Timing of Earning Credit Card Points and Miles


Planning to take your family on a vacation this summer with credit cards and points? I hope you are already working on a plan; if not, time to get going! Do you want to spend the holidays next year somewhere warm, like Hawaii or Mexico? If so, it is important to begin earning on a card anywhere from 6-12 months before you go on the trip, especially if you are taking a family.  It’s all about timing with earning credit card points and miles. It is imperative to start early.

Recently, a reader wanted to know (in September) how they could earn points and miles for a Christmas trip. I hated telling them they were late if they wanted to make this trip happen for this year.

You need to know some timing issues about credit card points and miles.



Let’s talk about how long it takes to get points/miles. For some people, it takes some time just to decide what card to get. Pulling the plug on that decision can cause a lot of analysis paralysis. Don’t let this stand in your way. We offer free credit card consultations and can help you find the best card for you. Alternatively, you can always check out our best cards page.

Once you’ve decided and applied, you usually have to wait a week or so for your card to arrive. Once you get it, it takes 2-3 months to meet the minimum spend on the card (this varies based on how quickly you meet the minimum spend). Once you meet the spending requirement, the points will typically show up when your statement closes on the month you met the requirement. Sometimes it can take about 4 months until you have those points ready to book.

That is why we always encourage people to plan ahead. It helps if you continually try to meet the minimum spend on a credit card, and then you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. I love that I have a great stockpile of points! It has really freed up the process of planning for a trip. I can literally go anywhere at the last minute.


Holiday and Summer Travel

When you talk about holiday travel and summer travel, to a lesser degree, timing with credit card points and miles becomes even more important. Trying to find and book holiday travel is harder and sometimes costs more points. You definitely want to plan a year out and have some points already for those Christmas vacations. It is not impossible, just more expensive and definitely more difficult if it is last minute.



Booking Flights and Hotels

Start the booking process as soon as you have your points or miles. I know for certain destinations and points usages, you have to book as soon as they release award travel. For instance, I wanted to go to Tokyo (when it opens up) using ANA (AMEX transfer partner) miles because it is so cheap that way. Those award spaces in business class are grabbed right away, so I booked that a year out. However, I have had great luck booking business classes with United Airlines very close to travel (sometimes for more miles) because they open up more seats.

Hotels in Hawaii are hard to find in the summer if you wait to book for later.  I would always book as soon as I could for those. Don’t be disappointed when you can’t find award flights or free hotel stays when you wait to book them. Timing is everything with award redemptions. Don’t give up when you don’t find availability, though, keep checking, and maybe you’ll find something if people cancel. A great resource for finding seemingly unbookable hotel dates is Open Hotel Alert. It has worked time after time for me.


Don’t Be Discouraged

Although there are some time restraints with earning and then using credit card points and miles, there are great redemptions. I have traveled all over the world in business class seats at times and stayed at great hotels. Flexibility really improves your chances of finding the right booking for you.

Sometimes last-minute works to your advantage as airlines open up more seats they haven’t sold yet.  Again,  flexibility is key.


Bottom Line

Timing with using credit card points and miles is real. You need to have enough time to earn your points before using them. Finding award availability depends on the time you want to travel. The more signup bonuses you get, the more points you have to work with, and your odds of finding award travel will increase.

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