Welcome CNN Readers — Here’s How To Get Started!

Filed Under: Media

There have been tens of thousands of new readers checking out the site, and the most common question has been “how do I get started?”

It’s “business as usual” here on the blog, though I did want to make a post at least answering some of the most common questions and pointing people in the right direction.

Do I really live in hotels?

Yep, and airplanes, and the occasional trip to see my parents.

This makes sense for me because I was already traveling 20+ days a month. After doing the math I realized how much I was paying in terms of rent, utilities, car insurance, etc., for the other week (or so), and giving up my apartment became the obvious answer.

I traded in my apartment for the Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment 😉

Travel isn’t free

Travel costs money. Period. And as someone who lives in hotels full time and flies 400,000+ miles per year, I can assure you it actually costs me a lot of money.

However, there are so many opportunities to enjoy truly amazing experiences while spending significantly less than you might think. I’ve reviewed hundreds of flights and hotel stays on this blog, and in the introduction post to each trip report I provide an exact breakdown of how many miles each award ticket costs.

My hope is that by having an example of how relatively few miles are required for this kind of travel that you’ll be inspired to travel more often, and more comfortably. The fact is that there’s tons of value to be had from getting into the miles & points world, even though travel still won’t ever be “free.”

Put another way, I guess my hope is that you can fly this:

Emirates A380 first class

Emirates A380 first class shower spa

For less than the cost of this:

Emirates A380 economy class

Getting started in the game

If you’re new to miles and points, you’ll want to check out the Beginner’s Guide. It’s a long read, and you’ll have questions. That’s okay — there’s a lot to learn.

Beyond that, I regularly compile tutorials on how to earn and redeem miles, how to negotiate frequent flyer programs, and more. Make sure to check out the Tips & Tutorials section for an overview.

If you want to see what all these miles and points get you, check out my Trip Report Index to see my reviews of hotels and airlines around the world. If there’s a first class cabin you’ve always wanted to try, or a hotel you’ve always wanted to visit, there may be a way of getting there on points, so browse or linger in the trip reports and start dreaming of your next trip.


If you have a travel-related question that you can’t find an answer to otherwise, check out the Ask Lucky forum, and between myself, my contributors, and fellow mileage nuts, we’ll do our best to answer!

Earning miles through credit cards

Like most savvy mileage nuts, I earn through a combination of credit card bonuses, flying, strategically purchasing miles, and taking advantage of every promotion out there. Simply put, I don’t make a single decision on a day-to-day basis without considering the mileage implications.

I earn well over a million miles per year, which I don’t think is really unattainable for most. All of the techniques I use are within the terms and conditions of the various programs — it’s about knowing the rules, not breaking them.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through utilizing the right credit cards — both for the often generous sign-up offers, and the bonuses on everyday spend.

If you’re based in the U.S. (or can take advantage of financial products here), check out these pages after reading through the Beginner’s Guide:

International readers: don’t despair! There are miles-earning cards in other countries as well, you just need to be more selective.

Buying miles can make sense too

What if you don’t usually travel a lot for work, and/or aren’t in the US with a good credit score?

Well, in many cases airlines will sell miles at a discount, which can represent a fantastic value. When airlines sell miles at a discount, they typically retail for somewhere between 1.3 and 2.2 cents each.

Several programs sell miles consistently, and if you place any value on getting someplace comfortably there’s a lot of opportunity here. Programs like Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, and Starwood Preferred Guest routinely sell miles at compelling rates.

Those might seem like a random smattering of programs, but keep in mind that airlines have partnerships, so you can always redeem the miles you buy on partner airlines. That’s what makes buying points such a great deal.

You can buy Alaska miles and then redeem them for Cathay Pacific first class.


You can buy American miles and redeem them for Qatar Airways first class.


You can buy Avianca LifeMiles and redeem them for Lufthansa first class.

Lufthansa-First-Class-747 - 8

Keep in mind that programs sell miles with some frequency, so you really don’t need to speculatively buy them. If you can think of a good use in the near term then by all means buy them. If you can’t, then don’t… generally.

One other important thing to keep in mind is that there are two sides of the redemption equation. It’s not just a function of how many miles an airline charges, but also what award availability is like. In other words, you’ll want to research award availability before you buy miles based on a certain redemption opportunity.

What you’ll find on OMAAT

The core of what I write about is miles and points. Everything from how to earn them, to how best to use them, to the fluctuations in the travel industry that influence loyalty programs. I’m also a serious aviation geek, so you’ll see announcements of new routes, products, reconfigurations, and so forth.

Essentially, if it’s even remotely related to travel, either myself or one of my contributors will likely cover it here.

