Miles & Points for Beginners: Setting the Goal

In the first part of our Miles & Points for Beginners series, we introduced you to the concept of using miles and points to access luxury travel for a fraction of the cost.

We also provided a high-level introduction to the different types of programs that you can use to make this dream a reality.

Once you’re ready to dive into the world of miles and points, setting your first travel goal is an important step. A specific travel goal will guide you in choosing the right credit card and collecting the right rewards.

Choosing the Right Goal

As you think about your travel goal, consider what type of traveller you are. Everyone is different, but this is key to creating a credit card strategy.

Do you want to travel better? Travel more? Travel as a family? Or enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

You’ll want to start by asking yourself, “what do I want to get out of Miles & Points?” Once you’ve got this figured out, you can start researching the best ways to make that happen.

In this series, we look at the example goal of going from zero points to booking your first business class flight within one year.

You can certainly book your first business class flight in within a year

When planning for this goal, it’s important to keep in mind that not all business class products are created equally – a domestic business class flight on a smaller airplane is going to be a very different experience than a longer transatlantic business class flight.

In fact, even among long-haul flights, each airline offers up a different business class product that can drastically affect the type of experience you have.

For example, Qatar Airways Qsuites, one of the more sought-after business class products, provides travellers with extra privacy and serenity thanks to the sliding doors offered with their business class seats.

Qatar Airways Qsuites is one of the most aspirational business class products

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines business class aims to impress with its candlelit fine-dining experience in the sky.

For comparison, EgyptAir’s business class product is considerably less luxurious or private. Also, the airline does not serve alcohol, so you won’t be able to indulge in a glass of champagne or a cocktail while flying their business class product.

Given these fairly major differences, it’s worth taking the time to explore different business class options to make sure you get the outcome you’re after when setting your goal.

To help your research, check out the guides we’ve written on almost every business class product that can be booked with points.

Setting a Miles & Points goal is the first step in giving you ‌something to work towards. Once you’ve set the goal, the next step is to figure out how to reach it by working backwards.

Working Backwards

To figure out what’s needed to reach your Miles & Points goal, you need to work backwards through the following steps:

  • Look at your desired destination(s), airline(s), and route(s)
  • Choose a goal flight
  • Research how many miles or points your choice costs
  • Determine the best way to earn the necessary points or miles

As you work through these steps, keep in mind that the process isn’t always linear. In your research, you’ll likely bump up against issues such as route availability, award availability, price, and ease of earning points that will force you to change or redirect your goal.

To explore these potential issues, let’s say you set the goal of flying to Europe from North America in business class.

As we mentioned in the previous section, not all business class products are created equally, so before you jump into booking your first luxury flight, you need to figure out your priorities.

Do you care most about the destination, or are you most interested in experiencing the best business class product possible?

When setting a goal and building a plan to access a business class flight, it’s helpful if you’re flexible with both the location and the airline.

This is because sometimes the specific city you want to fly to might not have any award availability for your dates, or because the exact airline you want to fly with might not have released any business class award seats that line up with your schedule.

If you want the best chance of finding business class award availability, it’s better to focus on a region you want to fly to rather than a specific city. You open up a lot more options if you’re willing to fly anywhere in the European region instead of only to a specific European city.

Once you’ve locked in your region, you can start exploring what airlines fly between there and your origin. You can use a tool like FlightConnections to easily find out all the available airlines and routes.

Focusing in on our example of flying from North America to Europe, here’s a list of almost all the airlines with a business class seat to Europe that you can book with points:

As part of your goal setting, you need to figure out which airline you’d like to fly with and which rewards program you can use to access a business class seat.

For some airlines, business class can be booked with multiple programs. For example, United Airlines and Air Canada are both members of Star Alliance, and you can use Air Canada’s Aeroplan program to redeem points for Air Canada business class flights and for United business class flights.

In fact, depending on award availability and costs, it may make sense to use a loyalty program run by an airline that’s not the one you hope to fly with.

Additionally, your departing city is one of the largest factors in determining which airline you book.

Since many airlines only fly to a few select airports in North America, you need to research which airlines are available from your preferred departure airport.

Alternatively, if you have your eyes set on a specific airline and it doesn’t fly out of your home airport/preferred departure city, you may have to book a positioning flight to another city that offers the flight you want.

Although this sounds like a lot to consider, we assure you that with a little bit of research and planning, you’ll be able to make your Miles & Points dream a reality.

Now, with all of these nuances in mind, it’s time to start solidifying your goal and plan.

Making a Plan

Once you’ve done some initial research to determine a general destination, and some airline and route preferences, the next steps are to narrow down your goal to a single flight/route, to research the number of points/miles you need to book this flight, and to learn how to go about earning those points/miles.

