Getting Started: 5 Easy Steps Towards Redeeming Your First Award Ticket

I believe people tend to shy away from collecting miles and points because they think it's too complicated. Well I'm here to tell that it isn't rocket science. You can make the process as easy or as difficult as you want. If you're trying to fly first class from New York to Sydney with a stopover in Abu Dhabi on Etihad's A380, then yeah it's going to be tough to book. If you're just trying to fly from Omaha to Miami for a few days this winter, then things are pretty straight forward.

Like most things in life, the hardest part is getting started. Luckily, I'm here to point you in the right direction! Now let's take a look at my five steps and get you on your way towards your next vacation.

Step 1: Pick Your Destination

Step one can actually be the hardest part of the whole process. There are so many places you can go! How can you just decide on one?! For the sake of simplicity I'm going to stick with my Omaha to Miami example and plan you a trip to South Beach this winter.

Step 2: Pick Your Carrier

If you don't know what your options are, I'd start by searching your route and dates on Google Flights. This should narrow down your choices and give you a couple of options. I'll let you in on a little secret: cheap ticket prices usually mean cheap award rates. For our Miami trip, you can see that American, Delta, and United all fly from Omaha to Miami.

In this case, American Airlines has the cheapest tickets so we'll fly with them.

Step 3: Sign Up For Their Frequent Flyer Program

Once you decide what airline you're going to fly, go to their website and join their frequent flyer program. Setting up an account only takes a few minutes and just requires some basic personal information. Since we're flying American Airlines to Miami I'm going to join their AAdvantage program.

Step 4: Pick Your Credit Card

Most airlines offer a co-branded credit card that allows you to earn airline miles for everyday spend. Once you decide on an airline and loyalty program, take a look and see what co-branded credit cards they offer. Most of these offers are advertised right on their website and are pretty easy to find. If the airline doesn't offer a co-branded card, then you can look into cards with transferable points currencies like American Express, Chase, or Citi. In this case that doesn't apply to us, so we'll apply for the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard.

Step 5: Start Spending

This is the easy part. Start using this card for EVERYTHING! Making purchases with your debit card or cash doesn't get you anything in return. Once you receive your 30,000 AAdvantage miles it's time to book your flight!

All-In-All

And there you have it boys and girls, booking award tickets is as easy as counting to five! As I mentioned above, keep things simple. You don't need to book a first class ticket to Europe to get the most out of your miles and points. If one tropical vacation a year is all you want, then start implementing these steps now.

Oh, and don't forget the sunscreen! You're heading to South Beach on December 3rd.

Now whose actually going to make this happen?