The Tools We Use (for playing the game). 2020 Edition.

24

The post “The Games We Play,” outlines approaches we use to earn more points & miles, to get more from our points & miles, to save money, and to get elite perks for less.  This post lists the tools we use to help us achieve these goals.

Table of Contents

General tools for playing the game

Earn more points & miles

The heart of this game lies in earning points & miles, usually without traveling.  Recommended tools follow..

Credit card bonuses

Credit card signup bonuses are the quickest and easiest way to earn crazy amounts of points & miles quickly.  We use these tools to make the most of it:

Shopping portals

If you’re planning to buy something online you might as well earn extra miles, points or cash back by starting your shopping with an online shopping portal. Use these tools to maximize your rewards:

Credit card bonus categories

Many credit cards offer extra points for spend within certain categories.

  • Best category bonuses: Visit this page to see which cards have the best bonuses for different categories of spend (e.g. drug stores, gas stations, dining, etc.)
  • Award Wallet Merchant Category Lookup Tool.  In addition to keeping track of your point balances, Award Wallet provides an easy way to lookup merchants to see how those merchants have been coded so that you can determine whether or not you’ll earn a category bonus.
  • Visa supplier locator: Search this site for local merchants to see how Visa codes them.  To get a grocery store category bonus when you use your credit card at a particular store, for example, the transaction has to be coded as a grocery store purchase.  This is determined by how that store setup their merchant account for credit card processing.  Some stores have multiple supplier codes.  For example, a purchase at Target may code differently depending upon whether you check out at the pharmacy, electronics department, or main registers.  Also, Amex and Discover may code stores differently than Visa.
  • Doctor of Credit’s Payment Workshop: Doctor of Credit maintains a table indicating whether or not various purchases earned category bonuses with various cards.  The data mostly comes from reader reports.

Manufactured spending

It’s possible to increase credit card spend and to get most of that money back to use to pay your credit card bill.

Award bookings

Once you’ve earned points and miles, the next step of the game is to use those points towards maximum value.  You can find our series of sweet spot award posts here.

Transfer points to airline & hotel programs:

Hotel awards:

  • Award Mapper: Use this web app to find hotels near your intended destination that accept points for free nights.  Award Mapper shows the hotels on an embedded Google map and lets you narrow results to just the point programs you are interested in.
  • Open Hotel Alert: If you can’t find award nights for the dates and hotel of interest, use this free tool to alert you when rooms become available for sale.  With most hotel chains, you can book award nights whenever standard rooms are available for sale.

Flight awards:

The best general purpose award search tool, in my opinion, is Juicy Miles.  See: Juicy Miles: Finally, a Kayak-like tool for flight awards!

More tools:

  • Which routes exist?  To find the best awards, it’s necessary to know your options:
    • FlightConnections.com: Graphically displays all direct routes from any given departure airport.
    • FlightsFrom.com: Shows all flight routes that depart any selected airport.
    • Wikipedia: Pull up the Wikipedia page for any airport, then click to “Airlines and destinations.”  This will show you all of the direct flights, by airline, from that airport.
  • How much should an award cost?  A number of tools exist to try to answer this question.  Try these:
  • Free tools to help find awards:
    • award.flights Award Finder: This one works as a Chrome browser extension.  At the time of this writing the tool can be used to find awards on the following airlines: ANA, British Airways, Etihad, Singapore, JAL, Air Canada, Qantas, and KLM
    • SeatSpy.com: This is a fantastic free tool for finding awards on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operated flights.  See this post for full details.
    • AA Award Map Tool.  Find available awards based on how much you’re willing to spend.  See this post for details.
    • United.com: This one is pretty good for finding awards across most Star Alliance carriers
    • BA.com: Good for finding awards across most OneWorld Alliance carriers.  AA.com is better but doesn’t provide support for as many OneWorld airlines.
    • Air France website: Good for finding awards across most SkyTeam Alliance carriers (note that the calendar tool doesn’t currently work for carriers other than Air France and KLM so you have to search for specific days).
  • Paid tools to help find awards:
    • Juicy Miles Award Search Tool: This is a general purpose tool which lets you search for awards based on your origin and destination and date of travel.  Juicy Miles then searches for awards across many different programs.  Read our post about this tool here.
    • Expert Flyer: Expert Flyer is best if you already know which airline you want to fly.  Pick and airline, route, and date and Expert Flyer can tell you whether awards are available.  You can even set alerts so that you’ll be notified when awards show up.  Expert Flyer doesn’t help you decide which miles to use to book the award once found.
    • Award Nexus
    • KVS
    • Wandering Aramean Travel Tools: This is a collection of miscellaneous travel tools including a few that help with award searches.
  • Award Booking Services: If you don’t have the skill, knowledge, or time to find the best awards for your needs, consider employing an award booking service instead.

Deal seeking

Often, this hobby is purely about seeking the best deal. Usually these deals are travel deals, but not always.

