Your Beginners Questions Answered – Ask Away!

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miles to memories q&a2

No Question Is Too Small!

Over the past couple of months I know a lot of newer people to the miles & points hobby have started reading Miles to Memories. Currently I have a nice mix of readers who are more experienced hobbyists and people just starting out. Since I try to leave no one behind, I thought I would write a few posts answering some of the more common beginner questions.

Before I write those posts, I thought I would open up the floor to you. Help me out so I can write relevant posts that help you. I would love for you to leave a comment with the questions you feel need to be answered. I will probably answer multiple questions in every post, so no question is too small.

A good example is this question I had from a reader the other day. This person wasn’t familiar with all of the acronyms and “coded” language that is used in various blogs and message boards. While I try to refrain from using that such language, I know it slips into my writing. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch people up on some of the lingo.

I’m sure there are so many other things that you may be wondering about. Ask away in the comments and I’ll be working hard to answer all of your questions or at least guide you to where you can find the information for yourself. Some of this stuff requires a little studying and time!

Thank you for continuing to support the site and for engaging with me and other readers! Have a great Wednesday!

Shawn Coomer
Shawn Coomer
Shawn Coomer earns and burns millions of miles/points per year circling the globe with his family. An expert at accumulating travel rewards, he founded Miles to Memories to help others achieve their travel goals for pennies on the dollar. Shawn also runs a million dollar reselling business, knows Vegas better than most and loves to spend his time at the 12 Disney parks across the world.

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  1. I’ve done some research on Cathay Pacific…5 stopovers, right…and at least one open jaw. But whose points to use to get the lowest rate if I want to start in Sydney and work my way north to Beijing. Most advice insists I start in Singapore. I can’t believe that necessary according to CP.

  2. Should I worry when the cashier asks why I have so many money orders (5 = $2500). It’s happened twice in six months. Different one each time. Are they genuinely only curious?

  3. I am planning a trip to Bali . I am working on miles to fly first class. I live in Michigan , Detroit is my major airport. What airline or partners should I be targeting? I would love to fly Cathy pacific. I was thinking either American air or united. I have almost 200,000 chase points. I appreciate any input.

  4. Shawn, I know you might have this answered in one of your articles, but I could not find it. Do you know which banks will combine multiple hard pulls into one when people apply for multiple credit cards from them within a short period of time such as one week?

  5. Shawn, can you help me wrap my head around Alaska Airlines miles? I know they are not a part of any alliance but they are partners with Delta, AA and british airways. How is that possible? Also should i not be investing my points in any of them separately but pooling them into alaska in a similar fashion as a MR or UR credit card? How do i even do that, is there a downside?

  6. Hey Shawn! I was recently approved for the AMEX Platinum card (first year fee waived) and am considering cancelling my Premier Rewards Gold Card. Problem is, my Gold card is my oldest and most established account (30+ years). Will cancelling the Gold Card hurt my credit? Thx!

  7. Hello Shawn, I’m looking to book flights using my AA miles to Hawaii for next summer. Which transfer partner will give me the best value (least miles needed)? How should I search and Book? Do I need an account with that transfer partner? We’re a family of 4 so will travel economy in order to stretch the miles.
    Thanks so much for taking our questions!

  8. Hey Shawn, I was able to successfully use the $99 US Airways Mastercard Barclaycard Companion tickets for a flight next month. With the recent re-branding of US Airways Clubs to AA Admirals Clubs, do you know the Admirals Clubs will accept the US Airways Club vouchers that came with the now closed US Airways Mastercard.

    Thank you.

  9. Hey Shawn,
    Which Visa or MC gift cards work well with AMEX CC’s spends to be unloaded through RedBird? I need to do a large amount of AMEX spending to get 150k points?

  10. Hi Shawn,

    I am new to the MS world and worried about being shut down by Chase/Amex. Do you know the spend limit of each card such that I can fall off the radar? Can you also share your experience to spread balance across your credit cards?


  11. A lot of travel blogs recommend applying for a business card, without a business identification number. How does applying for a business card effect your personal credit score/if at all? How do they determine an approval? For example, a month ago, I did an AOR but I’ve since learned that the Chase Ink sign up bonus is likely disappearing. Is it worth trying to apply for a business card, if it may be likely I’ll get denied (because of my recent credit pulls)?

