Seriously free. No strings attached. Even the tax implications will be covered, thanks to the generosity of the contest sponsors. What’s more, you have 20 chances to win this phenomenal prize. Here’s the deal…
blog.wandr.me and American Express are sponsoring the contest. The grand prize is seven nights/eight days hotel accommodations, transportation, meals, activities and round-trip airfare for two people to the Gold Coast of Australia (Queensland). These are revenue tickets and revenue hotel stays so you’ll be earning points for the trip, too. On top of that, you’ll be receiving gift cards to cover the tax liability that winning the roughly $10,000 prize will cause. There is really no reason not to enter.
And here’s how to enter. Just answer one simple question in the comments of this post:
What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points?
I offer tips here all the time, as do many of the other blog.wandr.me bloggers and we’re looking to see what other stuff folks out there know about to help the traveling public. This is your chance to show off your knowledge of loyalty programs and win an awesome prize along the way.
You can only enter once on this blog (subsequent comments will not count) but you can also enter once on each of the other participating blogs in this contest. Check out blog.wandr.me/GoldCoast for the full list of participating blogs and make sure you get your comments in. The contest closes on March 28th so don’t wait.
UPDATE: A couple bits of fine print worth mentioning:
- You must be a US resident to win
- You must provide a valid email address in the comments so we can contact you if you win
I didn’t write the rules; I just have to play by them. Lots more fine print on the main contest page linked above.
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Life is short, use those miles!
Plan in advance to maximize award redemptions. For example, even though AA essentially eliminated stopovers, they still allow stopovers in North American gateway cities for international departures. So, although my base airport is a gateway city, I’ve tacked on what is essentially a one-way from another trip as the “stopover.”
Follow the advice of seasoned travelers like those on blog.wandr.me. Easy and free points and miles can get you the last mile needed for an award.
Fly within one global airline alliance and credit all of your miles to one FF account. That way, your miles aren’t spread around to different accounts, making it hard to ever accumulate enough to redeem them for anything.
Earn the miles/points in the cheapest possible ways and then burn them for the most luxurious travel!
For hotel upgrades, know your hotels… The place with 47 suites is more likely to give you one than the hotel with just 7.
When redeeming your miles it is always better to avoid school holidays and to travel off season to get the best value for your miles with airlines and hotels.
Fly one airline or one alliance, and make sure your points get credited!
Be flexible when making award reservations.
Use ANA to research award travel and expert flyer/KVS for other airlines. Study the airline’s award website and have 1 or 2 backups. If you spread points across alliances (easy to do with credit card churning) you will have a lot more options! Do NOT rely on the agent to find you a routing!
Don’t forget the additional bonus ways to get miles and points. Never know when you might be justthismuchshort.
To use your loyalty points when you want to use them, plan ahead. Way ahead.
To reiterate, be flexible. Not just on date, but with airports. If you can’t get to your desired airport, you may be able to get close to it. Many cities have more than one airport.
look for hotels offering discounted point stays. That way, you make the most of your points. For instance, on certain dates 25k Marriott points can be used for a night at a Ritz-Carlton.
Stick with one airline alliance.
As others have said, keeping with one alliance and being flexible is the way to go. I also find that when we traval as a couple, purchasing one ticket and using miles for the other saves a lot of money and starts refilling the mileage account ASAP.
All miles are not equal. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the programs you participate in so that when it comes time to redeem an award, you’re using the currency that gets you the most bang for your buck (or mile or point).
Starwood Amex indeed on every single purchase you do. Not only can you use those miles on hotel stays but you can also use them for flying to your dream destination!
American Express Membership Rewards is a good place to consolidate a lot of miles for use on a good selection of partners, and they have some good double/triple point promotions from time to time. Bonus idea – read blogs like this one for excellent tips and reviews – I’ve earned a lot of points from just a couple of easy ideas – information is your friend.
It never hurts to ask… just for asking I’ve recieved status matches, waived CC fees, gotten agents to round up total miles to book a flight or hotel when I was short. If you have a bad trip/stay be vocal, write a letter and an email, I’ve been well rewarded for my valued consumer feedback.
Take advantage of 2 stays=1 free night promotions by staying in 2 cheap local hotels and splurging on a high end luxury one for your free night (Hyatt and hopefully SPG again)
Set clear award goals to help prioritize earning and redemption programs.
Earn points with American Express 3x gold card or the starwood Amex for more flexability.
Then try to get your award with the following information.
If you don’t get what you want the first time, hang up and call again. Always be informed about where you want to go and what routes you can take to get there and use the ANA website and expertflyer to be informed about what availability is out there.
Use your points for Business or First Class to get more bang for the buck.
Focus on one or two programs to maximize your benefits, then be flexible and plan ahead to get the most use out of the miles/points you’ve accumulated.
Keep everything in one family: Hotel stays, credit card usage, car rentals, airlines. Always ‘take the points,’ never the gifts.
Two tips for the price of one entry! I know this doesn’t increase chances of winning, but I surely hope it doesn’t break the rules 🙂
1. If you think you might lose elite status the following year due to changes in travel patterns, focus more on paid (point/mile-earning) flights and stays while you still have status. Two reasons this helps: (A) you take advantage of the elite benefit of bonus earning (10%, 25%, 50%, 100%, etc) that should more than compensation for the risk of devaluation in the coming year, and (B) you will continue to take advantage of upgrades associated with your status in the paid flights/stays. This means avoiding redemption of miles, points, and “free” vouchers (e.g. VDB) that do not earn miles — use these for your family and friends instead, or maybe offer a tit-for-tat exchange (you’ll pay for someone else’s trip using points, and they’ll pay for your similar or less expensive trip using money).
2. Don’t overestimate the value of your miles/points or be overzealous of spending money just to collect rewards, since this is counterproductive to your more important personal finance goals (that will fund more travel!). For example, if you would never pay $20,000 for an international first class flight, don’t benchmark your miles based on that cost! If you do the math, you might find that cashback cards will be more beneficial to your pocketbook than mile or point-earning cards. For example, the Schwab InvestFirst Visa gives 2% cash back on all purchases; would you rather have 2 cents in your pocket for every $1 you spend, or one mile/point? If you always redeem for domestic flights for 25k miles, are those limited-availability flights worth $500 to you?
Keep an eye out for bonus promotions from airline credit cards or frequent flier programs sent in email or snail mail. Don’t forget to register for the promotion. Once I bought a $2 cookie on a flight with the airline’s credit card and received 1000 miles.
Use your BA miles to Buenos Aires with a stopover on Easter Island for 80K BA miles in Business or 40K in Economy on LAN. Best use of BA miles IMHO.
Scour the web and pay attention to program e-mails for promotions such as double points/miles, etc. I’ve found this to be a great way to increase my account balances for very little effort (often clicking/entering your account number)!
My “top tip” is to consolidate earnings and diversify redemption.
Pick a program that offers a variety of earning options, and is best suited to your unique travel / spend / and geographic constraints. This allows you to acquire the miles as inexpensively and quickly as possible.
Then, to redeem, look beyond the obvious to explore partner redemptions or in the case of programs like SPG, move your points out of the host program and into the program that will maximize the value of your points for the redemption you’re seeking.
Book tickets directly through airline rather then through the agent (orbits, etc)
Be consistent. Why spread your points around and never have enough to do anything with? Find what works for you and stick with it. We recently found a nightly price on a hotel room that we felt we couldn’t pass up, but we really should have gone to the adjacent Intercontintental Hotel in order to get some Priority Club points while we were at it.
Adopt a multi-faceted approach in order to earn the most miles possible! Sure flying on the airline will get you miles but so can a host of other activities! Check out what airlines your bank or credit union has aligned with and get the mileage debit and/or credit card. When shopping online, check out your airline’s website first as many of them link to the e-commerce sites you shop most and allow you to earn miles as well. Check out sites such as http://www.e-rewards.com and http://www.e-miles.com to take quick and simple surveys to earn miles. Also, sign up for your preferred airline’s e-newsletter as they will send you chances to earn more miles when you fly or buy. Most of all, have fun and use those hard-earned miles on something great!
Use them or lose them. Devaluation is a terrible thing.
Know where you are going, research the award chart, get enough miles (a much easier job with Amex MR), finally be flexible and secure the award seat EARLY!
Don’t forget to do your online shopping thru hotel/airline portals for extra points
Do your research, see what program works best for the type of awards you are interested. Don’t keep the points too long or they will evaporate in front of you.
Keep an eye out for bonus promotions from airline credit cards or frequent flier programs sent in email or snail mail. Don’t forget to register for the promotion. Once I bought a $2 cookie on a flight with the airline’s AMEX card and received 1000 miles.
Read the tips!! Some of these are pretty decent, and I’ve picked up a thing or two already that I’m going to have to try out.
Having the largest balance of miles at any one time doesn’t make you the winner in the end. When you are gone, so are the miles. Use them up even though you may have to use more miles than the minimum to redeem the trip you want.
Don’t get too sucked in to the miles and points game as you may end up making uneconomical decisions just to push that extra status level. Take advantage of the good deals (us airways TIBs, BA card, US mint) and leave everything else to the die hards. Pay someone to do your award redemption research. You could lose hours and hours trying to put together a trip when Ben here can do it for a couple hundred big ones.
