8 Frequent Flier Mile Hacks

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Frequent Flier Hacks

Being a perpetual business traveler used to be the only way to build up a worthwhile amount of frequent flier miles.  This meant traveling on the same airline at least once or twice a year to keep your miles from expiring.  Not only that, you needed 10-25 round trip flights under your belt to build up a rewarding collection of miles.  This would take most travelers (who only have two weeks of vacation and numerous responsibilities) around 10 years to develop a beneficial amount of miles. Today, with the large availability and joining incentives of airline credit cards, hotel programs, and airline third party partners, it is easier than ever to rack up enough miles to get a free award ticket.  The following list of hacks will help you to save up and organize frequent flier miles for free air travel in no time!:

1.  Book FAR in advance or at the LAST minute – Look at both ends of the spectrum.  First, search as far ahead as possible to find a low mileage priced award seat.  You can generally start searching at least six months in advance.  Booking far in advance is usually your best bet if you want to use the least amount of miles for an award seat.  If you can’t come across (or you don’t have the convenience of searching for) a seat far in advance, there is also a possibility of scoring a great deal on a last minute award seat.  This is usually hit or miss and will depend on your flight.

2.  Examine ALL your choices –
Before you decide to cash in your award miles, determine if you can save a greater amount of money by using the miles for a more expensive ticket down the road.  Don’t spend 25,000 of your miles on a $150 round trip flight, unless you’re not planning on traveling again for years to come.  Save them for that last minute flight you would’ve shelled out $600 for instead.  Last year, I was going to use 25,000 miles for a $200 round trip flight to Atlanta.  Instead, I waited a couple of months and used 40,000 miles for a $1300 round trip flight to Rio de Janeiro.  Also, instead of using 25,000 of your miles for a cheap ticket, find out if you can pay with a portion of your miles.  Many award programs (Delta for example) will let you pay for flights with miles.  This usually equates to 5,000 miles for every $50 you want off of the flight, which is normally a better option for lower costing flights.

3.  Track Your Miles –
Use mileage managing software to keep track of the miles on all of your accounts.  This will allow you to get a summary of all your accounts in one place.  The software also lets you determine which airlines you need to focus your efforts on more, and will help keep you from losing miles to expiration.  Here are a couple of options:
Mileport.com (free)
Mileagemanager.com ($14.95/year)

4.  Keep up with the rule changes –
Frequent Flier program rules are constantly changing.  Keep an eye out for changes, including new offers and expiring miles.  Check out the forums at FlyerTalk.com and FrequentFlier.com for the latest information and buzz on rule changes and deals.

5.  Rack up miles with new credit cards – This is by far the easiest way to earn miles.  You’ll never get anywhere signing up for offers yielding 50 or 100 miles that end up adding you to 17 different mailing lists.  Most miles programs are offering at least 15,000 miles for signing up and using their corresponding card for a few months.  Check out FrequentFlier.com for a comparison of some of the best miles cards available.  Remember that credit card offers only allow you to take advantage of the promotional feature once – this means you can’t sign up, collect the bonus miles, close your account, and open up another one to get the additional miles.  You can get around this a single time with a business tax id.  With a tax id, you can sign up for another card with your business name using the same frequent flier miles account.  I was able to do this with American Airlines and rack up 50,000 miles in less than two months.

6.  Focus on ONE Airline – When it comes to miles programs, diversifying yourself doesn’t always work.  Having some miles in a lot of different programs takes a good amount of time and energy, without yielding great results.  With the ease of getting frequent flier miles increasing, the market is becoming watered down with the amount of miles out there.  The best benefits and bang for your mile come about when you rack up a lot of miles and frequently travel with the same airline.  These programs were designed to keep travelers coming back.  Travelers will book the same airline to get to elite status, which includes free upgrades and preferential treatment. Also, don’t rack up miles in a program that doesn’t have flights to or from your city of residence.  For example, signing up for offers to get 30,000 miles on Alaskan Airlines won’t do you much good when you live in Orlando.

7.  Use Yapta to find award tickets – Plan a trip through Yapta and find the flights you’re interested in taking. From the search results, choose to “track” prices & “include award tickets”.  Yapta will email you when airfare & award seats become available for less.  Here are the five Frequent Flier Programs that are currently supported by Yapta: Alaska, Continental, Delta, U.S. Airways, and United.

8.  Use a Middleman to Transfer Miles – I don’t usually recommend this option, as huge “fees” are tacked on for transferring miles.  For example, with Points.com you can transfer miles between various airline miles programs, but it isn’t a 1 to 1 ratio.  You get around 500 miles in the program of your choice for every 1,000 miles you transfer.  This is sometimes a good option when you need a few additional miles in a certain program and you don’t care about losing a lot in another.

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