The points game is like peeling an onion. First, you’ll make mistakes which will make you cry. Next, you’ll begin to peel back the layers and understand the large concepts of how to properly earn points from virtually everything you do – and optimal ways to redeem points. You’ll then reach the dizzying heights where you start utilizing obscure programs to unlock the very best rates and hidden opportunities – but to complete your wizardry – you must learn routing rules.

Routing Rules Equals More Everything

More first class, more time in the air, more cities and more value for your points. Every airline has different rules for how you use points. Some, you pay by the segment. Others, you pay by the region. But some take things further, where you receive significant discount for using more than one partner airline or perhaps adding on a random flight. The more you read into the rules, the further your can points go.

Like The United Excursionist

Nope, this perk isn’t about taking your clothes off – that’s the exhibitionist perk. This is about taking advantage of a lucrative United Airlines policy, where you can score a free flight, just for being clever enough to book it. The concept is book three one way flights together, get one free, as long as it’s in a different place than where you started. Confused? We’ve got a full explanation here.

Or AsiaMiles, British Airways Multi Partner

Why fly just one airline when you can sample the offerings of a few? When using British Airways Avios or Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles, your curiosity will save you a ton of points. By using two or more airline partners, you’re able to use a new chart, which on average requires less points than the same flights if you use just one airline. These charts can also be beneficial because you’re charged by total distance, rather than by segment. Curious? Learn more.

Or Free Stopovers

For non travel bloggers, travel is a rare treat, so why not squeeze in an extra city en route to your destination? Perhaps you don’t just want to see Hong Kong Airport, and would instead love a couple days to actually explore the city? Alaska Airlines is one of a few points options which give you free stopovers, even on one way flights! By knowing about the routing rules or stopover allowances of each points program, you can make any trip more exciting.

Don’t Rush

The way points are consumed forces people to make mistakes. Availability comes up only ever so often, and when it does we race to the phone lines to lock it in. Continue to do that, but in the planning phases of your trip be sure to learn all the possibilities your airline points will afford you, and consider whether it may be worth booking three one ways to get a free fourth one, rather than just a round trip, or perhaps adding another airline to save points. The more research goes into the front end the further your points will take you. More first class? Never a problem.

Do you maximize routing rules when using points?