Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Oct 05

For Beginners Only: Are Miles Cheap, Quick And Good?

Last night, some friends invited us over for dinner (good) and one of them asked me about the best way to earn miles (bad for those who like stimulating conversation). ¬†We discussed credit cards and online shopping to the point where their heads were spinning, but afterward, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the most important fact for any mileage layperson: This hobby isn’t easy.*

Cheap, Good And Quick

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

When I first joined the working world, somebody told me that there were three ways to do things: cheaply, well or quickly. You can pick any two of the above (e.g., a project can be done well and inexpensively, but it will take a long time to do so), but never all three. What I’ve discovered is that many companies (and airlines can be included) generally choose to do something that things cheaply and quickly, meaning that quality usually suffers.

Beginners in the world of miles need to understand the same. Personally, I love it every time a company makes its problem more complicated, since it means that I will have fewer competitors that are willing to invest the time and effort to generate points and rewards. But it frustrates me to see clickbait advertisements that proclaim how easy it is to earn luxury vacations. Meanwhile, loyalty programs are, on the whole, getting less, not more, generous.

There are, of course, many ways to play the game, and credit cards certainly serve a purpose. But you always have to do them well. There are no shortcuts on keeping track of how much spend you’ve accumulated toward the bonus or tracking the myriad bonuses that the bank will offer you. It’s also quick, but only because of the amount of miles that you will earn in the few months after you open the card. Cheap is rare. It’s going to cost you something to hit the minimum spend requirements to earn the card’s initial bonus (Spending $3,000-$5,000 in your first three months is typical.). And there’s certainly a cost to your time.

I tend to do a lot of online surveys, as well. It costs nothing to sign up for the various survey programs and will, in fact, usually earn you a small sign-up bonus. There’s also very little to mess up along the way, so you’ll typically complete the process well. In the past two years, I’ve earned 22,000 JetBlue points through e-rewards, which is worth about $330 in travel. The problem is, the process isn’t quick. Granted, I haven’t always been diligent about filling out every survey that they send me, but it’s still going to take you a while to earn whatever reward you’re after. My hint? Sign up for the various programs in the link above and do the surveys while you’re watching TV.

One other earning method worth mentioning: Shopping and Travel Rebates. You should never, ever buy anything online without checking whether you can get something back through an online rebate site. The bonus will generally hit quickly and the process isn’t terribly hard (It usually only involves one extra click.). But it does involve spending money, so it doesn’t quite qualify as cheap. The upshot is that you are not buying anything that you wouldn’t have bought, anyway. If you don’t already get a rebate for everything that you buy online, please take a read through the Shopping and Travel Rebates page. It certainly qualifies as easy.

Blogging Isn’t Cheap, Good And Quick, Either

And finally, thank you to those of you who check in every day and read what I have to say. In blogging, I can only pick two of the above, even if I aspire to three. There are professional bloggers who do this for a living and are far more comprehensive than I could ever hope to be, so I appreciate the few minutes per day that we have together. I hope that you learn something but, if not, I’ll take “entertained.”


*Note: I’m in stream-of-consciousness mode and have no idea where this is going.


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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

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