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Miles 101: The Ultimate Guide to Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

Credit Cards, Miles August 23, 2016

We love frequent flyer miles. Everyone does. Use them correctly and you will save a lot of money. Nevertheless, getting started and understanding what you can and cannot redeem them for may seem consuming. In this article, we are going to demystify the best ways of redeeming flyer miles.Miles Travellers come in many forms, the guy who’s always looking for a couch to crash on and the lowest rates possible. The wealthy guy who cheerfully pulls out his black card anytime he wants to go anywhere. And then there are the mileage geeks.

This type of traveller is neither cheap nor rich. But they do know how to redeem. They are either people who pay close attention to fine print or have invested a lot of time learning how to maximize company’s point systems.

As a frequent flyer, you’ve already done the hard part; You’ve racked up millions or thousands of frequent flyer miles through trips, and your airline miles credit card. Now you’ve got to figure out the best way to use those miles.

We decided to get our hands dirty and find which are the best ways to redeem your flyer miles and points. Below are the 7 best ways to use your frequent flyer miles and points.

1. Book a flight

A free flight is the most obvious way to use your miles and points. But there are so many nuances to this.

It’s silly to waste your miles on a quick, cheap flight when you can trade them for an expensive international flight. We also advise you to book early to get the best value for your miles and points.travel When using miles, work in one-way flights, this way you can grab an outbound flight even before your return date becomes available. Mileage seats are usually in limited quantities about 330 days before the departure date.

Once all of them are taken, they may not be available to mileage holders until just before the flight{Last minute}. Plus, if you hold miles on different carriers, you can opt to return on another airline.

Tip; If you have a lot of American Express Rewards miles and you want to use them on an airline that’s not part of the program, it’s advisable you keep an Air Canada Aeroplan account open. You can search for flights on any Star Alliance partner, then transfer your miles and make the booking.

The same is also true for using a Delta account for all SkyTeam partners.

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2. Upgrade

The best value from flier miles always comes from redeeming them for first class or international business class tickets.

If you are planning on using your miles to upgrade, make sure you study up on airline alliances. E.g Using American Airlines miles to fly Etihad’s in-air suites. This is one of the best ways to redeem your miles.952931-etihad-first-class However, it is very important to note that mileage-based upgrades have gotten expensive: Some U.S. airlines have also started restricting travellers from being able to use flyer miles to upgrade on the cheapest fares.

3. Add a destination

If you can get a free stopover,why not travel to more than one destination as part of your award. E.g Alaska Airlines allows a stopover. If you’re connecting in Hong Kong, why not enjoy what the city has to offer for a few days.Stopovers Same for United Airlines. They allow a free stopover on international round-trips. This means you can fly to London, then fly to Rome and stay there a few days, all for the same miles as a round-trip to London.

4. Give a gift

Is your best friend’s birthday approaching? Consider using your points and miles to give them an unforgettable present.

The use cases here are limitless, newlyweds to their honeymoon, grandparents closer to grandchildren or expectant parents to their babymoon.

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5. Bid on an experience

One of the best things about flyer miles is that they can deliver things that you couldn’t be able to access yourself at almost any price.

You’re simply leveraging the contacts of a large corporation. A good example of this is when Chase cardholders could cash in points to attend Conde Nast Traveler’s 25th-anniversary gala along with Susan Sarandon and Richard Branson.

The event was sold-out but the corporation was able to make it happen. Auctions organized by these Airlines can get you especially good value since very few people know about them, therefore the bidding stays thin and you don’t have to trade a lot of miles for the event.AntManPremiere Airlines such as Delta and American also allow you to bid on admission to concerts, movie premieres, and sports events.

6. Shop with miles

Most experts don’t actually think that spending your miles to shop constitutes a decent deal. Which is very true. It’s not advisable to use points and miles for products that the airline doesn’t offer because it has to buy.

Airlines started to push these methods of redeeming miles in recent years mostly because they can control the value of each mile, which is 1.5 cents or less.

Nevertheless, if your miles are about to expire and you will not be able to take a trip, or if your miles are not enough for a ticket, using points to shop is an effective way to clean out the balance that would otherwise go unused.

7. Donate your miles to charity

If there’s a cause you really care about, consider donating your points and miles. Donations can be made directly via charities’ websites such as Make-a-Wish, to help sick kids travel.

You can also donate via the airline. United airlines website has a list of good causes you can support. American Airlines offers a few too.donate-other However, you usually aren’t getting a very good deal when you donate miles directly to charity. It’s better to use the miles yourself, taking the money saved and giving that to the charity instead.

