Before you begin applying for travel credit cards that are offering lucrative travel rewards, you need to create accounts with the various airline and hotel chains who offer the miles/points. You have to do this so you can track what you earn and effectively manage the rewards.
For example, before you begin applying for an American Airlines (AA) Citi credit card, you need to make an American Airlines online account. You’ll keep the AA account open forever, and it will be used to collect all of your AA miles (including any future miles earned). And for most of these companies, you’ll actually put your online account number on the related credit card application. This is what ties the credit card (and rewards/miles/points) to your specific account. This enables you to make credit card decisions while still maintaining the rewards for later use.
After you make these accounts, write down the username/password combinations somewhere and save it. You’ll probably forget some of these over time.
Please note that this list is not conclusive. There may be others that you come across and decide to apply for those awards. These are just most of the majors and should get you started.
Keeping Points Alive
The reason creating these accounts is so important is that you can accrue large amounts of miles/points over time. As I said above, these accounts are independent of your credit cards.
Think of it like this, the credit cards provide the miles or points, which are deposited into your loyalty accounts. You won’t keep all credit cards open forever, so they loyalty accounts allow you to maintain your rewards regardless of your decision to open, close, or maintain each credit card.
Most miles that are deposited into your account will be good for 18-24 months. You can extend the life of all points or miles by showing activity, like making a purchase, or redeeming your rewards.
There is one exception that you need to understand. There are different rules with points issued by banks such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Thank You points. If you cancel your card that has a balance of these points, you will forfeit them forever.
In order to prevent that problem, you have 3 options:
- Use the points before you cancel the card
- Transfer to another card/account issued by the same bank (usually another card you own or a spouse/relative).
- Transfer to another account. (Most points can be transferred to other airlines/hotels and kept for later use.)
Before you begin accruing millions of miles to be used on your dream vacation, take some time to set up the proper accounts and processes.
You’ll thank me later when you’re traveling the world for next to nothing.