My top tip for earning and using rewards points: focus, focus, focus! There’s no sense in spreading out 60,000 points to different airlines, credit cards, and hotels plans. Focus on the plan that makes the most sense for you, and work it. Check the plan’s site frequently for bonus opportunities, credit card signup bonuses, and other earning opportunities, and — if they make sense — take advantage. Secondary tip: don’t become so enamored with points that you spend uneccesarily just to earn points 😉
Don’t just credit flight miles to your FF program, but also take advantage of partner offers where they make sense – credit cards, dining, etc. This can go a long way to earning those rewards, particularly for infrequent fliers. Through credit card use and partner offers, I earned enough miles to fly myself and my wife to Hawaii for our one year anniversary. Although I’m now mid-tier (Premier Exec) on United, I was a 3-4 times a year flier at the time.
Be loyal and loyalty will reward you. Use a card for your top airline or hotel, and always fly the same airline (or alliance) and stay at the same hotel.
In the beginning, stick with one airline and one alliance so one can achieve status faster and have less orphan miles.
Using an airline specific miles credit card for all purchases and monthly revolving bills allows building of miles without flying and then booking flights with that card often provides double (or higher) miles.
Checkin with blog.wandr.me and Flyertalk daily, don’t miss out on the 100000 mile deals when they come around.
Track all your airline miles and hotel points plus myriad other rewards programs at awardwallet.com – and know when your points expire so you can do something about it!
Some alliances have more and better options to certain parts of the world, so make sure you’re happy with where your points are being credited. (Star Alliance: Asia and Europe. oneworld: Australia and South America)
Be consistent and focused. One or two but no more than three airline programs at the same time. My favorite is AA.
For hotel pograms, I focused on IHG and *Wood.
Stick to one alliance when possible… but sign up for other programs if you find yourself forced to use other companies. You never know when it’ll come in handy to have a few miles or points on the side… and why would you let them go unearned?
try to concentrate your travel, hotel and credit card usage to programs that can be tranfered between, that way if you need to boost point in one for a particular aware it is easier to do.
Chose one airline programs and get their credit card which will earn miles. Charge everything you can to the card and pay off at the end of the month. My favorite is AA.
I’ve always tried to work out deals with friends where I’ll pay for their travel via awards, and then they give me the money for what they would’ve paid (within reason). That way, you can essentially convert your miles into cash (at a rate acceptable to you), and you don’t lose out of miles that you could’ve earned by paying for trips that you would’ve spent miles on.
Use your Amex to earn points (especially the places that give double points) and then use them for the longest flight posible. A transcontinental flight is the same as a flight to the next state.
Think about which account to use when flying partner airlines.
If you fly with several airlines, maintain loyalty with only one carrier per alliance. Consolidate those miles so awards come faster and easier.
Focus spend on SPG credit card
Hire Gary to book your award ticket!
Points = Money
Earn’em, Track’em, most importantly Spend’em!
When booking award travel, be flexible and be EARLY!
The magic number is 330. Most airlines load new inventory into their reservations system 330 days prior to the flight date. If there are any award seats on the flight you want, they will be available right after that flight is loaded into the system.
Of course, popular travel days (i.e. holidays, spring break, etc.) and popular travel routes/destinations may cause these seats to disappear nearly immediately after release, but be patient, plan well in advance, and mark (and double-check) your calendar for the correct day to start your search.
Focus on a single airline alliance and hotel chain as much as possible, having 50,000 miles in one program is infinitely better than having 10,000 in 5 different programs. It sounds basic (they’re loyalty programs after all) but the first decision as to which program to focus on is the most important.
Go ahead and collect the scrap miles/points for the others too, but donate them to charity or order magazines or other cheap redemptions.
Also – burn those points as soon as they reach a significant value you can use! Saving money today is better than maybe saving slightly more in six months.
Read the blogs and Flyertalk to capitalize on others experience.
1)never use cash
2)go against the conventional wisdom of participating in only one FF program–join those in which you anticipate mergers(much like stock investing), get the credit cards when there are a minimum of 25,000 bonus miles for sign-up, and hold those like a long term investment, using them on the occasions that your primary carrier is not attractive.
3) churn wherever possible
Try to consolidate your points/miles in as few programs as possible, that way its easier to save up for the big award. I use Alaska and United as my two airline programs and I can earn (and redeem) miles on ALL of the major domestic airlines and many, many major international carriers. Where possible, use a program like starwood or american express membership rewards for your credit card so you can move the points easily into many programs. When booking an award, plan as far in advance as you can, and be flexible, never, ever, ever redeem miles for a non-“saver” award – if you’re going to be paying that many miles the game just isn’t worth playing.
Keep a log of ALL points earned and any promotion associated. Regularly reconcile your earnings. So many points are just lost because they were never awarded. Think about hiring one of your children to help you keep track.
Enroll in any and all…read the blogs for tips!
Top Tip – Read the blogs on blog.wandr.me. The bloggers on the website do a fantastic job gathering and synthesizing all of the information out there in order to keep you up to date on ways to maximize earning rewards. On the “using” side of the equation, they stay abreast of all of the best deals to use points, and also provide detailed advice and comparisons on using your rewards.
Concentrate on 1 program unless you fly a lot or reach a specific goal. 3000 miles on program X, may not be as good as 2000 miles on program Y.
Try to keep some points with amex to top off programs where you are a little short to redeem an award.
Always keep your eye out for free mile reward credit cards. It is one of the best deals anywhere, since it’s a free domestic flight usually.
Practice using the reward booking engine, so you have an idea of what kind of flights you can get both within a few weeks and a few months out. This helps when you are discussing possible vacations times with others!
Always sign up for loyalty programs, even if you don’t think you’re going to fly with the airline/alliance a lot. They’ll collect over time, and you never know when your situation might change (along with your primary carrier).
Explore ALL your options when booking Award flights. Pull up the route maps for airlines in your alliance and look for the obscure/unusual, and then check availability. Never trust a phone agent to help you find a creative award routing. Do the legwork if you want to find that dream trip, and be flexible.
Use miles for redeeming premium class air ticket. Economy is just a waste of miles.
Keep updating the promotion so you can get the first class ticket without flyong with them.
For some frequent flyer program keep calling until you get what you want
Don’t use your miles for domestic trips, save up for a big international trip in First or Business class and your miles will be worth much more.
Being a novice to the whole FF miles game I have come to rely on advice from the intelligent crowd that frequents http://www.flyertalk.com/. I try to use my miles to upgrade to the front of the cabin rather than free flights.
My tip is to avoid Delta Skymiles since it is impossible to use those miles for awards at the lowest tier level!
Read FlyerTalk every day.
If you can swing it, use your own credit card that gives you the miles for the purchase which gets reimbursed by your employer, then get miles from the flight.
Also, make sure the FF program you sign up for is actually useful in your region so you can actually use the points from your location.
Fly within one global airline alliance and credit all of your miles to one FF account. That way, your miles aren’t spread around to different accounts, making it hard to ever accumulate enough to redeem them for anything!
Try to focus your miles/points to a few programs (don’t spread yourself too thin). Get a mileage earning cc and charge all your bills/expenses to it to earn miles/points towards vacation travels!
At the same time that you want to focus your earning on specific programs, remember — you didn’t get married to your primary frequent flier program. Sometimes you will be better off just buying the best available value even if that won’t earn points in your primary program.
If you’re a business traveler, ask if your company would allow you to charge your air fare to your own card, and reimburse you. That way, you get the frequent flier miles without having paid for the initial (work travel) air fare in the first place. Then, when you cash out your frequent flier miles, it is truly a “free flight.”
What a great incentive to take a vacation!
This is easy – I use one card for everything 🙂 Keeps track of all my points and when it’s time to use – so easy! 🙂 PLUS I’m always looking out for specials where I can get double the points or even free along the way!
Safe travels and Happy flying! 🙂
Pick your primary plans carefully and don’t forget the expiration policies.
If you have a family mileage account, make sure that your dad doesn’t dip into your balance and steal miles for his business class upgrades
Never travel without signing up for the programs you will be using, do will wish you had not left points on the table in the future.
Plan ahead of time and grab the deal before figuring out what it is! Stay tuned and be loyal.
Consider earning all your alliance miles in a non-domestic carrier’s program. Avoid UA’s StarNet blocking; credit those Star Alliance miles to Continental or Air Canada!
USE A SPG CARD!
I can only speak for Air loyalty programs, but my best advice is to pick one carrier and aim for Elite status. Once you travel as a top tier elite, you will never want to go back.
If you are elite in multiple airlines, make sure they are in seperate alliances so that all of your bases are covered for trips that your one carrier may not fly to. Eg… Oneworld and Skyteam.
Burn as you earn…
Pack light and smile lots when traveling!!!
use a mile-earning credit card for everything you buy!
Use your Delta AMEX earn lots of miles!
Actually be loyal – within monetary, time, and location constraints, shift your spending to concentrate on a small number of brands. This also allows you to read up on promotions that are specific to your brands and learn the ins and outs of redeeming from that brand, instead of spreading yourself thin to the point where you never have enough points in a single program to redeem anything, nor any idea what the good values are and how to get them.