What are some of the best and worst mileage and points redemptions you’ve ever made – or heard? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Southwest and AirTran Combine Rewards Programs

Deals and Offers, News May 7, 2014

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Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran in 2011, but the integration of the two airlines is still underway. The latest step in that process is the combination of the AirTran A+ Rewards program with Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. On November 2, 2014, A+ Rewards members who don’t already have Southwest accounts will have new Rapid Rewards accounts set up for them automatically, and their A+ Rewards points will be converted into Rapid Rewards points.

This automatic process will try to match accounts based on user information like name and address, but if you have accounts with both programs and may have used a different address or name with the different accounts, you may have to verify your accounts with Southwest to make sure they’re linked correctly. In fact, the airline is offering 750 Rapid Rewards Bonus Points for doing just that.

There are more details over at Frequent Flier. If you do have accounts with both AirTran and Southwest, your new combined balance might be enough for a flight or upgrade. If you still need a few extra miles, try the FlightNuts listings or exchange reward points and flight miles at Points.com.

American Airlines Announces Eight New Domestic Routes

Best Mileage and Reward Flights, News May 6, 2014

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American Airlines and US Airways (the two merged recently) have announced eight new domestic routes to start running this fall from their hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

There are two new routes beginning September 3 with service between:

Charlotte and Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), operated twice per day as US Airways Express with Bombardier CRJs.

Philadelphia and Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), operated twice per day as US Airways Express with Bombardier CRJs.

The remaining routes will launch October 2:

Charlotte and Evansville, Indiana (EVV), operated three times per day as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ

Charlotte and Fort Wayne, Indiana (FWA), operated daily as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ

Chicago and Bismarck (BIS), operated daily as American Eagle with an Embraer ERJ-145

Dallas/Fort Worth and Bismarck, operated daily as American Eagle with an Embraer ERJ-145

Philadelphia and Fort Wayne, Indiana, operated twice-daily as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ

Phoenix and Cleveland (CLE), operated daily by US Airways with an Airbus A320

Customers can already book travel on most of these routes. Need some extra miles for an American Airlines or US Airways flight? Check the FlightNuts listings or head over to Points.com and exchange reward points and flight miles between your existing programs or trade your points and miles with other members.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Etihad Airways Unveils Three-Bedroom Apartments on the Airbus 380

News May 5, 2014

Etihad Airwayshas just announced what is quite possibly the most opulent air travel option short of buying or chartering your own jet. It’s “The Residence”, a suite with a bathroom (with shower—limited to 4 minutes), living room, and bedroom.

It comes with a butler to make sure everything goes smoothly and a chef to make meals to order in case you’re not into the gourmet options on the menu. So how much is a ticket? Apparently getting a “residence” for your London to Abu Dhabi journey will cost $42,000. Other Etihadflights are more reasonable, of course.

There are more details over at FlyerTalk.

The First Step to Maximizing Your Miles: Good Credit

Credit Cards May 2, 2014

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The travel site FlyerTalk is a really good source for learning how to maximize your miles. In a recent post, Rick Ingersoll (aka The Frugal Travel Guy), reviews the state of the miles-maximizing “game.” With policy-changing and belt-tightening at airlines, the game, Rick says, has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It’s less about mileage runs and more about credit cards.

Today, he says, the “game” is played primarily by getting big credit cards sign up bonuses and then maximizing your credit card bonus categories. These are the “big fish.” And both of these activities require good credit.

As Rick explains:

Without good credit, you are restricted to minuscule sized promos and the one or two debit cards that offer 1 point per $1 or 1 point per $2 spent of your own liquid assets.

With good credit, you will be involved in earning 25,000 miles or  more at a time for doing the things we normally do in a day anyway. Your step number one is getting your credit score and either raise to 700+ or plan on acting in a manner which will maintain that threshold if you are already at 700 or above. This is a non-negotiable must for those interested in accumulating a large number of miles and hotel points.

In fact, having good credit is not just important for maximizing your miles. It’s also critically important when it comes to buying a house or getting favorable credit card terms, miles aside. If you don’t know your credit score, you should definitely check it ASAP. Don’t know how? Try using MyCredit Tracker.

Image from Flickr (CC)

Frontier Transforms Into Ultra Low Cost Carrier

News May 1, 2014

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Frontier Airlines is transforming from a low-cost carrier into what the industry calls an ultra low-cost carrier (or ULCC). What this means in practice is that it is lowering base ticket prices, but “unbundling” its services so it can charge for every extra amenity. There’s a certain economic rationale to unbundling. If some passengers don’t want peanuts, it’s more efficient to sell them to the passengers who do and reduce the base ticket price by a small margin for everyone else. The airline saves money (even if it’s just “peanuts”—har!) and so does the passenger.