To help illustrate this process, let’s look at a fairly straightforward example in which you live in Montreal, you want to fly Europe, and you’re flexible about which city you fly to and which airline you fly on.

You can begin these next steps by using Google Flights’ “Explore” feature to find out what airlines fly between Montreal and Europe.

By searching on Google Flight, you learn that from Montreal to Europe you have the following route options:

  • KLM to Amsterdam
  • British Airways to London
  • Turkish Airlines to Istanbul

Let’s assume that all three of these destinations and airlines are acceptable to you, so the key factor in deciding which to choose is the cost and ease of earning the necessary points/miles.

We have guides on all of the major airline programs to help with this research process; however, if you can’t find the information you’re looking for in our guides, you can always create a free account with any airline program and search for flight options directly.

In your research, you learn that KLM can be booked using Air France KLM Flying Blue miles, and that a KLM business class flight to Europe from Montreal costs around 50,000 Flying Blue miles + $350 (all figures in CAD) in taxes and fees.

KLM business class is mainly booked with Flying Blue miles

Next you look at British Airways Executive Club and learn that with this program a business class flight on British Airways from Montreal to London costs 80,000 Avios + $350 in taxes and fees.

Finally, your research shows that Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, which means a business class seat can be booked with Aeroplan points, and from Montreal, a Turkish Airlines business class flight to Istanbul costs 70,000 Aeroplan points and around $120 for taxes and fees.

Turkish Airlines business class can be booked using Aeroplan points

Through your research, you’ve discovered that luckily you can earn all of the above miles or points (Aeroplan, Avios, and Flying Blue miles) with Canadian credit cards.

However, since you’re hoping to fly business class within the year, it’s best to focus on a single program.

Aeroplan points are the easiest to earn in Canada, so you focus your attention on the Turkish Airlines option and find that they have one of the best onboard dining products in the business.

Since you’ve always wanted to see Istanbul, this option seems like the best choice – fine-dining in the sky, luxurious business class seat, and a beautiful destination directly from your home airport.

Once you’ve set your goal, the next step is figuring out how to earn the 70,000 Aeroplan points to make this happen.

Earning the Points

Now that you know you need to earn 70,000 Aeroplan points, you can start tailoring a plan, and your first step in this process will be to learn how to collect Aeroplan points.

You can earn Aeroplan points through a number of different methods, including:

Of the many ways to earn Aeroplan points, the fastest by far is by spending on co-branded credit cards and by transferring points from partnered programs.

For comparison, you earn 1 Aeroplan point for every $1 spent on most Uber rides, and 25 Aeroplan points if you load $50 onto your Starbucks app.

Through the Aeroplan eStore, you can earn 1–7 Aeroplan points per dollar spent at popular stores like Amazon.ca, Apple, Bestbuy, and more.

If you fly a standard one-way economy flight from Toronto to Vancouver and you pay cash, you’ll earn approximately 520 Aeroplan points.

However, with co-branded credit cards and transferable points, you can earn way more Aeroplan points at a much faster rate, so this is the method we focus on here.

One key way to accumulate points and miles quickly is by signing-up for a relevant credit card with a strong welcome bonus, such as the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card.

The TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card earns Aeroplan points on all purchases and consistently offers a welcome bonus of up to 50,000 Aeroplan points when you’re approved as a new cardholder.

To earn 50,000 Aeroplan points through the methods mentioned above, you would have to load $37,500 onto your Starbucks account, spend $50,000 on Uber rides, or fly economy standard class from Toronto to Vancouver 97 times.

The best part of using credit cards that earn Aeroplan directly, or that earn points that can be transferred to Aeroplan, is that you can sign up for more than one credit card over the course of the year, garnering you welcome bonuses each time, which quickly help to rack up the points.

Each Aeroplan co-branded card would give you a welcome bonus of points

Additionally, if you have a partner or family member who you can join your points-earning strategy (often called Player 2 or P2), you can reach your goals even faster by both earning points at the same time and by using the power of referral bonuses.

Whether you’re working with a partner or working alone, signing up for one or two of the right credit cards – and meeting the requirements to earn the welcome bonuses – allows you to easily reach your goal of earning 70,000 Aeroplan points and booking your first business class flight within a year.

As we continue this series, we’ll explore what credit cards are best for reaching these types of goals and how to optimize your points-earning strategy once you’ve developed a plan.

Conclusion

Setting goals is an important part of the Miles & Points journey. Your specific plans will guide your credit card decisions and help you live your travel dreams.

It does take a bit of work, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time, and once you do, you’ll be able to travel in luxury without having to pay thousands of dollars.

In the next part of our series, we dive deeper into the details about different types of points and their ability to get you a business class seat – stay tuned!