Getting Started with Points and Miles with Alyssa Cerchiai

Episode 4 ·



In this episode, Andrew answers questions about airplane sewage and finding the best seat. He then chats with Alyssa Cerchiai about the world of points and miles.

  • Where does airplane sewage go? You may have heard stories of frozen toilet waste landing in people’s yards but do we really jettison human waste into the sky? We take a look at what actually happens to airplane sewage once it’s flushed down the toilet.

  • What is the best seat on a plane? The answer depends on what your priorities are. If you really don’t like turbulence for example, a seat over the wings or towards the front of the plane will likely give you a smoother ride. Find out what you need to know about selecting a seat on your next flight.

  • Using points and miles is a great way to reduce the cost of your next trip. However, earning reward travel can seem like a daunting task if you aren’t a frequent flyer or big spender. For this episode’s main segment, writer and podcast host Alyssa Cerchiai is here to cover the basics of the world of points and miles and talk about how to get started.

If you want to hear more from Alyssa or learn more about the world of points and miles, check out her podcast, She Made Points. You can also find her on Instagram at @shemadepoints and @alycerchiai, on Twitter at @shemadepoints and @alycerchaiai, and on the She Made Points Facebook Page. See below for the flight redemption example from this episode. Enjoying the podcast? Follow us on social media!

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Alyssa Cerchiai is a writer and frequent flyer whose work can be found in places like Business Insider, Million Mile Secrets, and The Points Guy. In her writing, Alyssa hopes to encourage people to use credit cards intelligently without making cards or their rewards programs seem intimidating. She is also the host of the She Made Points podcast, which is aimed at helping people better understand the complex world of points and miles.



Here is the flight redemption example discussed in this episode:

  • Let’s say that you are trying to book a flight on American Airlines and it’s going to cost you 15,000 miles plus $25 in fees. You search for the same itinerary as if you were going to book it with cash and find out that it would cost you $175.

  • To find the value that you are getting from your points, you need to divide the value of what you are getting by the number of points. The value you are getting isn’t $175 though, because you would need to pay $25 in fees if you are booking in points. So you’ll need to subtract $25 from $175 to get $150, which is the actual amount that you are saving by using points.

  • Then, you can take $150 and divide it by the number of miles required, which is 15,000 and that gives you a value of $0.015 or 1.5 cents per mile.

  • You can then do a quick Google search for "American Airlines points valuation" and you’ll find a number of travel sites out there that have calculated the approximate valuation of different points and miles currencies. In the case of American Airlines Advantage miles, you’ll find that they typically say that the valuation is around 1.4-1.6 cents per mile, meaning that this is a fairly good redemption.​

If you like formulas, the basic formula is: Redemption Value = 100 x (Cash Price/Award Price) Remember that for the cash price, you need to take the cash price of your redemption and subtract any fees that you would be paying when using points or miles.