Get yourself the Starwood AMEX. Great card and great redemption options.
Use them! Don’t let them expire.
“SPG Flights”-a fairly recently added redemption option for Starwood points usually isn’t a good use of starpoints, but I’ve found that their lowest tier award: 10k points for a trip up to $150 can be a nice way to redeem a ’short hop award’ for little cost in points. It certainly beats the 25k miles most of the airlines would charge for a similar short hop redemption.
Do your homework. Read as many travel blogs as possible and register for as many promotions as possible, those points will add up!
I use the American Express Starwood Card to earn points. I also have a mileage card from an airline, which I rarely use, because the rules and restrictions to actually earn a flight have taken a turn for the worst.
Key benefits of the American Express Card through Starwood:
1. Unless I am mistaken, you’re automatically upgraded to Gold Status if you spend xx amount of dollars per year. I’ve received a ton of room upgrades, even governor suites, simply by being a Gold Preferred member with Starwood using the Starwood Amex. The bonus is that I have always been offered a free upgrade & haven’t had to ask. If I don’t get one, that’s fine…I’ve received more than enough.
2. I earn even more points when I stay at a Starwood property.
3. Starwood has multiple redemption options (cash + points, or just points).
I spend a great deal of time in Southeast Asia, which means I can get some rooms for as little as 2000 points per night. If I want to stay at a great 4-5 star resort as an option, I can generally stay for $45-60 USD per night if I use some of my points towards the rate (this can drop the price from 100 USD + per night up). I also tend to get special offers from the hotels/resorts simply be being a member.
You can also earn extra points by shopping on the American Express site and/or earn additional discounts:)
Don’t let points or miles expire unused! You can easily credit a car rental that you’re already going to make to extend the life of miles in most programs, or use many programs’ online shopping malls to buy a giftcard or something as small as a single iTunes song.
Great to get to Gold Coast for free but since I live in Sydney I guess I will leave this for others to win ….
Always know your booking classes before putting your airmile programs to the booking!
Make sure that you are receiving notifications from the airlines rewards service. Too many people lose their points before they get a chance to use them, because eligibility rules change and points unexpectedly expire.
Stick to your favorite companies (airline, car rental, hotel) to really rack up the miles! Sometimes they will offer their most loyal customers really great bonus mile options.
Stay organized and document every promotion you enter/sign-up for.
Register for all promotions that require registration, even if you don’t expect to take advantage of them. Plans change, promotions are extended, and computers make mistakes in your favor, and you only get the points if you have registered.
My tip is to have the credit card with the program you are in. This will be most efficient in earning points per spending. For instance, if you are platinum, Marriott credit card allows you to earn 20 points / $1 spent at Marriott (10 base pts + 5 Plat pts + 5 credit card pts); Amex Starwood allows you to earn 5 points / $1 spent (2 base pts + 1 Plat pts + 2 credit card pts), etc…
My tip on spending is to be flexible and make use of the benefits offer by each program, such as staying 4 nights and get 1 night free, pointsaver stay. Plan and make reservation early since more options are available and the reservation can be cancelled should your plan changes.
Don’t overlook earning opportunities that may not be obvious. Sometimes all that is required to earn miles is a single purchase (e.g., 750 miles from deluxe.com through e-miles.com). While the cheapest items on websites may be hard do find, our friend Google will allow you to search a single domain (e.g. deluxe.com). Try searching for terms like “$1.”, “1.”, “$2.”, etc. to find cheap items. With this method, I earned 750 US miles for buying a $3 check cover shipped free. .4cpm!
Be loyal to one of the global airline teams (which has the many flights from your point of origin) and try to have all of your miles credit to one Frequent Flyer account. Also, try finding different credit cards/ programs that give you non-flying miles/points bonuses on that account This will ensure that your miles are always dumped to one account, making it easy to accumulate enough miles/points to redeem anytime and anywhere.
Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your miles/points. You never know when the company might make a mistake, and it will help you plan your travel to make sure you get the most out of each trip.
Also utilize online tracking consolidator websites like http://www.yodlee.com to keep track of multiple travel accounts in 1 convenient location.
Use your points-accumulating credit card(s) for every possible purchase including household bills and the entire meal bill with friends (hopefully they’ll pay you back in cash or by check!).
Accumulating miles takes a bit of work, much like making money. So continue doing your homework & overtime you will be successful as I continue to be.
If you have miles that are about to expire, it’s usually pretty easy to extend them my purchasing something small (preferably something you would have purchased anyway) in the airline’s online mall.
learn from those who write these blogs and post on flyertalk. the information available can put you on your way to frugal, while luxurious, travel
*** Learn the intricacies of status matching ***
Occasionally there are promotions with hotels and airlines that temporarily boost elite status in their program. Take your new elite status level and match to competing programs! With some careful planning you can quickly attain elite status in several programs with an opportunity to “challenge” and further upgrade or keep your new level of status.
Once you reach the higher levels of elite status in a program, you will earn bonuses and your redemptions will be more valuable.
1)Make sure your miles program matches your award goals.
2)If you have a mileage credit card make sure it allows you to redeem awards with numerous carriers.
3)Start looking for your award seats 6 months in advance of your trip.
4)Don’t forget to check code-share partners for award seats.
5)Look for award seats on midweek days.
6)Since carriers change their award inventory on Friday & Saturday nights at midnight, check then for award seats.
7)Try BookYourAward.com. Worth the price to get the seat you want.(According to Wendy Perrin at Conde Nast Traveler.)
Take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses for new card applications.
Don’t always choose the frequent flyer program of the airline you fly on. Check their alliance partners, another program may be better suited to your needs and wants.
Set a goal and work towards it. This year, my goals was free travel in F to Africa. Best way for that, is BA mileage card from CHASE and spend my 30K a year on that card. Badabing, we (yes, two is better than one) will have two F tickets to SA.
I use Yodlee MoneyCenter to keep track of my miles. It’s free.
When the CSR says no, don’t give up!
Use Southwest Airlines and Hilton HHonors. You can double dip with Hilton (earning hotel and flight credits) and earn quick tickets on Southwest through partners and flying. Then, vacation virtually for free!
Leave a different tip on every blog you comment on and feel a little smug. It won’t earn you any more miles, but maybe you’ll get some karma points.
Ask my friend Sandy Y. She knows everything about frequent flying. That, and read FlyerTalk.
Make sure to provide your frequent flier numbers when you go to a hotel, especially when you stay in hotels often. The points add up FAST!
What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points?
The value of points tends to decrease with time, so burn ‘em rather than earn ‘em…. when you have enough for a nice premium intercontinental award.
Make sure to get to the airport early for security checks!
Always apply for credit cards when they have high mileage promotions for opening a new account.
I have a list of my club numbers in the “notes” section of my Blackberry and my iPhone so if a hotel or car rental place asks me for a club number, I never have to remember it.
to maximize earning, put everything you buy on a mileage earning credit card, no matter how small the expense. To use miles, be as flexible as possible. I usually call and ask the agent to find seats at a specific airport, and anything within 100 miles and within 2 or 3 days. I’ve always found seats, even to Italy in the summer on Delta.
Make sure that you don’t waste your points on low cost domestic trips…save them for the longer ones!
Get a credit card to go with the program–even if only for the signup bonus. It gives you a big head start on miles, and makes the whole game seem a lot more worthwhile.
Top tip is to make sure you choose one airline partner and stick with the program. If you really want to maximize points, make sure that partner is one which has partnerships with hotels.
Consolidate your miles
If you are a student or under age 26, use sites like student universe for cheap fares. Also if you are a college or graduate student, enroll in college plus and get 10,000 free United miles after you graduate!
Pay Attention! Watch your statements to catch any errors or missing trips, keep an eye out for promotions to increase your miles/points or standing, don’t forget to check for cross-promotions…
With respect to airlines – Learn how to redeem the points. Learn the partners, the different types of awards available for your given program etc… Just because the online search tool only gives you limited availability, doesn’t mean your award isn’t available. Even calling in isn’t a sure bet. If you know the rules and the booking classes, you can help guide a helpful phone agent to craft the itinerary you want.
Pick a milage program and stick with it. The milage program you chose depends on the type of traveler you are – what kind of hotels do you like? Rental cars? etc. If you ever have questions about milage programs, checkout flyertalk.com.
I don’t always get to choose who I fly, so I make sure to maximise my miles by using companies with partnerships.
Be sure to keep an eye on those expiration dates! Sometimes simply renewing a magazine or buying flowers online will extend your FF miles expiration dates.
One useful trick is to register for very promotion you come across on these blogs. Even if you think it cannot possibly apply to you (it may in the future), or if it’s just 50 miles (wouldn’t it suck to be 50 miles short for an award?), or for a program you don’t participate in (there are ways to transfer miles)… one never knows.
Read blogs like this one and grab the deals when they are there. Be sure to only apply for the most rewarding credit card and combine offers with your travel plans. If you don’t have one, just create.
Pick a program that you like and stick to it, even if it ends up costing a little more. They’re not called loyalty rewards for nothing.
Pick the best alliance for your travel needs, and back that up with another airline. For me, in Seattle, United (Star Alliance) and Alaska offers a good mix of earning and redemption choices.
