Below is a collection of my favorite articles from around the web on how to use your miles and points. Note that these are almost universally advice on which airline program to transfer your miles to. This can be done with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Points. Also each airline has its own loyalty program that often comes with very lucrative sign-up bonuses. Currently, for example, there is up to a 100,000 point award for the Chase British Airways Visa. What the average person probably does not realize is that major airlines are all a part of various airline alliances or have multiple airline partners, allowing you to book on one airline with points from another. This can of course get very confusing but with a little research and commitment you can get thousands of dollars out of your points and far superior results than the $.01 per point common in cashback schemes.
While many people prefer fixed point plans, like Capital One Venture Rewards or Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, where each point simply acts as cash to buy airline tickets; the more complicated airline programs based on mileage charts provide a better return. The advantage of fixed points programs, however, is that you can always find availability, even if the value proposition is much less.
Anyway, on to the sources:
Lucky at One Mile At A Time has a great series on the best uses of American Express Membership Rewards. Bookmark it and refer back if and when you would like to redeem for an award. It will explain the ins and outs of which airline partner to transfer your points to that will best position you for travel to various regions in the world.
Gary at View From the Wing also has a great post on which program you should target if you are eyeing travel to a specific region of the world. This assumes you are proactively planning on how to best position yourself, different from Lucky’s post which assumes that you already have an Amex points balance and are not sure the best place to transfer those points to.
The Points Guy has done great work on how to use British Airways Avios points, providing useful posts on the best features of the program, and how to use them to avoid the often nasty fuel surcharges British Airways often levels when crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He also has a great post for family travelers and how they can best manipulate their points balances and play the game.
Finally, Starwood allows for transfers of their points to many airlines, which is fairly straightforward and then you can use those airlines rewards charts and partners for your travel. This is a simple post, but it explains this relatively unknown program quite nicely.