Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frequent Flier Miles 101

When's the last time you were rewarded for great behavior?? Perhaps at age four it was exciting to get a tootsie roll for being sweet to your sister or a gold star on the potty chart, but now that we're adults and nobody's monitoring successful bathroom usage, we deserve to be rewarded for bigger and better things.

Many companies are establishing loyalty programs to incentivize commitment to specific brands and stores. By simply making a purchase, you have the potential to earn points or stamps or miles, eventually reaching some level of reward. Airlines in particular are known for this by way of frequent flier programs, providing top-notch rewards (upgrades, free flights, accommodations, transportation) after a certain amount of flying or buying with them. But as always, there are tricks to every trade...
It is important to note that most major airlines are part of an alliance. This means that you can attribute your flight activity to any frequent flier program within the alliance. For example, you can fly British Airways or Iberia or Jet Blue and apply those miles to your AAdvantage account. Just select which program you want your miles to go to when booking and the rest is well-documented history.

Tip 1: Though many airlines might be part of the same alliance, they each have their own frequent flier programs. So, your best bet for acquiring maximum mileage will be to choose one frequent flier program from each alliance for your miles to go to. It will be much faster and easier to obtain miles that way rather than getting a lower amount for each individual program and never having enough to reach an award. Plus, you can often use the miles from one program to book an award flight with another airline from that alliance.

Tip 2: Research how long miles will last before they expire. If Turkish has a 3-year usage policy and United only has 18 months, you should go with Turkish to make sure the points don't go to waste.

Tip 3: Figure out which airline's miles are most valuable within an alliance. AKA, check each airline's award charts to see how many miles you would need to earn a free flight. Then, choose the one with the lowest spending levels. For a free ticket within the US, you only need 12,500 Delta Skymiles whereas booking a flight with KLM would require 25,000 miles for the same award...obbbbbbbviously we'll go with Skymiles.

**Just remember, when booking an award ticket you cannot combine miles from different frequent flier programs so it really is essential that you choose just one program from each alliance for maximum benefits. So fly free, my sweet readers, and remember that a little loyalty goes a long way!

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