Focus on partnerships – if you fly mostly for leisure, you don’t necessarily have to commit to one, but at least be sure every flight within the partnership credits to one account.
Use car rentals (which often earn pitifully small miles bonuses) to reset the clock on expiration of miles accounts in which you lack activity. This works not only mile accounts in your name, but for family members too: the rental companies report only the FF account number you give them, and not the renter’s name. I’ve used this many times without a hitch.
You can transfer SPG points to over 30 different airlines at a 1 to 1 ratio. Transferring 20,000 SPG points gives you a bonus of 5,000 miles, for a total of 25,000 miles — enough for a domestic award ticket.
Concentrate on one of the airline alliances, and funnel all of miles to one frequent flier program within that alliance. This way, you don’t “orphan” miles over several different programs.
Every mile counts so try to get every mile possible from dining, shopping etc. Use SPG as your primary credit card for easy ability to convert to other programs.
Churn credit cards and bank sign up bonuses
(1) Never miss an opportunity to earn points, no matter how small; (2) Earn and burn — miles and points are only going to lose value with time.
There are so many ways out there to earn miles to get activity credit. Don’t let those hard earned miles expire. Use the shopping malls to earn with minimal purchases. Just remember to use the airline specific links to ensure you get credit for the spend.
Read FT and these blogs for good tips, like 10k for car rentals and 20k for free hair appointments. Will definitely keep you updated as to the latest opportunities.
Sign up for your points provider’s newsletter- and actually read it! You’ll often be pleasantly surprised by chances for bonus points. Consider buying points in small denominations when they are sold at a discount- I see them often listed at 20-30% off.
And follow your faves on Twitter, IHG_Deals & Lufthansa_USA (I mention IHG because I scored 50,000 priority club points for tweeting with them!) for example have in the past offered points or flights as promotions- If you have a good experience with a travel provider, talk them up on social media sites since they all like to build their reputations up with positive comments, etc. And it’s a good way to keep up with special offers.
Get a Hilton Surpass Amex and use it for everything, so you’ll score 6:1 for groceries and 9:1 for stay at Hilton properties. Then, when you have 225,000 points, redeem them for six free nights at a top of the line hotel in London – where the exchange rate isn’t favorable to U.S. travelers. You’ll wind up scoring a stay worth something like $2800, and it’ll only cost you about $5000 in spend if you stay at Hiltons a lot. Enjoy!
Network with frequent fliers.
Whoops! I actually went back and calculated the math on earning and spending Hilton points. Here’s my updated and more accurate post:
Get a Hilton Surpass Amex and stay at lots of Hiltons, so you’ll earn 9 points to the dollar on every stay. Put $20,000 on your card in a year and score Gold VIP status with Hilton. Then, when you have 225,000 points, redeem them using one of Amex’ VIP Hilton special booking codes, GLONP, which will get you six free nights at a top of the line hotel in London – where the exchange rate isn’t favorable to U.S. travelers. You’ll wind up scoring a stay worth something like $3600, and it’ll only cost you about $8500 in spend if you stay at Hiltons a lot and earn the 9:1 rate.
Also – when you book the trip, use your Premier Rewards Gold Card to book your flight and get 3:1 Membership Rewards on the purchase. You can top up lots of airline and hotel programs using Membership Rewards, which makes PR Gold an extremely valuable card to carry (although I for one am very sorry to see Southwest Airlines leave Membership Rewards in June of this year.) You can even use MR points to transfer to Hilton at a great rate – more than 1:1 – so you can use them for another 225,000 point reward.
Also, don’t forget to add on Amex’ awesome baggage claim and trip delay protections, which will stop you from sightseeing in dirty clothes or having to sleep overnight in the airport – flights delayed more than three hours or past 9 P.M. mean you get generous rewards with these policies, up to $250 per night for a hotel. Enjoy!
Burn your miles for a few nice vacations with your better half. This way, you’ll at least find your keys still working when you get back from a MR.
Get a mile-earning credit card and use it for everything
Make sure your miles aren’t expiring.. redeem for a magazine or use the iDine service
First, make sure you are earning miles/points on the major airline serving your home airport. Second, do the research on the best credit card for earning miles/points for the way you travel. There are many websites that will help you compare the various credit cards programs
Keep track of your credit score and if it can stand the small hit, apply over time, for a steady stream of credit cards that give you a sign-up bonus. Those bonuses are the foundation for building miles in many programs. You can easily earn 150,000 miles a year doing this, with no appreciable affect on your credit score. And you can do this for several years before exhausting all of the card possibilities.
Save your boarding passes. After your travel is finished, check your frequent flier account for the miles you traveled to show up. Once they do, you can toss the boarding passes. I use my boarding passes as bookmarks since I often travel with one or more new books. See, there’s two tips for the price of one!
My advice is: stay informed through travel websites (and not ones that sell anything directly), apply strategically for credit cards that give you good deals, and get a job where you travel a lot and the company lets you use your own credit cards for payments!
Points have a cash value. Don’t get so blinded by earning a few more points that you spend way more that you may need to. Sometimes a different brand may be a better value, even after loyalty.
My top tip is to try and accumulate miles in Membership Rewards by American Express since it allows you maximum flexibility to redeem the points and you can earn points for purchases, up to 10X points in the membershiprewards.com earn section and earn 3X points when you shop through the Bonus Points Mall® website.
Go with friends! It’s amazing how far you can get if you pool group resources — one person’s hotel upgrade with another’s free car rental etc. Works on three levels (1) You can often score a “stay with your friends” freebie (i.e., two of you have access to the first class lounge, the third can usually come along) (2) Friends who don’t have miles are often happy to pay any cash portion of a status change etc. as their contribution (3) Travelling companions!
Read read read! Educate yourself! Learn the ins and outs of the mileage and award programs so you can get the best bang for your buck. Only a savvy customer gets the best deal!
Stick to one hotel/airline/car chain.
Come to the Ann Arbor Art Fair DO this July 24 and 25th. You’ll get great tips, including how to book elusive award tickets. Past speakers include Viajero Joven, gleff, Ingy, Lucky9876Coins and wanaflyforless. Details in CommunityBuzz forum on flyertalk.com.
Run a few MRs or other enhanced itineraries in order to accumulate miles, once you have the miles redeem them for international Business or First class tickets… I spent 130,000 AA miles for a 20,000 miles RTW trip in Business Class 🙂
Research what destinations you would like to travel to the most, and figure out which carrier/alliance will get you there for the best/easiest redemption.
Bonus offers from airline partners, like hotels. Some offer double miles for multi-night stays, etc.
When looking to book, use a dollop of ITA, gobs of patience, plenty of flexibility and a good dose of bull headedness.
Use miles only for upgrades. It’s the biggest bang for the buck. It’s a total waste of miles for hotel nights etc. as well redemption reward tickets.
Try to fly only one airline most of the time. It is more likely that you will earn elite status than choosing the cheapest flights. It does eventually pay for itself.
In addition to mileage/points earning credit cards, if you are shopping online, use the airline or hotel mall site to earn extra miles/points.
Concentrate your loyalty to one hotel or airline program and try to earn the highest status level as possible in that program.
Pick the airline/alliance that best fits your travel pattern and home airport and focus on building miles into that program.
When going to Europe I use 100K continental miles to book upper-class on Virgin to London and continue on in business class on partners to final destination. I always plan at least a 4hr stay in LHR to use the Virgin Club for some great food and drink as well as a haircut and shoe shine.
Take advantage of Airlines promo bonuses and keep a record.
Keep up with activity in your rewards programs to make sure you don’t lose your points or miles due to inactivity.
If the flight you want isn’t available, before paying double miles to get what you want, check business and first class, even for short domestic flights. Sometimes there’s unexpected availability for no extra miles.
Make all of your purchases with a mileage earning credit card.
Collect miles as cheaply as possible in one program and redeem on partner travel.
concentrate your activity into one or two programs, to maximize your return. Learn the rules so you can get the greatest return with the least effort.
Do a bit of research and decide which alliance network is best for your travel style. Join and work to put all your flights through that alliance. This way all your points are put into one source. Additionally, finding a credit card with the main airline of this alliance increases your base of points and sometimes your status. When you purchase tickets make sure that the tickets count towards your miles.
In my experience there are 2 types of travelers who collect and use miles; 1. those that are very occasional travelers and collect for a long time and 2. those who are frequent travelers and collect and use often.
My advice would be to those who collect for a long time, to either use large chunks of miles to travel in business or first class (choose your airlines carefully as the products vary greatly!) or save up and use 1/2 the miles for an upgrade. For those who travel frequently I would use my miles almost exclusively for upgrades as your value for the money is much greater. It only costs twice the miles to book a reward business over economy but the cost in money is more like 4-6 times more. So for the same miles you can upgrade instead.
Above all do your research and know that you can get 2 completely different answers on availability from 2 different agents.
If you combine your loyalty program with a credit card then you will quickly earn enough points to use.
Lastly, it is always best to collect and use miles with airlines that are part of an alliance. That way you have much more seat availability at your disposal.
stick to one airline and aim for elite status!
Collect miles and points only for airlines and hotels that you really like and that are readily available for use.