  12. My wife and I have several Hilton weekend night certs (from Reserve) and several IHG free nights( from anniversary bonus and the last promotion). What is the expiration policy on these? Do these expire if not used in a year or does a reservation need to be made within a year with the actual stay being sometime later than one year? Thanks.

  13. One friend asked me this question, but I have no idea. Is there a tool we can use to find out how many miles we need for redeeming a ticket from point a to point b on a certain day for all the major airlines?

  14. I’ve been using Chargesmart to pay my mortgage in order to get the companion pass using my SW premier cc and meet min spend on new cards. It’s worked perfectly with no problems. Today I got an error “502 Bad Gateway”. I’m not sure if it’s my computer or the site. Is the Chargesmart site still active? Does Evolve Money work the same way? I’ve never used them and wouldn’t want cash advance fees or any problems. Don’t mind the fee since it’s a simple one step process.
    Thanks in advance!

  15. When you decide to close a credit card, after a year or two, should you try and transfer your credit to another card with the same bank or just close it and lose that credit line? Haven’t seen this addressed for sure, maybe it’s common sense? Thanks for answering questions.

  16. Can I use my Citi Executive card to pay for my husband’s Global Entry application and get reimbursed? I’m not sure if this can only be done for the card members own application.
    Thanks in advance!

  17. I have some Virgin America miles expiring June 30th. I would rather not have to purchase 500 miles for $30 just to keep them alive. The old Uber 800 point deal expired, the Silvercar promo option is expensive, shopping with points can take too long to post and I cant transfer points to my account via I also dont have Amex miles. Any tricks you can think of to get some quick points on the card?

  18. Hi, Shawn,
    One question has bothered me a lot. When I upgrade a card or downgrade a card, how will this affect my age of credit history??

  19. i used to have serve. i would load via cc. transfer money to bank account. pay cc. and get my minimum spend and my miles.

    then that died.

    so i was just about to start redbird’ing

    then that died.

    i NEVER spend that much per month to meet minimum spend.

    so how, these days, do you suggest meeting minimum spend requirements, not via normal daily expenses, but in ways similar to how i used to do it via serve?


  20. Thanks for offering this opportunity to ask questions. Is there a database or article available that lists airlines and the credit cards associated with them that earn points for that particular airline? I am interested in CC that earn points for American Airlines and Delta.

  21. This may need a private reply.

    Shawn, boy, am I a beginner! I started following travel blogs about a year or so ago, and I am not sure what I have really gleaned about MS. I purchased a One Vanilla GC at CVS with a credit cared and had it activated at the register. At the same time, I purchased a Serve Card (no purchase fee promotion at the time) with a credit card, where it was activated. A lot was going on at the time with problems of reloading at Wal-Mart so I never did anything with them and still have them unused.

    We cannot use a charge card to pay our mortgage, and our bills are paid by auto debit from a bank account or a charge card. I do not see the benefit of buying gift cards or using Serve (or others) cards. Do you have to use a specific store gift card in that store? And if you can buy a store card with a credit card, what is the benefit of using that GC in a store rather than just buying the merchandise in that store with a credit card and getting points or miles?

    I know this is a lot to answer. But I just don’t see what you do with gift cards. Can you buy money orders with them somewhere and then deposit them in your bank for a cash deposit? Can you just put them directly into a bank account? I am kind of at a loss, and when I discuss this topic with friends, they are clueless, as well.

    Any info would be helpful, but I am sure most of your followed would be way beyond me. Thanks!

    • A $200 gift card might cost you $203.95. So why bother? Well, there are many possible uses for gift cards, even those that charge a fee on top of the face value. For example maybe you just signed up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card that will give you 40,000 points but only if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1333.33 / month.

      But maybe you only spend $500 on credit cards every month. In this case, you’d be $2,500 “short” of getting the bonus after three months. Buying $2,500 worth of gift cards fulfills your obligation, but you really have “purchased” anything yet and you’re out about $50 in fees. You could then spend the gift card money at your leisure.

      Another relevant MS example would be the Chase Ink card. It pays 5 times the bonus on purchases at Office Supply stores. But are you really dumb enough to buy a $8 ream of paper from Office Max just to get 40 points? Instead, you buy a $500 Amazon gift card (with zero surcharge) from Office Max. That gets you 2500 Chase points. Then you dump the gift card into Amazon and buy stuff on Amazon over the course of the next few weeks/months.

