Drew Binsky

I'm Drew Binsky

I’ve been to
ALL 197 Countries Now I want to help you become a better traveller & save money

YouTube
3.3M

Facebook
4.5M

Instagram
810K

TikTok
525K

Snapchat
573K

LinkedIn
15K

Twitter
71K

4 Top Tips for Using Your Rewards Points to Travel the World

4 Top Tips for Using Your Rewards Points to Travel the World

Contents

Written by Drew Binsky

Honestly, there is nothing like getting to travel for free, and rewards points are a great way to do that! It’s almost like a separate form of currency, and it’s even kind of fun learning how to “play the game” of earning them. Getting something at a significant discount or for free is always exciting! I can use my points to get a free plane ticket, a free rental car, a free night in a hotel, and take advantage of the free perks like a complimentary Priority Pass or TSA Precheck & Global Entry. There are so many different ways to earn rewards points for future travel experiences, and I really recommend signing up for at least a few of them. Let’s talk about my four top tips for earning rewards points and using them to travel the world!

Tip #1: Stop Using Your Debit Card!

When you use a debit card, you are spending your money without getting anything in return; that money is just going away forever. Instead, you should open up a Travel Rewards credit card!

If you’re American, you should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I’ve had it for over three years, and in my opinion, it’s still the best travel points card on the market. It continues to impress! There’s also the American Express cards, among others. (If you’re not from the States, there are other travel rewards cards out there, so please contact your bank and find the best one for you.) You can check out where I’ve ranked my favorite travel rewards cards HERE.

Regardless of which card you choose to get, they’ll usually give you some kind of minimum spending bonus. For example, maybe you’ll get 70,000 points if you spend $5000 within the first three months. Then you can turn around and redeem those points for flights/hotels, which equals about two thousand dollars worth of credit! It’s almost like a game, and it’s definitely worth playing. 

I know some people who really benefited from opening up different credit cards, but be careful—if you open too many within a short period of time, it can hurt your overall credit score!

Tip #2: Never Forget Your Payments

This is the absolute number one rule when it comes to credit cards: never, ever forget to pay your monthly bills. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with compound interest, and then you’re going to be wasting money instead of saving money.

If you’re able to make sure your balance is at zero after every month on your credit card, then you will be able to enjoy all of these incredible points benefits! The credit card companies assume you won’t pay your bills at the end of every month, and they make money off of you on the interest. If you stay on top of the game by paying your bills in full at the end of every month, it’s really the best way to capitalize on these points and miles.

Tip #3: Join Airline Alliance Programs

Make sure you join the airline alliance programs! These are: 

  • Star Alliance (United is their leading US airline)
  • Oneworld (American Airlines is their leading US airline.) 
  • SkyTeam (Delta is their leading US airline.) 

Each of these Airline Alliances has a dozen or more airlines they’ve partnered with. Basically, you can create an account with one airline, then all the points and benefits that you earn can be transferred across ALL airlines in the same network. 

For each of the three Airline Alliance programs, you should make an account with whichever airline that you’re flying most in that system. For example, if you are from the US, you could create accounts with United (for Star Alliance), American Airlines (for Oneworld), and Delta (for SkyTeam). If you’re from Germany, you could make an account on Lufthansa (Star Alliance), British Airways (Oneworld), and AirEuropa (SkyTeam). Then any points you earn on each airline will transfer through their respective alliances!

In my opinion, Star Alliance is the best. There are so many different airlines included in Star Alliance, and I’ve found it to be the perfect program for maximizing my rewards. Some of my favorite airlines in Star Alliance are Air Canada, Air China, Ana Air, Avianca, Egypt Air, Eva Air, Thai Air, South African Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. I fly Turkish Airlines all the time, and I get crazy benefits because I’m using my United points for it.

Tip #4: Only Use Your Points When It’s Cheaper

Another important thing to remember is you never want to spend more money in redeemed points/miles than you would just spend otherwise by using your credit card. For example, you might look up a flight, and it’s $1000 cash, but it’s $2000 worth of points. In that situation, it’s better to use your credit card to pay for it in order to earn more miles and better status. 

In all these airline alliances, your status progresses from silver to gold, to platinum, and so on. From gold status onwards, you get crazy perks like:

  • more lounge access all around the world
  • free checked bags
  • free upgrades to business or first class

You want to increase in status with the airline, so choose carefully! Sometimes it’s worth redeeming your points, but sometimes it’s wiser to use your card to earn more points and redeem them at a different time. 

Tip #5: Join Hotel Rewards Programs

For hotels, it’s a little bit different and not as clear-cut as flight alliances. No hotel alliance systems exist, so you can’t use your Marriott points to stay at a Hilton and vice versa—they are all independent. Because of that, you need to get separate accounts for Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and the other big players in the game. 

Don’t forget to use your rewards number every single time you stay in one of the properties around the world! Just like with the airlines, you can work your way up in status with hotel chains. The higher you get in status, the better perks—from free bottles of water and snacks in your room to free room upgrades or free nights. 

Bonus: How Do Your Credit Card Rewards Points Actually Work?

Let’s talk about how those credit card rewards points work. As an example, we can talk about the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card (the one I have and the one that I recommend the most!) 