When possible, connect. Direct flights are great, but connections give you more flexibility in destinations and ultimately get you more miles.
Check your account regularly to make sure all miles get posted. Keep your boarding passes to retroactively get any miles to post that slip through the cracks.
When trying to redeem miles for an award ticket plan on doing all the leg work yourself – most airline phone agents will search the simplest routings, find no availability, and stop. Know all your airline’s partners (both in and outside the alliance) and all hub and gateway cities, and tell the agent exactly what you want.
For example, Delta had no availability for a West Coast to Israel award, in business, at a low redemption level. (I don’t think you’re a Delta fan, but work with me here.) But the agent only checked Delta flights. By knowing ahead of time that Air France serves Seattle, SFO, and LAX, and that Alaska serves my city and the AF gateways, I got the outbound on the exact dates I wanted. An overnight in Paris on the return was avoided as well by knowing all my options.
Similarly, secure the international flight first. There is only one SEA-CDG flight a day. Find availability for that, then work on getting to SEA – there’s likely many more options for the domestic flight. Many agents will not even search the international flight on a particular day if your first domestic segment doesn’t appear to be available.
Lastly, be polite but insistent. The agent may not want to check SEA-CDG, then SFO-CDG, then 3 LAX-CDG flights, then SFO-AMS on KL, etc. Make them – it’s their job. And if he or she isn’t helpful just call back.
For someone just starting out, figure out which airlines you would be flying most. Then choose one that has the most flights and most partner airlines available for your desired routes. No matter which partner airline you fly, make sure to always credit your miles to the one frequent flyer program that you signed up with. Eventually you will have enough miles for your first award, whatever that may be.
Don’t let anyone tell you how you should use your miles. In my opinion, your miles are worth whatever they are worth to YOU. Use them to fly coach, to fly premium, for upgrades, for merchandise, or for magazines. Redeem them however you wish, and enjoy your hard-earned work!
I’d suggest reading up on all programs offered by those you most frequently use, and spend points smart…get the most out of it, but also be aware of all the rules involved with spending the points.
My travel tips:
Get to elite status as soon as possible. Do Mileage Run if needed.
Use the promotions as much as possible. Do Mattress Run if needed.
Top tip: Flexibility. Be willing to be a little bit flexible when it comes both to dates and destinations. Also, be flexible about using the points at all – keep an eye on the costs of booking the hotel or flights that you have chosen, and be willing to cancel if the economics are reasonable.
Focus your travel in a single program, but always be open to earning bonuses and taking advantages of great promotions in other programs you don’t typically use.
Just read the flyertalk forums and the boardingarea blogs!
Set up your bills to be paid automatically using your American Express Card.
Choose a loyalty program that allows you to earn points over a wide variety of opportunities, airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, meals, shopping opportunities, as well as bonus offers.
To earn points, consolidate all the family’s spending (adults, teens, college kids) on cards (debit and credit) that earn points, and send the earned points to a SINGLE frequent flier account. (We have six debit and six credit cards, all linked to ONE frequent flier account so all the points collect in one place instead of being split up.) Who cares whose name is on the “award certificate” when you’re flying first class for free? I don’t!
Second, read the bonus and partner offers you get — you do get them right? — from your frequent flier club. We get triple miles everytime we pay our electric bill (from the electric provider), plus double miles if we use our bank credit card to pay it — that’s nine miles for every dollar we pay on electricity. And we’d have to pay the electric bill anyway — we don’t use more electricity, or pay more for it, becuase we opted for a partner that was offering a bonus program for new sign-ups.
Last, but not least, focus your major spending on your American Express card. When we are NOT using award points to travel — like our twice-a-year visits to New Zealand — we put everything on the Amex card. Same for auction purchases (I love auctions!), household repairs and furnishings, car repairs and maintenance, and any other big-ticket purchase. American Express offers flexible mileage rewards that can be usd on any airline — and there are TONS of bonus and partner programs, too. Best of all, there’s no spending limit on an Amex Gold or Platinum card, and I control how I pay — in full at the end of the grace period, which costs me nothing — or over time by transferring the balance to an Amex card with term payments and low interest. Love it! I really won’t leave home without my Amex card!
My tip is to plan early and be persistent. In order to maximize your points, you have to be patient and organized.
for those of us that don’t have a ton of time to keep up — pick one or two really good sites to peruse daily. I choose frugaltravelguy.blogspot.com and wanderingaramean.com. Occassionally, I also still check FlyerTalk, but I found that while I’m not flying as much, sorting through all of FT is too time consuming.
I like to keep my miles and then use then on a trip that I would not be able to afford long international trip!! I also like being able to wake up one morning and say, hmmm I want to go to LAS for the weekend and just go with no worries!! That is why I collect points!!
Many semi-frequent flyers don’t realize that they can often credit their flown miles to a different airline miles program within an alliance or through other reciprocal agreements. Doing so can keep all your miles in one place (or at least just a few places), with a potentially significant impact on how soon you’ll have enough miles for award travel.
Earning miles quickly is much easier than you think! Every time you have to pay for something, think of gaining mileage points. Get a credit card (like AmEx) that gives the most mileage points for your favorite airline every time you use the card; I use that one card for just about everything. Then, check out what companies your airline partners with and shop through them (for i.e. hotel stays, car rentals, and even for significant things like home loans, larger purchases, loans, insurance and even home purchases). Many airlines have “dining for miles” programs (linked up to your credit card). You can also shop at your regular stores online but go through mall sites (like Delta’s SkyMall) where you get points for money spent (that’s in addition to the miles your credit card will give). You can also rack up the points by completing online surveys for companies linked up to your airline (like erewards.com for Delta miles). Also, check your airline’s frequent flier webpage every now and then for specials offering points. It all adds up quickly!
Once you have enough miles on an airline, plan to use them, but do your planning well in advance, like making reservations 2 months early, to ensure availability of your preferred travel dates. Remember: once made, the reservations cannot be changed. Lastly, make your hard-earned $$ work for you and enjoy your free reward trip to the max!
read boarding area blogs; browse flyertalk discussions; use Starwood Preferred Guest Card from America Express.
[Full Disclaimer: I am one of the founders of the site, so consider this a shameless self-promotion!]
My hint is to use Grativis.com to manage all your frequent flyer program information – it’s like Mint.com for points.
It will pull in all of your points (flights, hotels, car, and others) and show it to you in a 1-page dashboard, while also showing the detailed information just 1 click away. What makes it different (and better) than other point management sites is that, in addition to showing your points, it will show what you can buy (eg “how many round trip coach tickets to Europe can I buy?”) with your points!
It’s in private beta right now, but I’ve set up 100 invites for blog.wandr.me users so that they can test it out themselves and see how it makes managing points easier than anything else out there.
To Sign Up:
Referral Code: BOARDINGAREA-FRIENDS
Thanks for a great site!
If you get an agent that is unhelpful – hang up and call back until you get an agent who is knowledgeable and willing to help. Be nice to the rep – that goes a long way.
My top tip for using airline points is to be ready to plan several months in advance, be flexible and pick a few dates and surrounding airports to chose to fly into, and if you’re unable to find a flight by yourself online, try calling a points representative. You may have to pay a small fee but often they are able to search with partner airlines and get you where you want to go! You may want to check back a few times if you aren’t able to get it on the first try, as sometimes ther is an extra special agent that will go out of their way to help you a litte more. Be nice!
If you are just starting, focus on one or 2 programs to learn the tips and tricks as well as building points or miles.
My miles-earning tip is to frequently try to use the shopping portals offered through airline and hotel sites (for example, Mileage Plus Mall for United Airlines, or Priority Club Shopping for Priority Club Rewards) to buy things that I need. Not only do I earn miles on my airline or hotel affiliated credit card, but also an additional minimum of 1 mile per $1 spent. Even better though is when you come across an item that you might not particularly need, but after the free shipping and mail-in rebate, the item is free. I then immediately post it on ebay and walk away with more money in my pocket that I started with, and a bunch of miles or points.
Sign up for your airline’s Dining Rewards program and sign up for every bonus there. It’s an easy way to make miles on stuff you’d do anyway. Always offer to pay the bill, you’ll look like a nice guy and get the miles, you can double dip if you have a mileage earning credit card.
Be very flexible. Be willing to travel to another airport on your own dime to get an international flight to your desired destination.
Try to consolidate travel and therefore mileage earning into one airline program and make sure that the airline is convenient to your home location. That way elite status is more within reach.
Establish a habit to check flyertalk.com at least Twice a day!
Details, details, check the details!
Sign up for every hotel/airline/train loyalty program out there. Just because you think that you aren’t going to actually fly on a particular airline or stay in a particular hotel chain, does not mean that’s a reason not to sign up for these programs. After that, make sure that you participate in every bonus, sign-up promo or opt-in promo available (think Continental’s frequent 100 mile promos). You never know when those couple hundred miles or points will come in handy for a larger promotion that is being offered. Often you can transfer points or miles to other programs via points.com to get that last necessary partner participation.
Use a single credit card for everything you purchase including travel, household and personal expense, utilities, and paying your taxes. The card you use should be the one that has the best rewards program and flexibility for your personal lifestyle.