      Do those examples help?

    • Thanks a lot for YOUR effort to reply. I really don’t want to deal with having a lot of gift cards sitting around and feeling forced to use them on things I do not need. How else can you use them for MS? I do have a Serve card that I activated with minimum purchase long ago and have never used as I do not know how to use it as an MS vessel. Thanks for your input.

  22. Shawn,

    Can you unload an American Express Gift Card besides just regular spending?
    I am under the impression that RedCard at Target now does not accept them.
    Thanks for all the great info.

  23. Hi, when you’re going through Shop through Chase, do you get bonus points if you’re buying something with a GC? Do I have to use a Chase credit card to get bonus points?

  24. Hi Shawn, I’d like to request an article on how and where to start planning a vacation. I’ve read tohe first step is to decide first where we want to go. Then look for the airline with flights that’ll take us there. Right now, I’ve got MS pat down and I’ve stashed my CB earnings. I’ve churned a few hotel CCs for points good for 2 or 3 night stays but I haven’t started on airline miles. I saw an article on Singapore Airlines First class cabin and I’m encouraged to save Krisflyer points for that in the next 2 years to experience flying first class. I’d be grateful if you can post an article on this subject. TIA

  25. I would like to use Bluebird to pay tuition for my daughters (yes, two tuitions). I’ve been loading BB with GSc but am a little unsure as to whether everything can just sit there until August, when I write two large checks. Then repeat the process in December. Does BB have a ceiling on check amounts? Would doing this raise any red flag? Thanks!

    • Jan, be careful writing checks for over $2000 because they can take over 2 days for approval. If I have large bills to pay from BB funds, I normally write checks to myself <$2000 and deposit them in my personal checking account, then pay the bills from there.

      Look at the FAQ's on the BB website which says "If you are obtaining pre-authorization for a check over $2,000, it will not be approved immediately online. You will be asked for more information for processing, and it can take up to 2 business days for a decision."

      Hope this helps!

      • HI, Karen…
        I just learned about this process from an online course in Traveling Hacking. I’m still trying to navigate how it works. The course recommended buying Vanilla Reload Cards at CVS with an airline reward credit card (up to $500/day, $5000/mo.), transferring funds to Bluebird, then either spending from BB or transferring funds back to my personal checking account where I could pay back the rewards credit card – all to meet my minimum spend. Unfortunately, the course aired right before CVS stopped allowing you to purchase Vanilla Reloads with a credit card.
        I don’t know this system well enough to know what my alternatives are, and my research is coming up dry. Do you mind taking a moment and sharing with me the best way to go about doing it? I would be so grateful. Thank you!

  26. Why does it seem that people prefer to get $200 VGCs from Staples rather than $500 ones from a grocery store? My guess is that office does have a lower limit, thus requiring $200 max. My other guess is that people like earning 5x UR points rather than whatever grocery bonus. Is this accurate? If so, then I think I’m just better off going the easier route of 5 $500 VGCs from grocery to max out my Redbird daily load, rather than 12 $200 ones from office supply stores.

    Am I missing something?

    • Its mostly rewards dependent.
      Groceries stores usually give you 2X points but some cc will get you upto 7.5X points.
      Here’s example:
      2 * 500 plus 5.95 / card = 2023.8 points at grocery store. (2X points)
      2* 200 plus 6.95 / card = 5173.75 points at Staples OD/OM.(5X points)

      I agree it pain to unload 200 GC.

    • For me, I don’t prefer Vanilla GCs, they are a pain to drain at WM although the variable OVs are much easier to drain via MOs at grocery stores. I buy Vanilla GCs whenever they’re discounted at OD-OM like these 2 weeks where we get $20 off $300 vanilla GCs. I’ve bought a bunch since the first day of promo and have made an effort to drain them immediately. I’ve completed min spend for my new Ink cash and will pay charges soon as they post. When there’s no promo, I don’t buy Vanillas, they have higher fees compared to variable VGCs that I find at the grocery store. I have only one RB and several Serve, no BB.

  27. Hi,
    My MS started in April 2015 & I do 10 K / month with BB & RB, and thats usually done by 10 of the month and I have to wait until next month to start over.
    Is there another way to do MS so as to increase the monthly load?
    Looked into AGC and other stuff but having issues redeeming Vanilla GC & buying stuff and selling on Amazon / Ebay.
    Any help will be appreciated.