You can stay updated on the latest in the travel industry, from promotions to program changes to mergers, by subscribing to my free daily newsletter.

You can also like One Mile at a Time on Facebook, or follow my travels on Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for reading and welcome!

  1. Just wanted to say congratulations on the article! Noticed it on my usual daily check on CNN. Glad to see your story on a main news site.

    I have been an avid follower of your blog for years now. Usually my first place to check for anything miles or points related. First learned about the miles & points game from my friend Jimmy whom I think you even know. Anyway thanks for your contributions and congratz!

  2. For the love of all that’s good, please stop trying to push this ridiculous “The Hobby” and “Hobbyists” stuff. No one says it except you and the people writing these articles at your behest. I’m embarrassed for you.

    Also you should know that the above terms have an already-established, and not all that uncommon, slang usage – regarding men frequenting brothels and prostitutes. It’s not a label one should be eager to apply!

  3. @Eric: Perhaps Ben edited his article in the 17 minutes between when you commented and when I read it, but I don’t see the word “hobby” in Ben’s post at all.

    But anyway … Seriously? I’ve *never* heard the use of “hobby” that you reference, and of course in many contexts people refer to “our hobby”–geocaching, trainspotting, coin collecting, whatever. If I were uncharitable, I would suspect that you think it’s associated with brothels and prostitutes because that’s the context in which you most often use and hear it, but in any case it’s very far from widespread usage.

  4. I too found you today while searching Travel on CNN. I’m mentally planning my escapes from work in 2016. What I’m sure lots of people wonder is 1. how do you make a living to pay for all this travel? and 2. these credit cards want you to spend $3,000 in 3 months, what do people with minimal expenses do? I can’t pay my rent with a credit card!

    Thank you for all your posts. And good luck.

  5. What do you do when you fly to all these locations? It can’t be all for vacation purposes. Do you work in the destinations you are flying to?

  6. @noc – no it’s not for work, he has rich parents so he can go on holiday all year.

    And I’m guessing we’re now going to get a ton of credit card referrals and the ‘quick trip report’ is now on the back burner.

  7. Congratulations on the well deserved publicity! You and your team behind OMAAT are wonderful and it’s helped me fly on some fantastic products. Thanks!

  8. @ Eric – I had to use Urban Dictionary to find such a definition of “the hobby” and it looks as if only men who make a lifestyle out of patronizing escorts call prostitution “the hobby” and johns “hobbyists.” Are you a “hobbyist” yourself?

  9. Well say good bye to award availability in the near future ! as thousands of people start getting credit cards and buying miles!

  10. I love how you let media publish ridiculous statements that ‘you live in first class flights’, ‘travel is free’, etc. And then your first post actually clarifies that.

    You’ve become a big sleazeball. Grow up.

  11. @ Lisa. 1) A lot of it is through Credit Card referrals from newbies. 2) don’t sign up for a credit card with a high spend or annual fee if you do not know what you are doing

  12. Shut the **** up Tyler, Steve, Kyle.

    You three are absolutely wrong.

    Kyle and Noc, he has a business which is called Points Pros. Most of the regular writers at OMAAT work there.
    They help you buy tickets using miles.

    Get your ******* facts right, Kyle.

  13. This whole miles and points thing is basically a Ponzi scheme. The system breaks down if too many people take advantage of it. Lucky is good at what he does, but ultimately someone has to pay for all of this. This isn’t creating anything of value, it’s just shifting costs around.

    What’s the end game? It would be pretty pointless if *everyone* was in the Priority Boarding lane!

  14. Thanks for encouraging thousands more to compete for redemptions, as well as increase aggregate demand for intro credit card offers… which must encourage cc companies to decrease their offers….bleh

  15. Cogswell, well said.

    These travel blogs have passed the point of marginal value to almost no value for frequent flyers. It’s great for the “tens of thousands” of CNN people that fly once or twice a year, but it’s just another further decline in the whole deteriorating experience for the frequent-flier. I look forward to even more competition with the leisure traveler, who makes their reservation 6 months in advance, for the 1 remaining seat in Comfort+.

    I am returning home today from what seems like my 50th business trip this year and even before I read this article, as I’m going through another lousy airport experience, I was thinking to myself I am so over this whole travel thing.

    PS: This is a sensitive subject alert…….but is it just me or has the number of wheel chairs and pre-boards become astronomical in the past 5 years? My inbound flight today arrived and after seemingly everyone de-planed, there was an announcement that one passenger was still on board and that they could not get him off the plane except for a special wheelchair. So a plane full of people waited an additional 15 minutes in the boarding area to get the last passenger off the plane. How is this not a massive safety issue if the plane ever needed to be evacuated emergency?