This kind of unbundling first emerged when airlines started charging for checked bags and snacks. Frontier and other ULCC’s, however, are almost atomizing their offerings.

From Time:

[Frontier] says it’s lowering base fares an average of 12%, but it’s also adding a fee to store a bag in the overhead bins. Frontier already charges for checked bags. (You are still allowed to bring one personal item, a brief case or purse for instance, that can fit under the seat. )

That does seem simple enough, but if you buy a ticket online, want to select your own seat, and check a bag or place one in the overhead, there are dozens of possible combinations of fares, fees and seats, depending on whether you are member of Frontier’s loyalty program or not. If you want a seat with extra room, which is what Classic Plus stands for, that’s another calculation. The bottom line is that you can pay $20, $25, $35 or $50 for a carry-on, while the opportunity to choose a seat will add $3, $5, $8 or $15 to the ticket cost.

It’s this kind of unbundling that has made Spirit one of the most profitable airlines, and Frontier is looking to follow in its footsteps. But this kind of unbundling also makes people feel like they’re being nickel-and-dimed. Spirit gets more complaints per 100,000 passengers than any other airline, according to a recent analysis by the Public Interest Research Group.

Image from Flickr (CC)

Donating Miles to Make-a-Wish Is Actually Really Smart

News April 30, 2014

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The Make-a-Wish Foundation, as you may know, grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses so they can do really unique, fun things with the limited time they have. It’s good work, to say the least.

More than 74 percent of these wishes involve travel. And with the organization granting a new wish every 38 minutes or so, that adds up to several thousand round-tip flights each year. So as it turns out, donating miles is a really, really effective way of helping the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation is matching donation up to 4 million miles for the rest of April. If you’ve got some spare miles and want to earn yourself some good karma, donate here. They’re taking Delta, United, and US Airways miles.

Image of a kid getting to be a pilot from Wikimedia Commons

Photo Captures Lightning Striking KLM Flight

News April 28, 2014

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Last month, a KLM flight from Amsterdam, Holland, to Birmingham, England, was struck by lightning three times. Everything was fine, though. Lightning strikes aren’t unheard of and pilots and flight attendants know how to deal with them. What was unusual about this case, however, was that one of the lightning strikes was caught in a photo.

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In other news, Air France/KLM picked up 2014 “Program of the Year” award for European or African airlines at the Freddie Awards last week.

The Freddie Awards—the Oscars of Frequent Flyer Programs—Just Happened

News April 28, 2014

The 2014 Annual Freddie Awards took place last Thursday. The Freddies, if you didn’t know, are kind of like the Oscars but for frequent traveler programs. (In other words, they’re almost nothing like the Oscars.) Established in 1988, the Freddies were named after famed British airline innovator Sir Freddie Laker. The festivities went down at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

There are separate awards for each of three regions: the Americas, Europe and Africa, and the Middle East and Asia/Oceania. In each region, there are various awards for the best airline and hotel rewards programs.

In the Americas region, American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program took home the big “Program of the Year” award for airlines for the third year in a row. Marriott took home the “Program of the Year” award for hotels for the seventh year in a row. Air France/KLM and Virgin Australia cleaned up in the other regions. USA Today has a little detail on how the voting happens if you’re curious.

Here are the full results…

 

The Americas

Airline

Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
Best Promotion — Avianca – LifeMiles
Best Elite Program — American Airlines – AAdvantage
Best Redemption Ability — Avianca – LifeMiles
Program of the Year — American Airlines – AAdvantage

Hotel

Best Customer Service — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards

Best Affinity Credit Card — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards Premier Card

Europe and Africa

Airline

Best Customer Service — SAS – EuroBonus
Best Promotion — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Best Elite Program — Lufthansa – Miles & More
Best Redemption Ability — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Program of the Year — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue

Hotel

Best Customer Service — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Program of the Year — IHG – IHG Rewards Club

Best Affinity Credit Card — Flying Blue American Express

The Middle East and Asia/Oceania

Airline

Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Promotion — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Elite Program— Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Program of the Year — Virgin Australia – Velocity

Hotel

Best Customer Service — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Program of the Year — Hyatt – Gold Passport

Best Affinity Credit Card — ADIB Etihad Guest Card

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