  28. For business credit cards such as Ink, if i dont have a business setup yet is it ok to to use it to pay normal bills to hit the minimum spend requirement? I know the terms say not to but what is the downside to doing this?

  29. Hello, I was wondering how to find all the point breaks for HI…..are they only 5,000? I thought there were different levels? Also same questions about Hilton’s program point stretchers……they dont make it easy to find the list of course I could be looking right at it !!! thank you

  30. What do you do with old credit cards you’ve signed up for? I’m sure you don’t keep them ALL, so what are some general rules about when you get rid of them and for what reasons?

  31. Hi. When going through a shopping portal, does the portal know if you return something after you’ve bought online. (Other than a credit card portal where you have to use that card for payment.). Thanks!

  32. I have both Chase Ink Bold and Plus coming up for renewal. I am only planning on keeping one. Would you suggest that I keep the Bold since it is not offered anymore, that way in time I can try for another Plus card after 24 months ? Cancel outright or a different strategy ? I appreciate all the help and really enjoy your posts !

  33. Can you still open a Citibank checking account and fund it with a credit card? If so, what type of Citibank account do I want to open (link?), and which credit cards could I fund it with?

  34. Is there a tool/blog/forum/website that lists the general availability (at least from a historical perspective) of award space in various cabins on X flights during Y times of the year?

  35. Thanks for helping us. I do not have Redbird, I just signed up for Serve, reading below, is that the best choice for me?

    I need to spend $2k more for Chase Sapphire for 45k points, $3k for Venture for 40k miles, AMEX PRG $1k for 50k points, and $2.5k for Penfed AMEX for a measly 20k points.

    I honestly didn’t choose the Venture for rewards, I heard they were handing out 50k limits, well I got a high limit at 22.9% so I will never use that card. So for this card I should just use the 40k miles then cancel do you think? Should I get minimum spend done with VGC and Serve?

    I was ecstatic to get AMEX PRG and with such a low minimum spend I thought the best way to do this was load $1k to Serve using PRG and pay bills? I know I will miss out on the 1000 extra points. What do you think of that strategy? Would you go for extra 1000 points and not load directly to Serve?

    I will use Chase Sapphire for daily spending and easily meet that minimum so no question about that card.

    The Penfed AMEX card at 20k points has a large spend of $2.5k for such a low reward. I guess the strategy for this card would be VGC’s and Serve?

  36. In various blogs and FB postings, I see lots of abbreviations I’m not familiar with. For ex., the previous post contained : MO, MS, GC. Could you please give me meaning of the most used ones? Thanks.

    • MO = money order
      MS = manufactured spend
      GC = gift card

      Most of the other abbreviations you’ll see are for airlines, hotels, or fare codes. Too many to really list, so better just to look them up as you need.

  37. Hi Shawn,
    I’ve been doing the Redbird and Bluebird method of MS, and have often thought about MO’s at Walmart. The problem is that Kate never seems to work with that option, and the last time I selected MO’s on the screen, the machine alerted someone to come look at what I was doing, even though that part wasn’t working (as usual). Do I just go up to the money center and use GC’s? If so, do I split payment? I’m really not looking to go heavy duty, but 2-3k per month would be great. TIA.

    • TIA,

      You can buy money order up to $1000 and pay 70 cents by cash or buy $999.30. Remember to tell them you pay by 2 $500 debit card. I just did twice today and the guy told me I can buy up to 10K but each MO max is 1K

  38. Hey Shawn,
    What’s the maximum number of authorized users you can add to American Express Credit Cards? Is there an age limit for authorized users. I’m thinking of adding my 7 and 16 year old? Yep for the Smart & Final offers.

    • American Express and Discover don’t seem to have an age limit for their AU’s. When I was added on to both American Express and Discover, it pre-dated my reports all the way up to the opening of the accounts in which I would have been age 10 and 15 respectively. Someone else might be able to clarify it better, but this has been my experience.

      • I’ll be answering this and all of the questions here in the next few days. The AU situation with Amex is a little more complicated, so it is easier to answer in a post. Thanks for helping Quinton and your experience is definitely valid, but they have changed things a bit.


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