As students, the freedom to travel can seem so close but so far away. You have plenty of time and flexibility to go out and see the world, but the cost can seem prohibitively expensive.
Perhaps you want to go back home for Christmas but can't justify the expense? Or are you painstakingly scraping together those paychecks, just so you can save up for a Reading Week getaway? Or maybe you and your friends are dreaming of having a sizzler of a graduation trip?
Add the spectre of student loans into the mix, and it can feel even more daunting to shell out thousands or dollars for flights and accommodation. But what if there were a better way?
The Beauty of Miles & Points
Imagine being able to save 80% or more on the out-of-pocket costs for your travel.
Say you had a certain travel budget for the whole year, which is enough for one trip at some point during the year. Now imagine that instead of just one trip, you were able to visit your family back home over the holidays, then catch some rays during Reading Week, and go travelling during the summer. And if you play your cards right, you might even get to fly up front in the fancy seats.
How's this possible, you ask? Well, no matter what's on your horizon – a weekend in Vegas, a Caribbean retreat with your partner, or a summer backpacking trip – collecting credit card points can help you slash the cost of travel beyond your wildest imagination.
Now it's very important that I provide a brief disclaimer here. Strong personal finance habits are absolutely key if you want to play the credit card rewards game and win. If you're in the habit of keeping a credit card balance (i.e., having credit card debt) and paying monthly interest, you're already losing!
If opening lots of credit cards will tempt you to max those cards out, then this isn't the game for you – yet. Set your spending habits straight, and if you really need to borrow, try to get a student line of credit, which are much better for your financial health than high-interest credit cards.
The flip side is that if you do have good financial habits and you intend to keep it that way, collecting credit card points will naturally help you refine those habits and set you in good stead for the rest of your life. That's a pretty great side-effect in addition to all the cheap travel you'll be enjoying!
How It Works
"But Ricky," I hear you cry, "I'm a broke student! I spend like $100 a month because I usually have a teaspoon of olive oil for dinner. How will I ever get enough points for free flights?"
Here's the secret: you don't have to be a big spender in order to earn hundreds of thousands of points. That's because credit card issuers will offer you huge welcome bonuses just for signing up for a card, and these bonuses add up quickly.
The idea is to hit up as many offers as you can find, snagging the signup bonus each time. Before long you'll have enough points for a business class flight to Europe or Asia, and you'll only have to pay the $100 or so in taxes and fees.
For example, by signing up for just two credit cards, the American Express Gold Rewards Card and the American Express Business Gold Card – both of whose annual fees are waived for the first year – you'll have enough points for a round-trip flight to Asia in economy class, and just a handful of points short of a round-trip flight to Europe in business class. A couple more cards and you can cover all your hotel expenses as well.
You just keep doing this. And you keep travelling.
Now of course, if Miles & Points were as easy as your midterms, then everyone would be doing it and the rewards programs would probably go bankrupt. In reality, getting "good" at this requires a fair bit of reading and learning.
But if you've made it to this page, you're already one of the lucky few. That's because I've learned everything there is to know about Miles & Points over the last few years, and I'm eager to share all my knowledge with you on this site.
You might say that I've "walked the walk": I've signed up for dozens of credit cards, only to watch my credit score actually increase. I've flown myself and my loved ones around the world in business class. I've had some delightful travel experiences – from soaking in the sun in St. Kitts to cozy getaways on the West Coast.
And best of all? I was a student myself as recently as last year. Before I discovered the world of rewards points, I had thought I could only have these experiences once I started working full-time and saving up lots of money. It's pretty unbelievable how wrong I was.
So that's the basis on which I can promise to help you achieve the same. I've written a lot of resources and guides to help you earn and spend your points, but in truth, the biggest benefit is that you can easily reach me via a simple Contact form and ask me anything about the process.
Believe me, I want to help spread the joy of travel as far and wide as possible. Catching the travel bug early on in my life is one of the things I'm most grateful for, and I'd be overjoyed if I could help some of you guys do the same.
The best place to start reading is the Miles & Points Intro series on this site. It walks you through the following:
From there, head on to the rest of the Miles & Points content for more advice on the best ways to earn and redeem points. You can find some travel inspiration if you're unsure of where you'd like to go, and you can also take a look at my reviews for examples of the luxurious travel experiences at your fingertips.
Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone who hears about this stuff for the first time inevitably has lots of questions, and that's a great thing because asking many questions is the only way to sharpen your skills in this game. A few of these beginners' questions are particularly pertinent to students, so I'll address the common ones here.
Don't you need to have a certain annual income to sign up for these cards?
This is true for some credit cards, but the amazing news is that American Express, which offers the best bonuses by far, recently relaxed their lending requirements, and now you don't need any minimum income to sign up for Amex cards! This opens the door up to so many more students to join the game and reap the rewards.
Doesn't this affect my credit score?
There's lots of misconceptions on how your credit score is calculated, so read my post All About Credit Scores to get a better understanding of how credit actually works. The gist of it is that while applying for lots of credit cards generally lowers your score by a few points, if you can use all these cards responsibly, that actually improves your score by a greater margin, offsetting any negative impact.
Aren't credit card points actually useless because of blackout dates / expiring points / hefty fuel surcharges?
Some points programs get a bad rap, and the media loves to bash them by publishing stories of people who thought they would be getting free flights but end up not getting what they wanted. But the plain and simple truth is that those people didn't do their research on how to get the most out of the programs. You, on the other hand, have everything you need to know right here at your fingertips!
- Do I have to be a mathematical wizard to succeed at this?
Can you add, subtract, multiply, and divide? Then you're good 😊 I would say that strong organizational skills are more important to have, since you need to keep track of things carefully to avoid paying unnecessary fees or having your hard-earned points expire on you.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Miles & Points. I've done it many times over, but I'm still in disbelief that it's possible to fly around the world in unparalleled luxury for a fraction of the cost. As a student, you have the time and flexibility to travel the world that working professionals can only dream of. And by collecting credit card points, you'll have the means to do it as well. So have a look around, and if you're still on the fence, just drop me a comment to get in touch and I'd be happy to answer any questions!