Maximize Your Frequent Flyer Miles

by James & Miel on November 13, 2007 · 0 comments

Miles work the same as any other part of your budget: Do what you can to earn more and spend less!

EARN MORE: Frequent Flyer Miles can add up quickly. These days you don’t even have to fly, to earn or redeem, but spending money is generally involved. Many mileage programs have some or all of the following ways to earn miles:

  • Mileage Credit Cards. The best way to rack up your mileage is by putting as many of your monthly expenses as you can on your mileage card. Whatever the item, check to see if you can pay for it on your mileage card. Pay off your balance in full, every month, preferably with auto pay.
  • Household Expenses. Mortgage (many won’t let you, but you’ll rake in the miles if they do), rent, utilities, phone bills, internet, classes, car payments, you name it!
  • Earn Double for Flights. Book your flights through the mileage program and many airlines will double your miles.
  • Hotels, Car rentals, Vacation Packages. Book through your mileage program and you’ll often get at least double the miles.
  • Mileage Mall. Many mileage programs have agreements with lots of vendors to give you double, triple, or more miles per dollar you spend. My philosophy here is that when shopping online it is best to start here, because generally it just redirects you to the site and gives you the bonus miles. If you are going to shop, you might as well get more miles. Check out United’s as an example.
  • Dining Out. Many programs allow you to earn extra points for eating at certain restaurants. Even if you aren’t paying attention to where you eat you’ll still get extra miles. For example, I hit the jackpot when the place that I happened to host my DC farewell party had double miles. I treated for food and drinks for my friends, so the extra miles were a nice treat for me.
  • Gas. We don’t have this expense, so that saves money, but you might as well get the miles if you drive.
  • Groceries. You’ve got to eat, so you might as well get miles if you can.
  • Tuition. United offers double miles for paying student bills at Universities. At UMD my financial aid loans were deposited into my checking account, I paid my bill with my visa, and then paid off my bill with the loan money. Not a bad way for double the miles.
  • Go Gold! The best way to earn miles is once you’ve reached gold status (some programs allow you to do so by just paying more for the credit card). Earning double the miles on everything generally makes it worth the annual fee. I just reached Premiere Executive status with United on my trip to Kabul!

SPEND LESS: Once you’ve earned all of those fabulous miles, make sure you get the most for your miles!

It is estimated that ever mile you have is worth at 1.2 to 2 cents. This means that if you are going to spend 25,000 miles on a frequent flyer ticket, that it is only worth your miles if can’t find the ticket for less than $375. Here is a simple guide to help you:

1 Mile = 1.2 – 2 Cents
25,000 = $300-$600
35,000 = $500-$1200
40,000 – 60,000 = $600-$1800
55,000-70,000 = $800-$2000
On the flip side, if you can find your ticket to Disneyland for $200 and your mileage program wants 25,000 miles, it’s not worth it. Take the cash and then buy the ticket.

These days you can also redeem miles for tons of things, we’d advise buying something that would normally be in your budget so it is a net gain. Miles are also great for gifts.

Here a few links to some helpful sites:
Head 2 Head allows you to compare different mileage programs.
Flyer Talk is an online community where you can learn more about programs from other flyers. I’ll definitely check this out and report back to our readers with any good tips.
WebFlyer seems to have a fair amount of info on various programs all in one place.
FrequentFlier.com also seems to be loaded with great info.

Here are some of the top mileage programs:
United
American Airlines
Delta
Southwest – My friend swears by this one!

I also suggest that while it is good to be member for lots of frequent flyer programs (all those you fly on), you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you focus your miles on one provider. With bonuses like you get in gold status it is worth it.

DINKs would also like to give credit where credit is due. GoGlobal is the company whose class I originally went to on How to Travel for Free! You can also buy the complete booklet at Gina’s site.

Happy Earnings!

Miel

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