How to spend them
Splurge on business class: Kelly is 6 feet, 7 inches tall and likes to fly business class. But there's a mathematical reason to splurge on business class with points: A first- or business-class ticket can cost in dollars 10 times as much as an economy ticket. But when you pay in miles, you're not going to pay 10 times the points for the upgrade. Often, it's only double points to fly business class, and many airlines allow you to upgrade your seat with points. "Business-class awards are generally for everyday people who want an aspirational type of award," Kelly says. But if you're getting miles easily, you may as well splurge on something that's usually unattainable.
Buy miles: Some airlines let you buy miles and will give bonuses of up to 100 percent when you purchase them. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy miles than a ticket, so check the bonuses before booking.
Shop online through mileage malls: If you're buying an item from Target, did you know you can go to its website through a mileage mall and earn double or triple points just for using that online portal? "It's a no-brainer really," Kelly says. "A mileage mall takes you to the website you're looking for, but you get extra miles for shopping through them, plus the miles from using a mileage-earning card. . . . You're double-dipping. Apple once offered 10 points per dollar through Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping. Never just shop through a store's website." Kelly recommends Evreward (www.EVReward.com); also check out his site's Beginner's Guide, which lists online portals.
Track them: When you have, say, 10 credit cards attached to mileage programs, you need a mileage manager. Kelly uses Award Wallet (awardwallet.com), a free service that tracks mileage balances and alerts you if miles are expiring. Using Miles (usingmiles.com) and Trip It (tripit.com) are similar.