So where to begin:
1) Sign up for Award Wallet. This is an online tool that manages nearly every loyalty programme you can imagine, including British Airways, Tesco, Boots, Nectar etc. You can allow it to store passwords so you never need to bother remembering them in the future, and so Award Wallet can automatically check your points balances for you. This happens typically a few times per day.
You can use the premium version free of charge for 6 months by using the coupon code “pointstobemade“. (Thereafter the cost is $5 per 6 months). The difference is that you can see when your points will expire (and Award Wallet will email you just in case) so you can do the necessary actions to stop expiry.
2) Sign up for every loyalty programme you can think of and store the account details in Award Wallet. To save you time looking, here are the links to the ones you are most likely to need:
Airlines: Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alaska, Alitalia, American, ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Iberia, Korean, Lan, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore, Southwest, United, US Airways, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic
Hotels: Hilton, Starwood, Wyndham, Marriott, Hyatt, Carlson Rezidor
Car Rentals: Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty
3) Follow my blog! There are also other blogs out there including: Head For Points, View from the Wing, One Mile at a Time
4) Follow Flyertalk, which is usually where people report interesting points promotions, however threads can turn sour or hostile very quickly, so you've been warned!
5) Get yourself some decent points earning credit cards. A good starting place is American Express, although promotions vary wildly between countries. Some promotions require referrals from an existing cardholder, which I am always happy to provide.
6) Always buy stuff online, and through the e-shopping portals. Your points will accelerate very quickly! If it doesn't offer points, at least there can be cashback to be earned. Here are a few to get started: British Airways e-store, Quidco, TopCashBack
7) Set yourself a goal. It's no good having a stash of points without knowing what to do with them. Here are some ideas for you:
- More tickets for your money – Do you value more economy class trips or fewer first class trips?
- Your first First/Business class flight
- Round-the-world trip – in First/Business class
- Week-long hotel suite in the Maldives/New York/London/Sydney
- Lounge access before flights
- No more economy class (!)
- Faster airport security lines
8) Learn to use Matrix (especially its advanced routing language), which is a Google-owned flight search engine. It is likely to be your single most powerful tool for finding the cheapest flights. I have written a step-by-step tutorial here.
9) Have fun! It can be strenuous and bewildering to begin with, but your efforts will be rewarded very quickly- trust me!
Other beginners' guide posts:
Getting started with Matrix ITA
A few ways to earn airline elite status quickly