  16. @Legoboyvdlp says:
    December 2, 2015 at 4:02 pm
    Shut the **** up Tyler, Steve, Kyle.

    Get your ******* facts right
    Legoboy, internet tough guy, the credit card referral fees are a fact. Ben earns money from the credit cards he promotes. Ben makes that very clear. It’s why the second link on the banner after “Start Here” is “Best Credit Cards”. It’s why it is stated in a disclosure on the website. The only aspect of the credit card relationship that he is opaque about is how much money comes from the credit cards vs. points pros vs. website ads vs. product placement/comped travel vs. parents. That’s his prerogative. But it is a fact. Feel free to get your own facts straight tough guy.

  17. Never understood why people get so butthurt about the credit card referral links. Without an online “Hobbyist” community, most of us would have no idea about the various credit card offers. And without those, there’s nothing to allow people like me — a public schoolteacher — to travel the world in business and first class. So how could I begrudge Ben getting a cut, especially when it doesn’t come out of my end?

  18. I love how people think Lucky has rich parents who give him money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Congrats to Lucky on the successful business he has built. I think the haters are just jealous. Articles like this won’t hurt “the hobby”. The main thing hurting it lately is the improving economy which has been making airlines and hotels less generous. The more seats and rooms they sell through conventional means, the less that have to make available to people who game the system. It’s not the bloggers fault at all!

  19. This is exposure is doing more harm than good to the real “hobby.”….Tragedy of the commons…

  20. Ben is a shameless self promoter. At one point he had great tips but his greed and shameless self promoting will ruin it for everyone. In all reality he just wants more referrals and his site numbers up.

  21. Lol, so lucky gets a load more credit card referrals and we’re going to have more people trying to battle debt in a few months time, just for that first class seat.

  22. @Rich: The CNN article uses the term and Lucky has and does use it in this blog, see for example:


    These articles in which Lucky participates continually state that we call it “The Hobby” and refer to ourselves as “Hobbyists”. That is false as no one uses that term in the frequent flyer community. (Yes people have hobbies and call them such, but no one calls stamp collecting “THE Hobby”. It’s a sad attempt to create some sort of branding on OMAAT’s part.

    The fact that you’ve never heard of a term means nothing. I’m sorry you and other commenters (and Lucky) are not aware of things beyond your immediate life interests. Most of the public doesn’t know what Manufactured Spending is, what a VDB voucher is; what airline alliances are; etc. but that doesn’t erase the meaning of those terms, for example.


    “…Many men make a lifestyle out of patronizing escorts. They call it “the hobby,” not prostitution, and they are “hobbyists,” not johns. They consider themselves connoisseurs of fine women, and they are eager to learn from their fellow hobbyists who will provide exactly what they want….”


    “…In the spectrum of sex worker clients is a type of consumer sometimes known as “the hobbyist.” A profile popularized by the rise of online sex work review forums, these men are known to treat the industry as sport: hobbyists troll the internet for the newest young escorts, and then write detailed and often vulgar critiques of their encounters…”

    “…The #1 way that escorts and hobbyists get caught by others doing this is by making that one mistake of leaving your smart phone open for viewing, leaving the room, then your friend/coworker/spouse decides to be helpful to you and check the e-mail that just came in, only to find out you’re scheduling a date!”


  23. @rolot – Regarding the pre-boards, I don’t know if I would call it astronomical but my perception has been that pre-boards for disability are going up and it also seems like many more of them are people who are working age disabled. In other words these people >>> http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/

  24. @cogswell

    “So who do you think is subsizing you? None of this is really free”

    Of course it’s not free. But I don’t follow what you mean about “Who do you think it subsidizing you?”
    Citibank buys 50,000 American miles, I sign up for a Citi card and spend $3,000 to get the full bonus. I pay $95 for the card to Citi, Citi gets $30-100 for my purchases depending on their merchant agreement, and American gets paid for the miles. Then I redeem them for, say, BWI-DFW-LAX in first class for me and my wife.

    No one is subsidizing me. It’s a financial transaction in which many people, including me, are paying, but one in which I’ve spent $95 on something that would cost around $1000

  25. Yeah. Those wheelchair people don’t know anything about hardship. If only they knew what real problems were.

  26. Go Lucky.. Well done mate. Ignore the naysayers. We have a term in Australia. Tall poppy syndrome. Google it ye jealous and negative people’s

  27. @Eric: You’re right, Ben has used the term, and I hadn’t gone to read the CNN article yet.