Flight deals

Hotel deals

  • Current Hotel Promotions: We keep a running list of all of the best hotel promos here.
  • Extreme Hotel Deals: True to its name, this site publishes extreme hotel deals.
  • HotelSlash: Email your hotel confirmation to HotelSlash and they’ll alert you if/when the price goes down.
  • Google Maps: This is a great tool, in general, for turn by turn directions, but it’s also pretty good for finding the cheapest hotel rates. Enter a location, click “nearby”, then select “hotels”.
  • Kayak: This is a general tool for searching for the best airfare, car rentals, hotels, and more. I especially like how it compares hotel prices across many different sites.  When searching for hotels, make sure to log into Kayak to see member-only pricing.
  • Greyhound Road Rewards: Sign up for Greyhound’s free rewards program to get access to their member-only hotel deals. See: Look to Greyhound for hotel deals (yes, Greyhound).
  • Pruvo: Use this tool to get alerted to price drops after you book a hotel. See this Travel with Grant post for details.

Other travel deals

Non-travel deals

  • SlickDeals Hot Deals Forum:  If a good deal exists, it can probably be found here.  If you register for an account, you can setup alerts for specific stores or products.  Or, if you prefer to see all the best deals as they’re happening, try Live View (see this post for details).
  • Current Amex Offers: Many banks offer deals for using their credit card with specific merchants. Amex, though, tends to have far more offers than its rivals and at times these offers are crazily generous.  Use our Current Amex Offers page to see which offers are current before logging into each of your Amex cards to see if you’ve been targeted for any of those deals.

Elite perks

  • Best Credit Card Offers: Many credit cards offer elite status directly or elite benefits (such as lounge access).  This page shows the top perks for each listed credit card.  Look for the “noteworthy perks” section for each card.
  • Best Big Spend Bonuses: Many credit cards offer elite status with high spend. This page lists the best options for earning status with big spend.
  • Lounge Buddy: Lounge Buddy is an app that details lounge options at airports. You can set up Lounge Buddy with information about the credit cards you have that offer lounge access and any elite status you may have with airlines.  Lounge Buddy will automatically use this information to tell you which lounges you should have free access to.
  • StatusMatcher.com:  One of the best ways to get elite status is by asking for a match from another program.  StatusMatcher is a useful site for finding out what status matches work and don’t work before trying yourself.

What should beginners do?

I imagine that this post must be overwhelming to those just starting out in this hobby.  If that’s you, I recommend starting with these free tools:

Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

24
Leave a Reply

avatar
15 Comment threads
9 Thread replies
18 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
12 Comment authors
PattydocntxHugh BabineauxJimCaveDweller Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Can u put a link on the website so this post is easy to find ? I will save it too but this post makes it easy to send to someone interested but I think 99% won’t act on this.
Thanks

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

That’s Good u keep updating the links . I’ve not looked @ this in awhile good to get back to basic’s.
Cheers

Mommatraveler
Guest
Mommatraveler

Nice summary, Greg. Thanks!

Alex
Guest
Alex

Unless I missed it, there’s no mention of DoC. That blog is a must for anyone in the game. It’s one of the few places readers can get an unbiased opinion on an offer/deal/site and the breadth of information and data points is astounding.

5150d
Guest
5150d

+1

Miles Ahead
Guest
Miles Ahead

Looking at this post reminds me how much I have used and learned from this blog. I want to say thanks to you and Nick for all that you do.

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Wow, wonderful information! This post may be easily overlooked and underappreciated. But I know a few of them and I can tell that, with these tools, you can create tremendous value. Will visit each of the website today and enrich my own “tool set” :). Thanks, Greg. You are awesome.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

frugalman
Blogs are unreal if it doesn’t work IT costs u Nutthing ..CHEERs

Acker
Guest
Acker

Greg, This post is a direct gift from above. Thanks.

trackback

[…] The Tools We Use (for playing the game) […]

trackback

[…] A nice recap of some web tools we use in this hobby. Or whatever the hell is left of it… […]

trackback

[…] I’m getting the best possible deal on hotel rooms is Pruvo. And just last week I was happy to see Greg at Frequent Miler suggest Pruvo as one of his recommended tools to use for hotel […]

trackback

[…] recently wrote a post about The Tools We Use (for playing the game) that talked about many of the tools we use to earn more miles and points. In email chatter between […]

Jim
Guest
Jim

Great, great, great! It’s so easy to get locked into one way of doing things that you forget other other tools that are out there, some of which may be better for a given task. Thanks so much for this incredibly detailed and valuable list!

Hugh Babineaux
Guest
Hugh Babineaux

Thank you for all you do….

docntx
Guest
docntx

Thank you! Again, and again, and again!
You are incredibly generous with your knowledge and time.

Patty
Guest
Patty

This is awesome!

trackback

[…] don’t expect we’ll be able to make more payments for 2019 than normal. See our guide to Pay taxes via credit card 2020 edition for more on paying taxes by credit card to earn […]