transferable points credit card, airline credit cards remain very valuable and depending on your travel habits, spending habits and goals the perks available for these cards can prove extremely valuable and in most cases will outweigh any annual fee that may be charged.

Generally Airline cards are NOT as good for daily spending unless they have bonus categories but provide good value for purchasing directly with the airline and also provide generally provide savings on baggage fees, potential ability to earn status, as well as redeemable miles, and some even provide a companion certificate.

Here are the key cards available for major airlines along with their perks:

  • Delta
  • American
  • United
  • Southwest
  • Alaska
  • British Airways
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone.Additionally, the opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site

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