    Similarly, your condescension notwithstanding, the fact that *you’ve* never heard of a term means nothing, and I’m sorry you are not aware of things beyond *your* immediate life interests. I have heard frequent-flyer geeks other than Ben refer to “the hobby”. There are contexts in which I’ve done it myself.

    I’m happy to believe that a few people call bordello-frequenting “the hobby”, but that doesn’t make it so well established that Ben shouldn’t use it for his hobby. As you say, most of the public doesn’t know what VDB means to frequent-flyer geeks, and that doesn’t erase the meaning of that term. But I’d never try to tell a practitioner of what you consider “the hobby” that he shouldn’t use “VDB” to mean “Very Dirty Blonde” because it already has a well-established meaning.

  28. Good grief people. It’s not like you are being coerced to read or participate. I read this because it is of interest to me. I have found some very helpful information and am glad to have this reference material available.
    As to the wheelchair comments, yes there are more. The baby boomers are retiring with larger amounts of spendable income and taking well deserved vacations. They, (we) are living longer and still able to be mobile. That really should not offend folks.Oh yes, and then there are the sick people. Like my own sister who had to use a wheelchair for the last 2 years of her life to fly back and forth to the cancer center, on her own, for treatment. What a shame to inconvenience people who want their own lives to be easier…Shame on you people.

  29. Ben, congratulations! Read your article the other day and waited for a post about it on OMAAT to say something. Good for you! Keep up the good work. I’ve said it before, I’d love to see this blog evolve into something like Hodinkee, with an app and a none boardingarea domain – nothing wrong with boarding area by the way, it would just look more professional. I believe you have the reader power to do it. Regardless, looking forward to more posts!

  30. I see many of the comments here are left by a bunch of salty haters. Ben’s got a hustle here where he earns money from credit card referrals, and knows some tricks where he can upgrade and get rooms and tries to pass some of his knowledge to other people. He also give valuable advice and info for average people that may not be able to travel like this because of either monetary reasons or simply life doesn’t allow it. Ben, you got a good game going. Don’t listen to people that don’t pay your bills.

  31. Yeah, congratulations on the article, Lucky.

    Reading some of these comments, I had the same reaction as Mermoose: “Good grief people.” In a way, it’s probably a good warts-and-all introduction to the blog. The fact is, there are a lot of a*holes who leave nasty comments. But overall they’re in the minority. Putting up with a*holes is just a part of life.

  32. @James K

    I think the problem comes from bloggers like this presenting the amex platinum as a fantastic card to have, and “oh hey, the bonus is 40,000 points, so here’s a link to sign up”. They rarely say, “this is how you can get all the benefits without the annual fee the first year” or “the bonus has been 100,000 points for $3k in spend, and you can only get the bonus once in your life, so be selective…”.

    So they represent themselves as an advocate for the “regular folks”, but really are just cashing in on $250/approval affiliate links.

  33. What really strikes me about this article is that it’s probably as accurate as the Rolling Stone one. I really don’t understand why people need this sort of blog for anything other than entertainment? Sign up for your airline(s) of preference and they will be very happy to promote their cc partners…

    As for the wheelchair comment. What never ceases to amaze me is how there are less people needing help to get off than on!

    Ben please stop taking the piss out of the word schedule. I flt BA a couple of times a week out of Heathrow and I genuinely can’t remember hearing a j in the word. It’s not cute, it’s just insulting. On the other hand we could start talking about aluminium…

    Folks, look at this blog for what it is. Entertainment. If you see a plug for a card for god’s sake have a look around for better offers.

  34. 1. The credit card industry is horrible. In my business, I get many, many people using credit cards for every transaction, even $1. This industry is taking at least 2.5% of every dollar spent, out of the real economy and into the banker economy.
    2. Since I can’t beat em, I joined em. I use the sign up bonuses and any tricks I find to take back from the banks.
    3. The future cashless society will result in banks & governments being able to turn off a person’s access to their own “money” at any time.

  35. Sadly many of the incredible deals which exist on credit cards in the US simply don’t exist in the UK (Or are not as impressive in any case). Having said that I started travel hacking about 3 years ago by accident and since then have managed to fly business for less than economy several times. In the last year, I have really started being much more conscious of how I spend to ensure I can earn wherever possible and my accumulation has probably doubled. I still think there is more I could be doing and I would like to know more about the manufactured spend, so if you can point me in the right direction, that would be great.

    Also any quick pointers for those who have an aversion to credit cards would be appreciated?

  36. The only reason (and there shouldn’t be any) why I’m sad getting out of the hospital is I’m gonna miss your feature with Richard Quest on CNN! Kudos to you and the OMAAT team!

    But wait… Lifemiles for LH F? Have they removed the blacklist already?

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