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How Long Does it Take to Accumulate Points and Miles?

How long does it take to accumulate points and miles for award travel? Learn from these simple earning examples.

Even though the general answer is, it depends, it’s still a valid question: how long does it take to accumulate points and miles for award travel?

In this post I’m going to first define “enough” points or miles, then give examples using very round numbers.

For those just getting into points and miles travel, this should be of value.

How much is enough?

Defining what “enough” is for your travel plans is a great place to begin for most award-based travel.

When friends ask, how long does it take to accumulate points and miles, my answer is kept simple for their sake and for time. But we all need to realize there is plenty involved.

Depending on what airline you fly, the class your ticket is in, what hotel you stay in, how far out you book, and the time of year you travel can all affect the cost of award travel.

For example, a one way transatlantic ticket to Europe in business class may cost 120,000 Delta SkyMiles while that same exact ticket may cost only 65,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.

For me, I try to fly the best possible product for the least possible amount of points and miles. But the dates I choose and the places I go may not always allow for that.

For hotels, the destination many times determines the amount of points needed for a particular stay. So does the duration. The Conrad Bora Bora Nui isn’t going to have the same redemption rates as the Hilton Nashville Downtown.

The takeaway here is this: figure out what your travel plans (or goals) are, and then use that basis to determine how many points or miles it will take to make it happen.

Earning Examples

Unless you are spending thousands of dollars each month for a business and using a points earning credit card for those purchases, general earning takes a little time. Whether you think that time is worth it is up to you.

And to be clear, I’m not taking into consideration new credit card signup bonuses of points or miles.

How long does it take to accumulate points and miles?

If your take home pay is $2,000 each month, here’s how one scenario might play out if you have two transferrable points-earning cards from Chase.

In this case we’re focusing on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on anything.

Note that the Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash back points credit card. However, when paired with a Chase Ultimate Rewards Points card like the Sapphire Preferred, points earned on the cash back card can alternatively be used for travel rewards.

Our Ultimate Loyalty Programs Guide provides an easy to use chart that shows what partners you can transfer to when using these Chase cards.

Now let’s crunch the numbers.

Rent: $700 (usually no availability to earn on rent or mortgage payments) = 0 points

Auto Insurance: $100 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 150 points

Cable/Internet: $100 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 150 points

Utilities/Power: $80 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 120 points

Fuel/Gas Stations: $100 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 150 points

Cell Phone: $80 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 120 points

Restaurants: $150 (2 points per dollar earned with Chase Sapphire Preferred) = 300 points

Grocery Stores: $200 (1.5 points per dollar earned with Chase Freedom Unlimited) = 300 points

Coffee Shops: $50 (2 points per dollar earned with Chase Sapphire Preferred) = 100 points

Here are the totals for this example month:

  • $1560 spent
  • 1090 points earned.
  • $440 left to spend/save/invest
How long does it take to accumulate points and miles? The answer is faster than you think.
How long does it take to accumulate points and miles? Faster than you think. Image of Palazzo Naiadi, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection courtesy of Marriott.

There are a couple of things to note in this example. The only cards used for earning points earn a maximum of 2 points per dollar and 1.5 points per dollar, respectively.

And in case you’re wondering, both credit cards offer signup bonus points for completing minimum spend.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of opening an account. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers $150 cash back (15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) for spending $500 in the first 3 months of opening an account.

READ MORE: Credit Cards Articles from Travel Tactics

Other travel rewards cards on the market offer a variety of bonus points per dollar spent depending on the type of transaction.

Also, I did not include any credit card rent payment service like Plastiq because the fees usually outweigh the benefits.

So, how long does it take to accumulate points and miles? The answer is faster than most people think. And it’s good to remember that no travel is really ever free. Award travel just means you are using another currency (points/miles) to pay for it.

But I hope this example, as simplified as it is, reveals how quickly someone can begin to earn travel rewards points through everyday spend.

Are you just getting started with award travel? Share your experience in the comments.

Featured image courtesy of Hilton Chicago.

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