A Trio Of Tips To Make Your Frequent Flyer Miles Take Flight

If you gaze in admiration upon George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, hoping that you too can reap enough frequent flyer miles like a pro, you may need to start over from scratch, ditching ineffective habits and replacing them with more efficient practices.

Kiplinger offers some tips on how to make your miles lift you up rather than keep you grounded:

* Pick a program and go all-in. Frequent flyer miles are not Pokemon. It does you no good to collect ’em all, so commit to one program and stick with it. That’s not to say it’s worth grossly overpaying to buy tickets to a flight on one airline.

* Don’t let your miles expire. Miles typically expire if you let your account fester for 18 to 24 months. Plan your vacations accordingly. If travel isn’t an option, it may be worth opening another credit card that participates in the program. Before you go that route, consider the impact doing so could have on your personal finances.

* Calculate your most lucrative reward. When it comes time to cash in your miles, figure out how much you’ll save by using them on a flight. Some programs let you use your miles for other expenditures, such as rental cars, hotel stays or electronics. Don’t be suckered in to a deal that wastes your hard-earned points on something that’s not worthwhile.

6 Things You Need to Know About Airline Miles [Kiplinger] (Thanks, Tara!)

Previously: Rack Up Travel Rewards Without Going Crazy With Credit Cards


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sudonum says:

    I always use miles for upgrades to first class. That, to me, seems like the best value.

    • Hotscot says:

      I use mine for free annual vacations to Europe.
      I never waste them on upgrades.

      It’s of more value to me to get from A to B rather than how I get there.

  2. eturowski says:

    The best value for miles (at least on Delta) is often to use them on international trips, in business class on partner airlines. The redemption levels for domestic coach tickets are usually much higher because the tickets are in higher demand.

    • thomwithanh says:

      I like JetBlue’s FF program, really love how you can use your points even on the last seat on the plane. What I don’t like is the whole dollars spent to point model JetBlue uses (and Virgin America, Southwest).

      At least on Delta you still get full millage even on heavily discounted coach fares. It’s unfortunate how Silver Medallion doesn’t get the perks it used to – no more BusinessElite check in, or Sky Priority boarding – Zone 2 is still a step up, but when half the plane is Gold and above the bins are still full by time I get on. That said, the discount on Economy Comfort and being able to sometimes book the emergency row are nice, as is the free checked bag, but it used to be three checked bags for free! Just watch, give it another year or two and it’ll be a 50% discount on checked bag fees for silver instead of first bag free.

  3. Guppy06 says:

    I dunno, being in the frequent flyer programs of both United and Continental seemed to have paid off…

  4. FatLynn says:

    Also, watch for “miles sales”. United often drops the price of certain domestic tickets from 25,000 to 15,000 miles.

  5. LetMeGetTheManager says:

    The methods I use:

    1.) Mileage Runs – For example, there is a flight you can take right now on Star Alliance airlines that only costs $510, but earns you 15,000 miles (close to 60% of a domestic flight). Plus, you get to see a new country.
    2.) Shopping Partners – When I needed to buy a digital camera, I bought it through United’s MileagePlus Shopping and earned $10 per mile, and since the camera was $1200, that was half of a domestic ticket.
    3.) Look for loopholes – When the US Mint was allowing people to get dollar coins to put into circulation, I bought thousands, and redeposited them.
    4.) Sign up for survey sites – They hardly take any time, and you usually earn 5 miles for each, but I have earned about 5000 miles do it so far.

  6. beer4me says:

    “* Don’t let your miles expire. Miles typically expire if you let your account fester for 18 to 24 months. Plan your vacations accordingly. If travel isn’t an option, it may be worth opening another credit card that participates in the program. Before you go that route, consider the impact doing so could have on your personal finances.”

    Booking travel based on expiration is bad advice. All you need to do is buy a $1 song via their shopping portal to renew your miles!

    • flyingember says:

      or go with Southwest where they don’t expire

      • theblackdog says:

        Untrue. You can hold as many points as you want and older earnings don’t expire, but if there are no points added to your account for 24 months, then all your points expire.

  7. Sarek says:

    I am a non-frequent flyer. We fly only every several years. Often, we don’t get to choose the airline (the tour does it). For people like us, the mileage clubs are worthless (though I still belong). And I’m not going to pay for an airline credit card.

    When the frequent flyer clubs first started, even if you didn’t have a lot of mileage, there were some perks. AA used to hold the middle seat next to you open until the plane filled up. TWA once sent me some embossed luggage IDs. But I am unaware of any advantages nowadays.

    Yes, I do know some frequent flyers who keep earning free first class tickets. But they’re perpetually flying on business.

  8. typetive says:

    I’m with Beer4Me – it’s stupid and short sighted to open a credit card just to keep miles from expiring. Better to make a small purchase for something that you already wanted through one of the mileage programs portals than to get a credit card you probably didn’t want or need.

  9. AllanG54 says:

    Delta’s miles never expire. I fly about three or four times a year but it’s only about 2200 miles round trip each time so I don’t accrue a lot of miles but with the credit card which is free I rack up about 20,000 miles a year total. Not a lot, but I flew to Spain two years ago on a free ticket during peak time and there was no problem getting a seat.

  10. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Sign up for the associated Rewards Network dining program, assuming there are participating restaurants in your area. Usually you get at least 3 miles per dollar spent, and if you dine out often enough, you can bump that up to 5 or 10 miles per dollar. It keeps the frequent flyer account active and doesn’t cost anything more than you’d have paid for dinner anyway. A nice side benefit is that most of those restaurants tend to be non-chain local places.

  11. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Or, you could just always buy the cheapest ticket, regardless of these “loyalty” behavior-modification games that the airlines find very profitable.

  12. Lear100 says:

    I’ve given up on miles. They’re getting more and more worthless. I’ve switched to getting cash back from Costco and other stores.