Set up a Google Alert with keywords for your favorite airline’s name and something like “frequent flier miles” or “miles promotion”–go crazy and do all the combinations–it costs nothing and can help make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity you might not have otherwise noticed.
Always be sure to keep up to date with promotions and special offers of your favorite loyalty programs. These promotions allow you to earn points, miles, and rewards at greatly accelerated rates. Read the T&C’s carefully and be sure to follow up with Customer Service if any bonuses do not post.
Take advantage of stopover rules if your program offers it. It can allow you another destination for virtually free!
Pay attention to all promotion (best way is to add all boarding area blogs to your RSS reader). Elite status is very important so start with a single program. Get to learn the game from experts. FLyertalk.com is a good place to visit daily!
Enjoy reward flights sooner with a Household Account.
You and up to six other members of your household, including children, can earn and spend British Airways Miles together. Each member has an individual account, which is linked with the others so you can pool BA Miles, making it easier to take reward flights sooner.
Jumpstart your miles by getting status on one airline. AA offers a Platinum challenge that can help you get status very quickly. Once you have status with AA, many other airlines are willing to match it. When you fly with status, you get more miles. Now you just have to earn it the hard way next year. 😉
Wait, you don’t have a kindle or an ipod? What is wrong with you?
Give a good comment to airline services with their customer relation emails and sometimes you will get a good reward.
EARN- Sign up for a credit card affiliated with miles,(if possible CHURN!); always makes sure that your hard earned miles actually post; travel when double miles are being offered; and look around at blog.wandr.me, and FT, for the many bonuses out there.
SPEND- If you’ve got the miles, USE AND ENJOY THEM, unless the price to pay is the same value as the points or cheaper, when then you might as well save your miles for a different occasion, and actually earn miles on your current flight or stay; also, often cash & points can be your best option.
We dump all our mileage points from six debit and six credit cards into a single FF account (mine), so every dollar spent by me, my husband, and four college-age kids, earns points. Really adds up by doing it that way, instead of allowig the points to be spread over six different FF accounts.
The biggest thing I do is to dump all my points into a single FF account — credit cards, debit card, Amex points, hotel points, bonus points, etc. READ the newsletters and blogs for bonus opportunities on things you would buy or pay anyway. For instance, this year I’ll get 9 points for every dollar I spend on my electric bill thanks to a promotion one of the electric companies that gave 5 points per dollar paid for one year to the first 500 customers who signed up on a specific day. Then I pay the bill with a credit card that pays double points for being used for auto-debits or automatic monthly charges. And, since I pay the balance off in full each month before the due date, it costs me nothing extra. I mean, I can’t do without electricity, now can I?
If you aren’t a business traveler who flies a lot, I tell my friends in the US to gravitate towards Continental’s Onepass program. It’s the only program where miles never expire, so you can slowly but surely build towards a reward over however many years you need. Nothing is more discouraging for an aspiring frequent flyer than to have their miles erased for no good reason.
Pay attention to promotions within your chosen program and consolidate your travel within the time periods of the promotion
Use the credit card partner for your airline of choice and any related utility offers. Miles collect extremely quickly this way.
Always have a spouse/partner/friend take part in the promos and deals so you don’t have to fly first class all alone!
Just calling in to a live person always works best for me. Unfortunately, the websites never seem to show the same availability that you can get dialing in directly. It is a hassle, but worth it when you need to get complex trips for multiple people
She’s a no brainer mate- use a the same credit card for ALL OF YOUR PURCHASES and the same for travel – you will say DANG! I EARNED ALL THOSE MILES!? Fair Dinkum?
Don’t limit yourself to a hotel chain…there is no worse way to travel…be free…go where the road leads you. It is about the journey not the destination!
Don’t be afraid to use airline/hotel credit cards to accumulate points in order to prevent older points from expiring. Sending a bouquet of flowers to someone can be an easy way to prevent thousands of points from disappearing.
When booking a hotel in a busy city location or at a busy time of year, hotels are less likely to let you use points for free nights or upgrades. Many programs,like SPG (Starwood) allow you to pay cash + points. I’ve found this a great way to book a nice room ( usually the free rooms are by an elevator, ice machine, lower floor etc). But by using the points and cash option, the rooms are usually upgrades. You still earn points on the portion of the room paid in cash so it’s a win/win.
Another Tip: Start a mileage program only with the major airline serving your area, and search online for free mileage contests and promotions!
Sign up for the promotions that link two travel partners together when taking a trip, like get bonus Delta miles for staying at Marriott or get bonus Hertz points for staying at Hilton. That way you get extra points from the promotion with one company and regular with the other. It’s a win win for sure!
SPG points to LAN kilometers is the best credit card deal out there per dollar spent, especially for short, expensive flights on OneWorld partners.
If you accumulate points mostly on spend and can’t decide on a card—- the American Express charge cards and the SPG Amex offer flexible points that can be redeemed for hotels, merchandise or highly sought after upper class international airfare.
Don’t neglect mileage credit on partner airlines – sometimes really small lines are affiliated with your program. It’s worth a little extra time on the website to ensure that you can be credited for trips on small carriers.
My top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points is to do their research and utilize as many resources as possible. For example, utilize partnered dining websites and shopping websites. If you are going to buy something you might as well get points for it. Additionally, always ask if a loyalty program is doing a promotion for bonus points (there is always one going on). For those looking to use their points my best advice is to research forums and ask questions of experienced travellers. We are a community we are always there to help! Also, see if there are combined packages that are available. It may cost less points to transfer your airline miles to hotel points and take advantage of a combined vacation package. In summation, ask questions! The worst answer you could get is no, and usually you will get tips and advice on how to maximize your points.
Read Flyertalk, daily (more often if possible).
Burn ’em as you earn ’em. Inflation is your biggest enemy!
Use a credit card that earns miles/points which cqn be redeemed on multiple airlines/hotels, as long as you can justifly the fee and pay it off monthly.
Look at the terms and conditions carefully.
Use RSS feeds and SMS alerts on your phone from favorite travel and deal websites to ensure you see the best points deals and promotions that you can take advantage of while you are traveling.
look into alliance partners and non-flight earning opportunities, such as miles for shopping online.
If travel is flexable wait unil you find a good promotion before booking. I never travel unless I can get at least double points.
Be flexible with travel dates–experience new places when the price is right and earn miles along the way 🙂
Use farecompare.com searcher to get best deals regarding cost per mile and to find those new places to see. http://www.farecompare.com/search/flyertalk.html
Stay loyal to one airline to get even more miles with elite bonus miles!
Take advantage of promos & join flyertalk.com community to keep up with the latest.
Always look for the new route bonuses!
Get a AMEX credit card that gives you airline miles (for me Delta Plat) per $ spend and charge everything paying balance off at end of the month. Track what you spend and when you hit the annual spending that gives you the bonus miles–switch to a 2nd AMEX point card (for me SPG Amex).
If looking for award tickets to Europe, always call the agents and be patient and very kind to them–they will work it for you and search all of the partner sites too. It has taken me some time on the phone but they have always been able to find me a low mileage award ticket even on short notice for Europe in the summer 🙂 If by chance they can’t find anything then at least you were nice to them anyway as I am sure that is always welcome.
Don’t overlook discount European airlines if you can not get into your desired European destination–fly into where the award is low if you can coordinate a cheap flight to your desired destination.
And most importantly—Enjoy life & the adventures!
Flyertalk is the single one stop database to get more info / deals on ff programs.
Make people around you and your family aware of the benefits of miles. You”ll be surprised to find how many people just let go of miles and don’t know how to take advantage of them. You can benefit from miles of your friends and family members too by doing certain promotions together and doubling your miles.
On a dollar per mile basis, longer flights generally give more bang for the bucks.
Pay attention to hotel points – they are often more valuable than airline miles.
When booking an award ticket with miles, use allowed free stopovers to get the most value out of your miles and see new places that you may not otherwise have seen.
Pick your loyalties and stick with them! Switching around between airlines and hotel chains will scatter your points around and probably not earn you elite status anywhere. It’s worth it in the long run to not always go with the cheapest price in order to maintain your loyalty to that carrier or brand!
Don’t let your miles expire. To prevent expiration due to inactivity, redeem a small amount of miles for a magazine subscription. Or better yet, book an award flight!
Make sure every fare/hotel you stay at “actually” earns points, I don’t know how many times people book something and they end up not earning points on it. Look for promotions and BE FLEXIBLE when it comes to redeeming. The farther out you can book the better off you are!
Concentrate your loyalty to only a few programs(at most) and take advantage of all their bonus promos! They add up surprisingly quick.
Have flexibility with your dates, think outside of the box on routings, and be nice to the people helping you on the reservation!
Use a mileage tracking tool for a consolidated view of your portfolio of air, car and hotel accounts. It can be easy to miss expriring miles, etc otherwise.
Ignore your family, your job, spend all you time trolling the internet for deals. Just kidding.
Nothing beats the Starwood Amex card. Easiest way we’ve found to earn and use points. Starwood also has the excellent cash+points option which I haven’t seen from other loyalty programs.
Don’t pay the annual fee on a points based credit card unless you use it heavily or have earned a hefty bonus in that year. And NEVER keep a balance on your points-earning credit card.
