The rules of the game

Before you get started on your quest to become a higher flyer, there are some caveats that you should be aware of. In order to be successful and make the most of your time and resources, you should…

  • Have a good credit score
  • Understand the industry
  • Set realistic goals
  • Be highly disciplined

Say you have a bad credit score or don’t know much about airlines and hotels and banks. That’s okay, everyone has to start somewhere! If you’re committed to becoming a higher flyer, these hurdles will shrink over time as you raise your credit score and/or become more proficient within the world of points. The contents of this beginner’s guide, as well as other resources throughout the site, are designed to help you learn the tips and tricks of the trade.

Have a good credit score

If you do not have good credit, or routinely struggle with credit card payments, STOP READING! There is too much potential for something to go horribly wrong. You don’t want to risk being denied for a loan, whether it be for a car, schooling, a house, or something else because you destroyed your credit score while trying to hustle frequent flyer miles. Likewise, you don’t want to pay upwards of 79.9% APR interest rates (the legal maximum within the United States) on debts so you can earn some points. That wouldn’t be a good value; it would be a complete waste of your time.

As a baseline, you should have a credit score of 675. However, it’s best to have a credit score of at least 725.

If your credit score is below those thresholds and you want to learn how to raise it, click here.

Similarly, if you’re a student and/or have minimal credit history, but still want to get involved in higher flying, click here

The most efficient way to earn points is typically through credit card signing bonuses, which is achieved through, as the name suggests, opening new credit card accounts (more on this on the next page). That’s why it’s imperative to have a good credit score.

But won’t opening too many credit cards hurt my credit score?

Yes, but if you’re financially responsible, the damage will be minimal at worst, nonexistent at best. Let’s take a look at some of the basic components of what determines your credit score, and what that means, practically speaking. I’ve bolded some of the most important takeaways (with regard to higher flying).

  • 35% is your payment history
    • Do you make your payments on time?
    • Always pay your bills on time!
  • 30% is your credit utilization
    • How much credit do you use?
    • You should aim to use less than 30% of your credit limit per billing period. So if you have a limit of $10,000, you shouldn’t charge more than $3,000 until after you’ve paid that off.
  • 15% is your credit history
    • What is the average age of your credit accounts?
    • As the age increases, your score will too.
  • 10% is the types of utilized credit
    • Do you have a mortgage? What about an auto loan? Student debts? Lots of credit cards?
    • The more types of debts that you contract, the lower your score will be.
  • 10% is the number of requests for new credit
    • Have you made a formal inquiry into your credit (score) in the past two years for a loan, for a credit card, etc?
    • The more inquires you make, the lower your score will be.

I know that’s a lot of information, but it’s important to note that requests play such a small role in determining your credit score. If you always pay your bills and minimize your credit utilization, you won’t see a significant negative impact when you open a new credit card account.

Your credit score will theoretically rise in the months after you open an account. Your credit utilization will go down as you gain more access to available credit (assuming that your spending habits remain unchanged), and your credit history will mature more.

I can’t emphasize this enough: you have to be financially responsible to become a higher flyer.

Understand the industry

If the previous sections weren’t any indications, there is a lot to know about the “art” of higher flying. To be successful, you have to have some familiarity with the companies in the travel industry, as well as certain banks and other credit card issuers. This knowledge will complement your understanding of the value of your points and your cash. With thousands of conditions hidden in the small print, strange nuances within corporate policies, and company-specific regulations, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vastness of the field and your role within it. If you fail to understand the purchasing power you have (in terms of Dollars and miles/points), then you’re much more likely to settle and not get exactly what it is you want. That’s the opposite of what higher flying is.

But fear not! There are so many resources available to help you make sense of it all though, both here on The Higher Flyer and all over the web. Below is a list of everything I can help you with here!

And if all that fails, other websites dedicated to higher flying are pretty great too.

By utilizing all of these resources to increase your knowledge of higher flying, you’ll be able to do anything you want without compromise!

Set realistic goals

Truly, the sky is the limit for higher flying. That being said, you’ll be much more successful if you have a plan before going in to it. Taking your family of five to Hawaii for summer vacation will require a much different strategy than going on a luxurious honeymoon to the Maldives. Both of those goals are accomplishable, as are countless others for any higher flyer, but it’s a much easier task if you have the flexibility that’s afforded by a good credit score and a knowledge of the available resources to help you.

To set a travel goal, there are a few simple questions you should ask yourself:

  • Where do I want to go? When do I want to go? South Africa for a summer vacation
  • Who do I want to go with? My spouse
  • What’s my budget? $4,000

Once you have that idea, there are some decisions you’ll have to consider and eventually make:

  • How do I want to get there? Which airline? Economy class or business class?
  • Where do I want to stay? An Airbnb or a chain hotel or somewhere else?
  • Should I pay with cash, points, or both? Cheap airfares or free award tickets or a combination of the two?
  • What will bring the most value to me? Saving money or earning more points?

Only you can answer the first set of questions, but the second section is a little bit more complicated. The market is flooded with choices and opportunities, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. When you factor in a number of other variables too, like fluctuating fares, uncertain award availability, and rules unique to specific programs, you might just be tempted to give up. Don’t do that; don’t settle! Use the resources on The Higher Flyer and other websites for inspiration, advice, and information to help guide your ambitions. Then, you’ll be better equipped to set a goal and start working towards it.

Be highly disciplined

To get the most of higher flying, you have to commit to accomplishing your goal(s). Like the example on the last few pages, say you really want to go to South Africa, but you don’t know much about traveling there. You’ll have to do the research and focus on what it is you want. Read The Higher Flyer, visit other websites, subscribe to fare alerts and monitor the hotel scene, familiarize yourself with rules and policies, maybe even enlist the help of a professional if you’re stuck. If you don’t do these things, well, best case scenario, you’ll still get to South Africa, but you might pay far too much and/or have to make unnecessary compromises. Worst case scenario, you’ll never leave home. Neither of those sound like particularly appealing options…

Don’t settle, fly higher!

So, can you do all that?

If you still want to become a higher flyer, then the next page will teach you how to start earning points and miles.

NEXT: Earning Miles