The #1 Misconception from Newbies to the Miles and Points Travel Hobby

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Sometimes, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have discovered this miles and points hobby. My family has benefitted greatly from traveling on miles and points. We’ve visited places we would not be able to afford otherwise, and we are able to afford a few trips each year. Somebody pinch me.

Of course, when you find a great thing, you want to share it with others. That’s the main purpose of this blog.

I welcome questions from newbies who want to get started with miles and points travel. (Seriously, email me at nancy@milesforfamily.com).

But over the years, I’ve noticed a big misconception that many people have when they want to get started accumulating miles and points from credit cards.

Time

While many people fear their credit score will go down from this hobby, that’s not the biggest misconception I hear. The biggest issue is the concept of TIME to accumulate awards.

“Help me find a credit card with enough miles to buy a flight to Europe next month.”

“Which credit card should I get to score hotel points for my trip in two months?”

I get where they’re coming from. If you read miles and points blogs or look at folks at instagram, it seems like people are constantly traveling everywhere on miles and points. They make it look so quick and easy.

And while it is easy to travel on miles and points, it does take time to complete the cycle. For my family of five, I start accumulating points at least a year before I intend to use them (which s almost two years before a trip). The process doesn’t have to be that long, but it definitely takes more than a month.

How much time does it take?

Sample timeline:

June 9: Apply/get approved for credit card

June 15: Get credit card in mail and begin using it

August 15: Meet minimum spending

September 4: Statement closes and you get the bonus

The reality is that it can be 3-4 months from the time you apply for a credit card until you get the bonus points. There are some exceptions, namely Capital One that posts miles immediately instead of waiting for the statement to close. But unless you can meet the minimum spending in one day, you’ll be waiting for those miles to roll in.

If you’re planning to use miles from 3-4 credit cards for a single trip, you need time to space out your applications and time to meet each card’s minimum spending for the bonus. Depending on a lot of factors, it could take at least 6-12 months to get the bonuses.

After you get the miles and points, you may need to wait to buy that award. Hotels may not have award availability for next week, especially during peak season.

Of course, if you are traveling solo, have a high budget for credit card purchases and are flexible with travel dates, you can shorten these timelines. But for most families, it takes at least a few months to ramp up before benefitting from the rewards. That’s just reality.

For the miles and points veterans reading this, have you coached friends and family through a realistic time frame for this hobby? What other misconceptions have you heard?

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