First off, you’re going to pay an annual fee of $450+. If you travel a lot, that fee will pay for itself in perks alone, not to mention the points you earn. Here are some of the benefits of the card: 

  • Benefit #1: $300 Travel Credit
    You can use this credit for any kind of hotel, flight, Uber ride, etc.
  • Benefit #2: No delivery fee on Doordash
    Every time you order food from Doordash using this card, they will waive the delivery fee.
  • Benefit #3: Lyft Pink Membership
    50% off all taxi rides through Lyft.
  • Benefit #4: The Priority Pass
    In case you missed it when I talked about the Priority Pass in (this article), it is a total gamechanger for international travel! You get unlimited access to over a thousand airport lounges around the world for free, which is a big deal and will definitely save you a bunch of money on food and drinks while traveling. Sometimes these lounges even have massages, showers, or five-course meals—all for free! Now I can’t imagine traveling without my Priority Pass benefits. 
  • Benefit #5: Free Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
    This card covers the application fees for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Not only will this save you hundreds of dollars, but it will save you so much time! These programs are the best way to skip the lines while traveling in and out of the United States. (More info on that HERE.) 
  • Benefit #6: Exclusive Access
    Access to different lounges, booths at events, primary rental car insurance, trip cancelation/delay coverage (if your flight is canceled or over 7 hours late), and help if your baggage is lost or stolen.
  • Benefit #7: Three Times the Points
    You will earn 3x the points on every penny you spend on travel and dining worldwide. If you’re using these cards for travel and dining, you’re really capitalizing on the point system!

You can redeem these points and use them as cash for a number of partners across the flights, hotels, and rental car companies. Chase has a search engine where you can search for your flight and immediately book it using your points! 

I wish I had known more about rewards points when I first started traveling; I missed out on a lot of potential perks and rewards at the beginning (which is why I’m so passionate about helping you!) The points really add up quickly if you travel a lot, so just keep going! If you need more info about travel rewards credit cards and their perks, I have a whole article ranking my favorites HERE

Let me know in the comments if anything I shared helped you!

Top offers

AMEX Platinum Credit Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 points. Terms Apply.

Get Access To Exclusive Travel Tips &
My Travel Secrets In Your Inbox

Get Access To Exclusive Travel Tips &
My Travel Secrets In Your Inbox

Everything I Recommended

Sony a7R III A Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera with FE 20mm f/1.8 G Full-Frame Lens and Accessory Bundle (6 Items)

Sony Alpha a7 III - 24MP UHD 4K Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) - AC-UUD12 AC Adapter - ALC-B1EM Body Cap - Accessory Shoe Cap - Eyepiece Cup - Micro-USB Cable - NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (2280mAh) - Shoulder Strap - Sony 1 Year Limited Warranty - Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS E-Mount Lens
Newly Developed - Full-frame 24.2MP Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS Image Sensor with Evolved Image Processing
Wide ISO range - of 100 - 51200 (expandable to ISO 50 - 204800 for still images) and 15-Stop Dynamic Range at low sensitivities
World Class AF system - featuring 693 phase-detection AF points covering 93% of image area, 425 contrast AF points and fast and reliable Eye AF
Continuous Shooting - at up to 10 fps with either Mechanical Shutter or Silent Shooting and full Auto Focus/Auto Exposure tracking
Details

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, Apple M1 Max chip with 10‑core CPU and 32‑core GPU, 64GB RAM, 1TB SSD) - Space Gray - Z15H00109

10-core - CPU, 32-core GPU
64GB - Memory
1TB - Storage
Details

TEVA Men's Hurricane Xlt2 Sandals with EVA Foam Midsole and Rugged Durabrasion Rubber Outsole

Quick-dry webbing - made from recycled plastic using traceable, verifiable REPREVE polyester yarn by Unifi supports your foot and stands up to abuse
Injection-molded strap - ends for quick and easy grip and adjustability, Easy hook-and-loop closure comes on and off quickly and gets the fit just right
Robust EVA footbed - for enhanced comfort built for all-day wear
Nylon shank - stabilizes and supports your foot on uneven terrain
Best for - day hikes, light hikes
Details

Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Stuff Sack 3-Piece Set (2.5L, 4L, and 6.5L Ultralight Stuff Sacks)

Set of three ultralight - water-resistant stuff sacks for organizing gear and clothing in a backpack or bag, for any outdoor or travel adventure
Manufactured - from lightweight 30D Ultra-Sil Cordura nylon; slippery finish makes it easy to slide bags into tight spaces for better packing
Drawcord top opening - with durable pull tab for quick and easy access to bag contents
Round base - has a reinforced webbing pull handle for easy carry; stress points are bartacked and seams are double stitched for durability
Includes three stuff sacks - 2.5 liter (open dimensions: 4 x 10 inches, weight: 0.5 ounces), 4 liter (open dimensions: 5 x 12 inches, weight: 0.5 ounces), 6.5 liter (open dimensions: 6.5 x 13 inches, weight: 0.6 ounces)
Details

LaCie Rugged USB-C 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD, Drop Shock Dust Rain Resistant Shuttle Drive

