Playing the Miles Game – Getting Started with Some Basics

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a session on basic travel hacking as part of the School of Uncommon Knowledge, which Aaron had also mentioned earlier.

Ultimately, I don’t think I really came up with anything new, but instead drew on a number of existing concepts/ideas and attempted to put them together into a simple package to help newcomers understand and optimise their mile collection strategy.

One reason I’d decided to do this was so that I would have a primer of sorts to share with friends who were interested in getting into the miles game – if you’ve got friends who’re asking you for advice, do feel free to share this with them! 😉

Workshop Materials
First off – the slides. You can access the presentation deck used during the workshop here:

Additionally, the handout used during the session can be viewed here.

Workshop Content
Ultimately, a large part of the workshop was spent establishing participants’ personal valuation of a mile. Here’s a walkthrough of the slides, as well as references for further reading if you’re interested.

The BasicsGetting started & Personal valuation of a mile

  • Slides 3-4: Setting your target destination/class
  • Slides 7-9: Quick overview of credit cards and the process of redeeming credit card rewards for air travel
  • Slide 10: Common general spend cards, mostly comparable
  • Slides 11-12, 19-20: Why you should know your personal valuation of a mile (e.g. Cashback or miles? Which card to use? )
  • Slides 13-15: Value of a mile and calculations using retail price – grabbed some info from Aaron’s post on the value of a mile
  • Slide 16-18: Establishing your personal valuation of a mile – consolidated ideas raised in a post on OMAAT as well as Jeriel’s post revisiting the value of a mile

Intermediate – Using multiple cards for accelerated mileage earn

  • Slides 22-24: Knowing your spend pattern and choosing specialised spend cards to accelerate mileage earn; card list adapted from the MileLion Pocket Credit Card Guide
  • Slides 25-26: Some tips for checking merchant codes and juggling multiple cards

AdvancedHaving established your personal valuation of a mile, it may make sense for you to pay to accumulate miles at an even faster rate

  • Slide 28: Listing various cards that allow you to gain miles by paying annual fees, extracted from Aaron’s post on annual fees
  • Slide 29: Highlighting the use of prepaid cards to gain 4 miles per dollar on general spend, adapted from Aaron’s post on hacking your way to 4 miles on everything

Conclusion Quick summary/takeaways for the session

  • Slide 31: Suggested cards/combos for manageable accelerated spend (addendum: at this point in the year I’d probably wait for HSBC Advance‘s 10x offering to be extended before applying)
  • Slide 32: Key things to keep in mind from the session

Post-workshop Thoughts
Here are some points raised in the post-session Q&A and follow-up discussions that I hadn’t previously thought of, or had omitted in the actual session due to time constraints.

  1. Redeeming economy travel. I hadn’t really considered this since the session was pitched towards redeeming premium travel, but participants who were aiming for economy class tickets found that their personal valuation of a mile could end up to be really low, especially if they usually only bought discounted tickets. If that’s the case for you, you’re probably better off getting cashback and purchasing discounted tickets directly!
  2. Capitalising on sign-up bonuses. To be honest, I hadn’t actually thought of including this in the session, but personally I find it a big hassle to sign up for cards, cash in on sign-up / initial spend bonuses, and then cancel the cards 6 months later. That said, it’s definitely something worth considering – the KrisFlyer Amex cards look particularly enticing right now since the 5000 welcome miles easily are worth more than $100, by my personal valuation.
  3. Buying miles directly on Avianca/Alaska. I had initially planned to mention this, but later decided it was outside the scope of the planned session. Still, it’s good to know that this avenue of purchasing discounted premium travel exists – if you’re interested, you should set up (free) accounts with the respective airlines so you’re ready to take advantage of sales when they happen. Here’s Aaron’s coverage of Avianca’s LifeMiles and Alaska Airline’s Milelage Plan, for more details.

I hope this has been useful for you, and that those of you who attended the session found it enjoyable as well!

Louis Tan
Louis Tan
Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to avoid flying long-haul economy. He previously travelled with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stood in for him in vacation photos. Griffles is mostly busy with entertaining a toddler these days, but still manages to continues amusing (and confusing) air stewardesses, hotel staff (and just about everybody else) all around the world.

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Thanks for the session! Learnt some new things! Nice to see u all!


Isn’t the WWMC + FEVO mentioned in the slides dead since the changes a couple of months ago?



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