The Basics

The Demystification of Miles and Points

It is amazing how many blogs there are in the miles and points space! I know I am just one of several small blogs in the midst of very few large blogs. In some instances, there are many stories that are covered by all of the blogs as they merit extra attention and, obviously, not everyone reads all of the blogs. I read many to try and stay up to date with the world of miles and points.

However, with all of these blogs, the world of miles and points has become much clearer so that there are thousands of people playing in the game of achieving previously unthought of travel for pennies on the dollars. This demystification of miles and points has come to the great chagrin of several veterans of the hobby and the delight of the large number of newcomers to the hobby. How should all of this be viewed?

The Demystification of Miles and Points

The demystification of miles and points happened a few years ago when the small set of blogs in this space began to gain traction with many people who were looking for ways to turn the large credit card bonuses into travel awards. This was a great change because these mileage programs had previously been cashing in heavy on people who were using their miles and points for things like bikes or TVs. 🙂

After the movement began to gather steam, many other blogs jumped into the action and the details and information about maximizing miles and points began to be even more mainstream. That brings us to where we are today. If you spend much time on any of the blogs, you will find many people that get upset about the sharing of secret deals, fare mistakes, manufactured spending habits and other bits of information. This is because very little can be kept a secret these days in the time of information sharing on the internet superhighway. For the most part, the more responsible blogs do their best to keep secret the things they were told in confidence so as not to destroy the possibilities for those who have done the work to uncover the opportunities. Other blogs will do whatever it takes to get the traffic and pageviews so will share anything that comes their way whether it was given in secrecy or not. When such things occur, the people who have relied on those methods to earn more miles and points become very upset with those revelations – especially when it is revealed by people who actually did not find it on their own.

So, what are we to do with this? What is the right way, what is the wrong way when it comes to the demystification of miles and points? Here is one tip – remember that the game has already changed many times over the years. Before I ever got into it (about 10 years ago), there were many great methods of earning and burning miles and points in play. For the most part, not one of those excellent methods are still in existence today. There were great opportunities available even just a couple of years ago that are no longer in existence today (like the Vanilla Reload cards being available at office supply stores which earned 5 points per dollar on Chase Ink cards). The hobby is constantly changing!

For another thing, realize that the miles and points hobby is not the only one to undergo a demystification or have things revealed or changed. It is also not the only hobby to experience an influx of beginners which causes the veterans to feel threatened or as if the hobby is being cheapened. In a couple of my other hobbies, they have gone through the same thing.

Ham Radio

I mentioned before about my active participating in amateur radio in my teen years. Well, when I got into it, there were several different levels of licenses available – Novice, Technician, Technician Plus, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra. Of course, I wanted the best level available so I went for Extra class. The problem was the need to have some kind of proficiency at Morse Code for both the General level and the Extra (in addition to a very minor test at Novice or Technician Plus). For General class, you had to take a morse code test at 13 words per minute in Morse Code. For the Extra level, you needed to pass a test at 20 words per minute. It took me two tries but I was finally able to pass the Morse Code exam with flying colors!

Fast forward a few years and the big organizations realized that they were not seeing as many new entrants in the hobby so they brought a petition to the FCC and requested a change be made. The change decreased the total number of license classes to only Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. It also decreased the Morse Code proficiency exams to 5 words per minute and only at the Extra level. Many, many veterans were upset with the changes as they feared that it would bring too many people into the hobby who just grabbed it because it was easier but they would never learn to appreciate the skill and knowledge that existed before. The hobby simply had to learn to adjust to the new entrance requirements because it was the new system and it was put in place in an attempt to pull more people into the hobby.


The same thing has happened with marathoning. Many years ago, you would not be able to find a marathon finisher with a time of 4 hours. All of the finishers at that point were under 3 hours. It was a sport for the fast runners and not something that was to be entered into by the recreational runner. There were also just a few marathons around the country so it was not a problem of attracting attention.

When more cities began to host marathons, there were many books written and programs given out that showed how anyone could finish a marathon – it did not matter what the time was. This made the veterans of the sport feel as if their sport was to be cheapened and take away the skill that made their running so envied. The huge influx of marathoners did indeed drastically inflate the average finishing time to the point that it now sits at over 4 hours! But, it also encouraged a new generation of runners, myself included, to get active in a very physical way and to push themselves to new levels that they might not have been willing to before. Now, marathoning continues to see a large amount of newcomers each year and many of them stick around to continue in the hobby and to help others.  Yes, the system changed and the veterans were unhappy about the change. But the change had been made and it was up to everyone else to adapt. It has, and is, doing well.

What Does All Of This Mean For Miles and Points?

Change has and will continue to happen. When changes do occur, it is not time to throw in the towel and simply live on memories in the past. It is the time to learn what to do to adapt with the changes and continue on with your hobby. For sure, the ability to easily redeem miles for premium cabin travel has changed – especially when it comes to the ease of being able to earn all of those miles with one or two credit card applications.

Put it in perspective

But the fact that still remains that it is incredible easy to travel anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar of the actual ticket. When it comes to domestic travel, it is still simple to earn the miles or points necessary to take you around the country for just a couple of dollars. For international travel, the world is before you if you have 80,000 – 100,000 miles. That is just two credit card applications (or one, if you consider the Citi AAdvantage Executive card)!

Look for new opportunities

In addition to so many things staying the same when it comes to economy travel, the changes that occur also open new doors of opportunity. Consider the change, or devaluation, that British Airways made a few years ago. Many people were moaning the loss of the great travel in premium cabins for a great price in miles. Now, we have Avios that are distanced based but have made short-haul award tickets incredibly cheap. This allows for some great travel opportunities to cities near us that might normally cost between $600 – $1,000! 

So, as the devaluations continue to come (and they will), do not get discouraged and exit from the game. Instead, look for the new opportunities that may be afforded. At the very least, continue to remember that you are still able to travel for just a few dollars in fees – and that is a pretty great feeling!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.