Compatible with PC & Mac Quickly and easily connect to the latest Windows and Mac computers with Rugged’s reversible USB-C cable, or legacy computers using the included USB 3.0 adapter
Fast USB-C Enjoy fast USB-C 5Gb/s file transfers, backups, and image browsing
Protection Confidently tackle any terrain with drop, crush, and rain resistance
All-terrain use Shock, drops up to 4 feet, dust and water resistant for all-terrain use
Privacy Password protection built in
Details

OlimpiaFit Quick Dry Towel - 3 Size Pack of Lightweight Microfiber Travel Towels w/ Bag - Fast Drying Towel Set for Camping, Beach, Gym, Backpacking, Sports, Yoga & Swim Use

COMPACT DESIGN - This sports towel set is packable for the gym, beach, and anywhere else you need them. They can easily be condensed in size 4x smaller than a camping towel of the same size.
FAST DRYING - Made with fibers that are much thinner than a standard microfiber towel, our quick dry towels have 4x as much surface area, allowing them to absorb more water and dry up to 3x as fast.
MULTIPURPOSE - Each set includes 3 lightweight travel towels in the sizes 50"x30", 30"x15", and 15"x15". Use them as swim towels to dry off, gym towels during a workout, or small beach towels on vacation.
HIGH QUALITY - Every microfiber travel towel is made with premium material that shares the same smooth qualities as satin. They're also super absorbent, odor-resistant, and won't smell after drying.
SOFT - If you're looking for a packable beach towel or swim towel, give this one a go! It has a slip-resistant surface and extra plush microfiber that is oh-so-gentle on your face, body, and skin.
Details

GoPro HERO10 Black

More Power. More Clarity - More Stability. Revolutionary Processor: Faster. Smoother. Better. The powerful new GP2 engine changes the game—snappy performance, responsive touch controls and double the frame rate for amazingly smooth footage. Designed specifically for the demanding nature of the GoPro, the GP2 “system on a chip” is by far our fastest ever.
MORE STABILITY - Groundbreaking HyperSmooth 4.0 is our most advanced stabilization ever. 8X SLO-MO. - HERO10 Black captures up to 240 frames per second for astonishing 8x slo-mo. MORE ACCELERATION. - Record mesmerizing time-lapse videos with LIVEBURST - Record 1.5 seconds before and after your shot. Find the best pic or share it as a short video.
KEY SPECIFICATIONS - SCREEN SIZE - 23MP GP2 Chip with Improved Performance - 5.3K60/4K120/2.7K240 Video, 23MP Photos - New Front Display/Rear Touchscreen - Cloud Connected, 1080p Live Streaming - Enhanced Low-Light Performance - HyperSmooth 4.0 Image Stabilization - 33' Waterproof without a Housing - Time-Lapse & Night-Lapse, 8x Slo-Mo - Built-In Flip-Out 2-Prong Mount - 1720mAh Capacity Battery
Night-Lapse Video - In-Camera Horizon Leveling; Live View Front Display & Intuitive Rear Touchscreen; Webcam Mode & 1080p HD Live Streaming. Standard, Activity, Cinematic, Slo-Mo & Custom Presets; Voice Control; Portrait Orientation; RAW Photo Mode; Built-In Mounting
Bundle Includes – 1 x GoPro HERO10 Black - Waterproof Action Camera with Front LCD and Touch Rear Screens, 5.3K HD Video, 23MP Photos, 1080p Live Streaming, Stabilization | 1 x Compatible Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery | 1 x Extreme Pro 64gb microSDXC Card | 1 x 6AVE Electronics TM Microfiber Cloth
Details

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack

Meets carry-on size - restrictions for most domestic airlines - Dimensions 21.5h x 14w x 9d IN.
U-zip - zip access to main compartment with lockable zippers on main and laptop compartments - 46L total volume
Shoulder straps - and hipbelt can be tucked away when the bag is checked
Protected rear - panel zip laptop sleeve and front panel vertical zippered pocket for books or other documents
Tuckaway web loops - to attach a shoulder strap (sold separately)
StraightJacket compression - straps compress the bag to a smaller size when it isn’t full
Dual internal zippered - organization side pockets and front panel organization with zippered pocket and key clip
Reinforced cord loops - to attach an Osprey Daylite daypack (sold separately)
Details

Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple devices - Black (Wired 3.5mm)

Apple compatible devices - Applies to: QC 25 noise cancelling headphones Apple devices The remote and mic are compatible with the following Apple devices: iPhone 3GS or later iPad iPod touch 2nd generation or later iPod classic 120GB, 160GB iPod nano 4th generation or later
Deep, powerful sound - for the music you love
Lightweight, comfortable around - ear fit you can wear all day long
Control your music - and calls on Apple devices with inline mic/remote
Details

Top Offers

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

AMEX Platinum Credit Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 points. Terms Apply.

Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Earn $750 cash back

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Earn 75,000 points

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Earn 75,000 points

Explore More Travel Tips

Hacks & Points, Travel Tips

Advertiser Disclosure

Drew Binsky has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Drew Binsky and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Editorial Disclosure

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Editorial Disclosure

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.