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Get the most out of your frequent flier milesStory Highlights


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#1 nikkianddean

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    Posted 25 April 2008 - 10:43 AM

    I thought this was interesting, since this is how Dean and I flew to Mexico on a recent trip to Mexico. Now we are all about AMEX points!!!

    Using your frequent-flyer miles to get to Europe can save you a bundle, if you know the ropes and plan ahead.


    Book as far in advance as possible to up your chances of getting your choice of flights.

    What began as a way to reward customer loyalty has evolved into a profitable side business for the airlines, who sell "award miles" to credit card and other companies (who pass along those miles as incentives to their own customers). Here are some strategies for getting the most travel out of your miles. For more tips, check out FlyerTalk - The world's most popular frequent flyer community.

    Book as far ahead as possible. Airlines reserve only a handful of "award seats" on each flight -- and once they're gone, they're gone. Even if the "award seats" are booked up, you can sometimes use additional miles to get on the flight (for a first-class seat, or for a double-miles "rule-buster" seat -- though these are being phased out). In short: The farther ahead you book (ideally several months in advance), the more likely you'll get your choice of flights for the fewest miles.

    Maximize the miles you earn. I'd never fly on a particular airline just to get the miles, for me, the price and convenience of a flight plan always trumps the potential for netting miles. But if you're flying anyway, many figure you might as well get all the miles you can. For example, booking direct with the airline, rather than on a third-party booking site, might earn you bonus miles. Some credit cards allow you to accrue miles with each purchase (sometimes with an annual fee).

    Know about alliances. Most major airlines belong to one of three gigantic frequent-flyer collectives. For example, the Star Alliance includes North American airlines (United, US Airways, Air Canada) as well as European carriers both big (Germany's Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian, LOT Polish Airlines, Spainair) and small (TAP Air Portugal, Croatia Airlines, Slovenia's Adria Airways). Other alliances include SkyTeam (Northwest, Continental, Delta, KLM, Air France, Alitalia, Czech Airlines) and OneWorld (American Airlines, British Airways, Air Iberia, Finnair, Malev Hungarian).

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    If you have miles on any airline in the alliance, you can redeem them on any of the others. So, for example, if you're headed to Prague, try using your Northwest miles first (allied with Czech Airlines); for Helsinki, see what you can get with your American miles (partnered with Finnair); and for Croatia, check with United (allied with Croatia Airlines).

    Use airline alliances to collect miles smartly. The same alliances work for collecting miles. You might not care about earning miles for an SAS or Air Portugal flight, but if you give them your United frequent-flyer number, the miles go into your United pot.

    To redeem your miles, check online first, then call. Check if the flight you want is available on the airline's "miles redemption" site. If not, don't give up. Call to speak with an airline agent. While this can come with a small additional fee, it's worth it to talk with a live person who has all your options at his or her fingertips -- especially if you...


    Do some research and know your options. There are a variety of ways to connect any two points. When you try to redeem miles, the agent might simply try the most straightforward route. If that route is sold out, ask them to check other ways. Better yet, do some homework before you call, and make a list (in order of preference) of the connections that would work for your trip. For example, if I'm going from Seattle to London, it's easiest to take a direct, nonstop flight. But if that's full, I'd be willing to settle for any one of the dozens of other possible connections through other cities.


    Buy or transfer miles. If you have almost, but not quite, enough miles for the trip you want, look into the option of buying miles from the airline, or paying a fee to transfer them from someone else (e.g., a spouse or relative). While it obviously wouldn't be cost-effective to do this for the entire value of a ticket, if you're 2,000 miles short on the 50,000-mile fare, buying or transferring miles can bring it within your reach for a relatively small cost.


    Watch the expiration date. For many airlines, miles expire at a certain point after you accrue them (usually one to two years). Know your miles' shelf life, and use them before they're gone. Typically the miles must be used for a ticket before the expiration date -- but the flight can occur anytime, even months later.

    You're still responsible for taxes and some fees, but it's still a fraction of the full fare.

    If airline miles help you afford to fly, using them smartly can help you actually fly more frequently. Happy travels!

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    February 14, 2009

    #2 Maura

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    Posted 25 April 2008 - 10:54 AM

    thanks for posting nikki, my FMIL has like 500,000 AMEX points -- she does this all the time to book travel! theyre using them to come to chicago for my civil ceremony. 2 yrs ago, FI's family went on a cruise to hawaii, completely paid for with amex points! can you even imagine how many points that was?

    #3 becks

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    Posted 25 April 2008 - 11:35 AM

    I am openly a points/miles whore. I travelled non-stop for work for nearly 4 1/2 years and had so many points and miles. Now that I'm not travelling much anymore, I miss them.

    I took FI and his parents to Italy last year for the FIL's 50th anniversary - 4 tickets bus. class, 5 nights in hotels in Rome and Venice - all courtesy of United and Starwood. LOVED it.

    We're using Delta points to get to the wedding, and my Continental points and more Starwood points to fly to Tahiti for the honeymoon.

    Yup. Total points/miles whore.

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    #4 nikkianddean

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      Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:20 PM

      Quote:
      Originally Posted by becks
      I am openly a points/miles whore. I travelled non-stop for work for nearly 4 1/2 years and had so many points and miles. Now that I'm not travelling much anymore, I miss them.

      I took FI and his parents to Italy last year for the FIL's 50th anniversary - 4 tickets bus. class, 5 nights in hotels in Rome and Venice - all courtesy of United and Starwood. LOVED it.

      We're using Delta points to get to the wedding, and my Continental points and more Starwood points to fly to Tahiti for the honeymoon.

      Yup. Total points/miles whore.

      WOW....that is impressive. I am totally jumping on this. We are putting as much as we can on the AMEX and then just paying it off. You & Maura are my points gurus
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      #5 Maura

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      Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:21 PM

      nikki my FMIL pays for EVERYTHING with her amex so she can get the points haha

      #6 MelanieS

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        Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:30 PM

        We do the same thing! Every single item we purchase is charged to our AA mastercard. We pay it off every month and have used miles for trips to St. Croix, Puerta Vallarta and Cancun. Pretty sweet!

        #7 Maura

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        Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:33 PM

        i hooked my chase debit card up to earn miles on united, and earned myself a free ticket to mexico city for christmas with all the wedding stuff i bought since we've been engaged, plus the miles accrued from a few other flights.

        #8 Lorilou

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          Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:36 PM

          yes, we love AMEX points. we flew to Cairo in June on AMEX points. And looking to go to Morroco in Sept on them.

          #9 Yari

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            Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:36 PM

            We have an AA Mastercard and Marriott Visa...gotta love the points!

            Our wedding and honeymoon flights are 100% paid for using miles! Plus we are staying at the Marriott in Cuaraco on 100% miles.

            #10 Maura

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            Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:37 PM

            our wedding plane tix were 100% paid for by AA miles accrued from a credit card!




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