Use your point earning credit card for EVERYTHING Yes, I mean EVERYTHING (but pay it off at the end of the month of course). I even use it in the soda machine at work. And be sure to sign up for all of the extras such as ‘dining for miles’, special airline promotions, and miles earning surveys. Fun to watch the miles add up.
Check your main airline’s foreign partner airlines for earning miles, not just alliance airlines.
For example, one can fly direct to Taipei on EVA Airways and earn Continental One Pass miles, even though EVA is not in the star alliance. EVA is cheaper than United and United no longer flies direct.
Mileage cards are often the best bang for the credit card buck, and Amex often does have the better mileage offers than many other cards. I personally prefer to get cash back on my cards, though, and spend it as I choose. (Up to 4%).
Can’t really come up with anything better for building miles than have already reported on. Choosing an alliance that services your local airport(s) to destinations that you tend to fly to, sticking with that alliance when possible, and picking the longer route if available that’ll still get you there on time.
Add the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card to your wallet and earn 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries. Plus, if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 bonus points. There are more than 140 partners with whom to redeem your points for a wide selection of travel, shopping and dining rewards.
Starwood Preferred Guest points are powerful currency, especially since you can convert them 1:1 into most airline programs, allowing you some of the best flexibility for finding and redeeming awards, depending on which airline may have availability.
Watch out for SPG/Hyatt/Hilton/Marriott/Priority Club free night promos… burn those and save the points! Also, look for the best free night promotions: longer redemption period, less restrictions on hotel categories the free nights can be used for, less nights/stays needed per free night earned.
consolidate. once i enjoyed business class to europe i vowed to only spend $$ on one FF airline. so far i’ve been back twice and am almost up to my third return.
Pay for all purchases with a mileage earning credit card.
Link you mileage account with a hotel chain which has a lot of hotels in a particular city.
If your airline miles or hotel points are expiring, you can order something from a partner vendor to keep your account active (and earn points at the same time).
I go through my “travel checklist” before every trip that includes bringing a printout of all my FF and FH account numbers. Just in case I have to switch flights or hotels.
Make sure to subscribe to flyertalk threads to stay current on promos for your ff and fh accounts.
Use a credit card that awards points for money spent on it. It is an easy way to collect points each month without flying.
I use Priority Club PointBreaks when a travel around the country for my photography. Many times my driving itinerary allows a lot of flexibility in where I spend the night. At 5,000 points per night my points go a lot further than they would using them for a standard stay. On a recent four week trip I used PointBreaks fifteen times.
Find several (in our family, three) credit cards that are free or very low cost, and that have good points programs with elite (silver, platinum, etc) bonuses. Then split up your charges (for us, reaching $20K per year on each card does the trick to get elite status.
My tip is to use credit card offers as much as possible. I do that, earning sign-up bonuses, and occassionally retention bonuses. Some cards allow you to get the sign up bonus multiple times. I also transfer some AA miles I earn to Hilton to allow me hotel points also.
When dining out with a group of friends and the bill comes on one ticket they always choose to pay cash. I take all their cash and then pay the entire bill – along with my portion of course – on my credit card simply to get the miles.
I’m disciplined enough to put the cash in my banking account and make a payment towards the credit card right away.
Earn some points and use them wisely 🙂
When redeeming remember to use partner award travel options. Several times they will not be displayed online and the agent will not list them over the phone. Make sure you know the alliance and non alliance airline partners and try to create your own itinerary using a travel site. Once you have an itinerary call the airline and ask the agent for availability on those flights you’ve selected. Have several options in terms of airlines, dates, and flight times. For earning miles use your credit card for everything. I use my SPG Amex card for something as small as a 99cent purchase. The SPG Amex actually allows you to earn 1.25 miles per dollar as for every 20000 points transferred to an airline you received a 5,000 bonus.
Save. Go big. Go in style.
If you have “world points” or any sort of airline reward points, use those for big trips. Use smaller trips you can pay for “out of pocket” on your credit card towards more reward points.
Focus Focus Focus. Two programs, a cc that generates reward points, put your hotel points into your airline program. I never buy anything, including a house, unless I get points.
Don’t let your points expire! It’s a great idea to get and hoard as many miles as possible, but make sure to know the rules of your particular program as they can all go to waste if you don’t meet minimum activity requirements…
You don’t need to be a customer of an airline to take advantage of their loyalty programme – think alliances. For example, I am one of BMI’s best customers despite having never flown on one of their flights. The same has been true of Air Canada in the past.
Keep a spreadsheet of all your point activity. That way if the program makes a mistake- and it happens- you can get it corrected.
Use your miles to travel to exotic places where the tickets are extremely expensive, but you need to plan ahead. Well, sometimes you don’t have to, because not many people book award tickets to those places 😀
You can even sweeten the deal by making a stop-over!
This usually yields the best value for the miles for me.
Get yourself a mileage earning credit card!
If you are going to spend money, then why not spend it and earn something back at the same time?
Take advantage of low fares to boost up your mileage total. Quick weekend trips can rack up the miles if you pay attention to what you earn versus what the trip costs.
Be smart about what you use your points for. International tickets and international upgrades tend to be the best uses of points .
If you have a credit card that earns points, always use that card, even if you intend to pay cash; you can alwas pay the bill before its due, but then you are able to earn extra points for travel!
Redeem your miles for premium class tickets to overseas, or Hawaii, and Alaska. These are among the best value of your miles. Always plan ahead, usually you can book your award travels 330 days in advance. Keep that information in mind whenever you are thinking a nice trip. Good luck to us all!
Sign up for all the loyalty programs you can then track the detailed information, membership numbers, benefits, enrollment dates etc. Use this information every time you book travel or stays for frequent upgrades, perks and free stays. There are a lot of programs out there so search and track once you find them.
Have fun earning your points/miles, but also have fun USING them! Pick a place that you’ve always wanted to go. Then go nuts – don’t skimp out and fly coach or book a Holiday Inn. Go all out and fly first class and stay at a fancy-schmancy resort…make it something truly unforgettable.
Sometimes, travel companies have some incredibly lucrative promotions (like the LatinPass promotion, through which we earned a million miles, most of which were used on USAir, or transferred to Hilton and Marriott). When these promotions happen, DON’T delay! They frequently get pulled, or closed to additional entrants. You have to figure out the benefits and pull the trigger quickly.
I use my hotel credit card to pay my elderly mother’s
pharmacy bill each month then have her pay me back.
I tell her it’s just easier for me to pay with the credit card than getting a check from her to pay the bill and I rack up a lot of points each year this way 🙂 .
follow the brilliant advice on these blogs..esp wandering aramean…
1 Consider using your airline rewards for upgrades to first class or business class.
2 Read flyertalk and the blogs like this
3 Plan ahead for better availability
4 some good luck
Keep a positive attitude and the longview about reaching your destination. Actual airtime goes quickly when you are calm and content.
Don’t earn miles in a program that you wouldn’t want to redeem a reward in no matter what the perks.
Burn them when you can. Points/miles will devalue over time.
The Best use of your miles are international Business/First awards, don’t waste your miles on anything less.
Purchase paper gift certificates at a Mom and Pop supermarket with a mileage earning credit card and redeem by buying a couple of small items; mine gives me change in cash. Rinse, repeat. (This is useful when you need to hit a spend threshold on a credit card)
Attend the 6th Annual Ann Arbor Art Fair DO. This year is devoted to discussing the ins and outs of award ticket booking. It is the perfect opportunity to network with fellow points and miles fiends. Details available at Flyertalk.com
Follow blogs with an RSS reader to efficiently keep up with promos and deals.
Stick to one or two programs for each of air, car, hotel, etc and be completely loyal to those, for example, go with SPG + SPG Amex + stay only at SPG hotels and sign up for as many promotions as possible via milemaven/pointmaven
Find a program and stick to it. Pay very close attention to the expiration dates on your rewards, especially the free car vouchers and such (like the 1 2 free promo by National, those things expire really fast.
Especially when dealing with rental cars try and break into a higher tier as you’ll get better service and better cars usually.
For what it’s worth I’ve found points don’t matter as much as the perks to me. I would much rather get upgraded on 20 domestic flights than get one free international flight.
Don’t call the TSA guards.
Do your homework! Know EVERYTHING about the loyalty rewards program you chose: one-time promotions, how to get bonus points, who are the partners, etc.
Every time you make a reservation/pay for something (store, hotel, restaurant, purchase on-line, concert, trip to a museum, etc) remember to check if you can use your loyalty card. EVERY LITTLE BIT ADDS UP!!!
When you have a lousy experience with an airline, CONTACT the airline immediately; often you will receive double miles or at least courtesy miles. And if you don’t, you’re not being descriptive enough!!
I’ve had great experiences with Delta’s customer service responding to some horrid flight experiences (when you fly 80,000 miles a year, you’re bound to have a few ugly ones!)
Keep very detailed notes of everything you do to qualify for a particular promotion so that you are in a good position to collect your points if something goes bad.
Sign up for AwardWallet.com to keep track of your mileage balances if you are a member of several programs (like me!). The free version is great, but for as little as $1 for 6 months, you can also keep track of expiration dates for your programs, so that you don’t lose your hard-earned miles & points due to inactivity.
