Travel Hacking for Dummies: How to Use Your Points

Maximizing your points by using them in the right places

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You’ve just scored your first-ever intro bonus, and 80,000 points have dropped into your account. You’re excited. Grand delusions of luxury resorts and first-class flights dazzle your brain until you realize you’ve no clue what to do next. I’m here to help.

The key to travel hacking effectively is understanding your options. The ads for your card probably only promote its own portal, but you’re reading Smart Points and seeing valuations far higher than that. Here are your options.

Use your card’s online portal

Of all the options available to you, this is the simplest. If your card is a general card like the Amex Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Capital One Venture X, you can navigate to the travel portal through your account.

From there, it’s straightforward. The portals operate like Expedia or SkyScanner, showing you all the options for your flight or hotel. Your points have a set value on these portals, acting like a traditional currency. You select the room or flight you want, and the points leave your account. Easy.

Transferring to a travel partner

Using the portal is easy, but transferring to a partner can squeeze more from your points. In your account’s travel section, probably in a dropdown menu, you’ll see an option to “transfer your points” or similar verbiage.

When you click, you’ll be shown a list of airlines and hotels that partner with your credit card company. You can transfer your points from Amex to Delta, for example, or Chase to British Airways. Your points usually transfer at 1:1.

It’s essential to search for a flight on the transfer partner’s website before you transfer. Just because you like Delta doesn’t mean the flight you need will be available or cheap enough. Do your research, find a good deal, and then transfer.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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