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How to plan your travel expenses by taking advantage of points and miles in 2024

ow to Create a Travel Budget Using Points and Miles

This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

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Why Use Points and Miles for Travel?

Many consumers who tried to book travel this summer got the sticker shock of a lifetime, with sky-high fares and hotel rates virtually worldwide. Even destinations traditionally considered “off-peak” in the summer experienced high travel demand and corresponding cost hikes. More and more travelers are finding the benefits of incorporating points and miles into their travel budgets.

How to Create a Travel Budget Using Points and Miles:

Set a Travel Goal

The most critical step in creating a travel budget is to determine how you want to use your points. Start with a destination and figure out your mode of travel next: Are you more of a budget traveler? Do you want to fly first class? Book an all-inclusive vacation? Maybe you’re more of a cruise fan or want to plan a family vacation to Disney World. Regardless of your travel goals, it’s important to identify them early on before you start earning any points.

Find the Cheapest Way to Get There

Once you know where you want to travel and how, it’s time to research the cheapest way to get there. There’s more than one way to travel on points, and you should set your travel budget based on the cheapest option. For example, United Airlines charges upwards of 60,000 miles for a round-trip economy-class ticket to Honolulu in the summer. But if you book that same ticket with Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (a United partner), then you’ll need just 15,000 miles round-trip.

Account for Taxes and Fees

When making a travel budget using points and miles, you’ll want to account for taxes and fees. On domestic flights, award taxes are as low as $5.60, but they can add up to hundreds (even thousands) on international flights. For example, British Airways is notorious for tacking on high fuel surcharges on flights to the UK. These taxes can add up to over $2,000 round-trip bookings in first class. Most people don’t realize this the first time they redeem their miles and get sticker shock. It’s important to factor taxes and fees into your travel budget and avoid airlines that impose high fuel surcharges.

Evaluate Your Spending Habits

It might sound strange to evaluate your spending habits when discussing ways to budget with points and miles. However, it’s crucial because it will determine the types of credit cards you should get. Credit cards are an essential tool for earning lots of points and miles. The best credit cards offer new applicants 60,000 or more points after they meet specific spending requirements. It’s important to evaluate your spending habits and figure out 1) how much of a spending requirement you can complete to earn credit card bonuses and 2) which credit cards are ideal for your spending habits.

Diversify Your Points Balance

Diversifying your points balance is one of the most important ways to balance your travel budget. You can’t always predict how many points you’ll need, but a diversified points portfolio gives you flexibility if one or more loyalty programs restrict award availability. The best way to diversify your points balance is to earn bank points that can be transferred to multiple airlines and hotels. Transferable points are all most people need to ensure they have access to a vast array of points when they’re saving up for a dream vacation.


Making a travel budget with points and miles can be overwhelming for first-timers, but once you get the hang of it, it’s immensely rewarding. With careful planning and research into loyalty programs, travelers can easily stretch their travel budgets further by leveraging airline miles, hotel points, and transferable rewards.




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