Keep it simple! Choose one loyalty program that best suits your personal needs. They sometimes change so get updates, because what you don’t know about your loyalty program can hurt you.
Always know the promotions for your program and do your best to take advantage of them.
Be sure to enter as many programs as you can, but try to concentrate your miles/points in one or two.
My advice would be to “get loyal” with a favorite hotel chain/ airline/ rental car company – higher level loyal members, Starwood Platinums, Hyatt Diamonds, United 1ks, for example not only earn base points but bonus points for these member classifications, as well as other perks and upgrades (free) that rewards the loyal frequent traveler.
Also, using a branded credit card to pay for these hotel rooms and plane tickets (United’s Visa, Starwood’s Amex, for example) have a way of being a point multiplier for increased earnings ad well.
Earn airline miles with one carrier/alliance but with at least two hotel chains to ensure that there’s a location you can use points on a trip and in case the hotel of choice has no rooms available, that way you have a backup to use when you want to cash in points for a trip.
My top tip for using mileage points is to plan well in advance and to fully understand the specific restrictions of the program.
Do the math. Even if a domestic ticket seems expensive, it’s almost never worth it to burn miles. Save them for your international trips.
If you get a rep that says it cant be done, hang up and call again until you get a rep that will work with you and is knowledgeable. Try try try again. Often reps just dont know their own loyality program. Make sure you get one that does.
As I’ve gotten older, my time has become more valuable and I’ve had more disposable income. Therefore, I recommend being a little more willing to spend money instead of sacrifice time to build mileage balances.
On Continental, I have the Presidental Plus credit card, which gives a 25% redeemable miles bonus. I pay in advance for the Extra Mile bonus, which is another 50%. I have Platinum status, offering a 100% bonus. And I frequently purchase B fares, which are upgradeable at booking and earn 150% EQM, good for keeping status.
Points are in the details, understand where the bonuses are and how to get them as cheaply as possible. So don’t spread yourself to thin between too many programs
Then to spend them, plan as early as possible and do the research on miles required, could find a steal where you least expect it.
Be friendly with hotel/airline counter agents! You just may get upgraded – especially if you are traveling on a special occasion such as your honeymoon, anniversary, etc. Let them know!
The best thing is to keep a close eye on great blogs like this one for good info on hot deals. I use my miles credit card for everything! I get miles for all purchases and it keeps any of my miles from expiring! Thanks.
Put everything you can on your mile earning credit card (just make sure you pay it off each month) – for a typical person the miles alone will probably be enough for a free domestic round trip, plus you will likely gain some other perks (companion certificates etc) in the process.
follow travel sites on Twitter for special offers and be sure to know loyalty programs partners
Know what your programs’ expiration rules are and what it takes to keep your miles/points from expiring. Even if you don’t have enough miles in your account to take a flight, you may have an opportunity in the future to get enough for a ticket. Keeping miles alive in many programs can also be done cheaply. For example, buying a song on iTunes keeps United miles alive for another 18 months.
And thanks for writing this awesome blog, Seth!
Keep your points alive, even if you have not taken a flight recently, by using the airlines version of “the mall” or “marketplace”. Earning even a few points/miles will extend their life.
What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points? At Christmastime, do all your shopping online for FF miles! I’ve racked up lots of points this way and have traveled to Europe and California using my FF miles.
Use the Starwood AMEX to accumulate points, then transfer to your favorite airline program with a 25% bonus for 20,000 point exchanges. Alternatively keep Starwood Amex points in reserve so you can transfer smaller amounts to “top off” airline accounts to reach the award you need.
Earn/consolidate to one frequent flyer program of an alliance. Always check the ‘Fare basis code’. Starwood Preferred Guest card is best credit card for earning miles, gives 5k bonus for redeeming 20k miles to 30 different FFP program.
do not let your miles expire because you are not flying enough with a carrier. Be sure to earn them some other way to stay “active” in your account. Buy something through their web portal or dine with thier dinning program.
Air miles and some hotel points expire. When you sign up to earn these miles, ask the related parties how long you have to accrue the points, how long they are valid and if there are policies on extending earned miles or awards. Be careful!
Consolidate to one or two rewards programs, enter all promotions, and use points as they accumulate so much as is reasonable to counter any fears of inflationary pressures the points may face (and limits the need to worry about expiration dates).
With the volatility/instability in various travel industries, I always figure I should use my miles rather than saving them — you never know when your preferred provided will go bankrupt or change the terms of service.
My top tip for ALL travelers is this — consider packing so lightly that you do not even bring a camera or computer with you. We get so wrapped up in our technology these days that we forget to really see and enjoy the beauty before us. When you leave the camera in the hotel or back home, not only can you walk and explore more lightly, but you take in the moments for yourself. Mental snapshots are a powerful tool for helping one enjoy any locale.
If you only travel a moderate amount, make every hotel stay one night and then switch hotels for the next night. This is the quickest way to elite levels at the hotel chains. The hotels always require less stays than nights to reach elite levels, so by switching hotels nightly, you can earn elite status with just 2-3 stays per month. Once you have status, you’ll start earning additional bonus points and upgrades.
If you find you are getting “spun” by the hotels and airlines when you try to use your points/miles, write directly (and nicely) to the CEO of the company (registered mail), with all the facts and details, enclosing all relevant documents. We had hundreds of thousands of points and miles but couldn’t use them for one reason or another for years… UNTIL I did that. We were contacted Immediately and got to have the honeymoon of our DREAMS, and the hotels and airlines treated us like GOLD! I have used this technique effectively with CEOs from several major corporations (inc. Marriott and Delta) to resolve a variety of issues. As my dad said “You don’t ask, you don’t get”! But ask Nice!
Read Flyertalk and blogs like this for the latest advice on mileage earning and burning opportunities.
Stick with one alliance to maximize your mileage earning abilities; make sure you check mileage earning on partners (you never know which airlines/rental car companies/hotels/credit cards/etc. partner with one another!). Save those miles for your dream first-class trip anywhere! Luxurious air travel is the best way to get the most out of your miles. 😀
American express cards – ones with membership rewards and the always popular Starwood Preferred Guest offer the most flexibility and always maximize the amount of points you can add up on these programs through every day purchases.
Pick an alliance, use it. Pay for everything with your miles card. Use any opportunity for double and triple miles offers. Use up the miles before the airline goes out of business.
Earn every chance you can and credit to as few programs as possible (consolidate). For example, credit flights to one airline program per alliance and when staying at a hotel outside your “preferred” hotel program(s), try to credit to an airline rather than holding just a couple of points in every program.
Read Boarding Area blogs – they boil down the into the nitty gritty. Join Flyertalk and forge invaluable friendships with people who can help cover all the bases. They got my back!
Stick with one program and BE FLEXIBLE!!
I use my rewards card to pay for almost everything, and then have my wife book trips. It just works better that way.
Study flyertalk.com and sign up for every program. I sharply regret the stays and flights I made before enrolling thinking a one night stay here and there it was not worth it.
Use the miles. Don’t hang onto them!
Finding award availability on the internet is not always easy – each airline website has its own quirks. Some don’t show partner award availability, some have a very poor search feature, and some don’t make it easy to look at multiple days at a time. I like ANA.co.jp for most Star Alliance availability, BA.com for OneWorld, and you have to work a combination of Airfrance.com and Delta.com to find SkyTeam awards. Each has its pluses and minuses. Sometimes you have to search segment by segment and piece together the whole trip. It can be frustrating, but assembling this information will be essential to finding the award you want.
Once you have the data – and a few alternatives – pick up the phone and call an agent. You will pay a few extra dollars, but if you are looking for Business Class or First Class it will be well worth it. And, try not to overpay for awards: often times the easy way to find a seat is to pay extra miles for the “Flexible” awards but with patience and the right search tools you can usually do much better as long as you are flexible.
Miles mean different things to different people. Don’t let your accumulated miles take on too much OR too little importance; use them as a tool that fits your personal circumstances. If you don’t often travel internationally, resist the urge to hoard miles for international vacations. If you need a quick, last-minute flight to visit an ailing relative or get to a job interview, use your miles! Put your miles to work for the things that matter to you.
Don’t ignore the hotel side of award trips. A one-week vacation will set you back just as much in hotels as airfare, so maximize your hotel stays. I like the Starwood American Express card because of the flexibility of the points, good award availability and options (eg. cash+points, redeem 4 nights and get 1 free), and the nice properties. And you can transfer the points to airlines if you want.
To garner miles, put every possible necessary charge on an airline-affiliated credit card and sign up for every offer that provides increased miles, such as double for groceries or drugstore purchases. Don’t be afraid to be the person who quarterback’s the end of group dinners by putting them on your card and receiving cash from others, even if you hate math.
Leave good instructions for your heirs on how to access your miles in all your accounts. You don’t want them to go to waste– rather, you want your kids to be able to use them should you die unexpectedly. Once the airline knows you’re gone, they will probably lock your miles.
Try and sketch out your years travel at the start of the year. This lets you calculate your flight miles goal and predict when you’ll reach it. You can then estimate when you’re likely to reach your goal and look into other methods (hotels, car rentals etc) to speed things along.
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