I am relatively new (a couple years in) to the points and miles scene. Everyone has to start somewhere!
Being from Dallas, American Airlines has always been my airline of choice by default. I mean, I KNEW there were other airlines, but my inexperience led me to buy into their “Based here, best here” motto. And I do like them and fly them more often than competitors (although Virgin Airlines was such a great experience, I plan to fly on them whenever I can!). So I would fly AA, accumulate miles, and would eventually (it seemed to take forever) earn enough miles to redeem for an average price flight to an average type place. Fast forward twenty years.
I am a deal finder in all aspects of my life. Before I buy ANYTHING, I look for a discount code, price match, or just a better deal in general. And 9 times out of 10, I find it. One site I use is BradsDeals.com. LOVE THIS SITE. Brad even published a book that I bought outright: How to Do More and Spend Less. Because I love Brad, when he posted about Chase offering a British Airways Visa with 100,000 Avios bonus several years ago, I jumped on it. I got the Avios miles, but I had no idea how to use them. So they sat in my account for years, while I would occasionally check the BA website to try to redeem them. Oh, I could find a ticket, but BA charges taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges that are huge. I’m not seeing the value of getting a “free” ticket to Europe for $1,100 in fuel surcharges and taxes. In Economy, no less! PBBBTTTHHHHHH!!!!!! So I let them sit, and I stupidly kept the credit card open, paying the $95 annual fee. (Side note: Airline miles and hotel points earned from co-branded credit cards post to your loyalty accounts. You don’t have to keep the credit card if it offers no additional value to you.)
I even emailed BA to complain. (Avoid calling–I hear their phone system sucks more than a Dyson.) No help. But Google came through for me! I searched “how to redeem BA Avios” and found a blog by The Miles Professor. She outlined how to use BA Avios for super cheap mileage redemptions on domestic American Airlines flights (plus $5.60). I was able to fly my son home from Austin for 4500 Avios each way (sadly, the rate is now 7500 Avios) on American, booked on the British Airways site. Sweet! I also booked a trip to Denver with my youngest via BA–4500 Avios each way plus $5.60 ( again, now 7500). Suddenly, I was LOVING my Avios! I had gone from baffled/annoyed/angry to joy and bliss!
When it came time to plan a family vacation, I was able to use Avios to fly from DFW to Cancun in Business for 15,000 Avios pp/each way. So for 30,000 Avios +$25 per person, we flew AA business class to Cancun, vs 35,000 AAdvantage miles each in economy! Much better deal! We did have to get creative in terms of scheduling in order to find tickets: I flew down early with two of my kids (the sacrifices I make); my husband flew later from DFW and arrived around the same time as my son, who flew from Austin. We all flew home on the same flight, and had Matthew catch a flight from DFW to Austin for an additional 4500 Avios.
I still find Avios to be useful, but recent unfavorable updates to their award chart make me less interested in accumulating them without a plan. I transfer miles in from American Express Membership Rewards points and from Starwood Preferred Guest, but there are other sources. Google it! Bottom line, don’t feel tied to any one airline. JUST START SOMEWHERE!