Understanding Frequent Flyer Miles & How to Maximize your Rewards

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Earning airline miles is a great loyalty program that all major airlines wants to have with their customers. It is a win win. You earn points for each mile that you fly with the airline or for every dollar that you spend with the airline’s partners. The more you fly the more miles you earn and the points can be redeemed in many ways; free flights, free flight upgrades from an economy to business or first class, free car rentals or hotel stays and other goods and products. So if you are a frequent flyer and loves a particular airline(s) it pays to get on board. Although, getting the most out of these programs can be tricky as they can be onerous especially due to the ever-changing rules and configurations, however, for some you need not even have to step inside an aircraft to accumulate miles, as you can earn them many other ways. According to an article by Scott McCartney titled, Top Frequent-Flier Programs for 2018, “Annual SEC filings show that customers are cashing in a lot more points than in previous years at Southwest and JetBlue. On Southwest, a staggering 13.8% of passenger traffic was on Rapid Rewards tickets in 2017, up from 12.7%. Remarkably, on average, nearly one of every seven passengers on any flight is riding on an award ticket.” Below are few tips to help understand and maximize your points.

General Tip

For some having frequent flyer miles is the dream of flying in first class, glass of prosecco in hand, away from the screaming children and armrest battles. So our recommendation is even if you’re not sure you’re going to be flying a lot with a particular airline, you should still sign up for an airline-specific frequent flier program; for you just never know when you may really need it and every mile counts. American Airlines, for example, offers one-way flights within the United States for as few as 7,500 miles — an amount that can be earned within just a couple of trips, according to an article by New York Times.


In 2015, United and Delta joined Southwest, Jet Blue and other airlines that award miles based upon ticket price and class, rather than distance traveled. American Airlines followed suit in August 2016. Ordinary Mileage Plus members now get five miles for every dollar spent. (Frequent fliers with a higher status can get up to 11 miles per dollar spent.) It is important to note that of the amount paid, it will be minus taxes as taxes don’t count. The Big Three (United, American and Delta) have adopted this configuration because to them it makes sense to reward the highest-paying customers. It is also important to note that many foreign carriers — including Air Canada, Lufthansa and British Airways, which are partners with the Big Three — still reward (mostly) based on distance. According to a recent report issued by IdeaWorksCompany, Southwest Airlines had the best frequent-flier award availability in a survey of 25 airlines. According to data from the airline, nearly 14% of the airline’s passenger traffic comes from people using frequent-flier awards. In that same report, American Airlines on the other hand is making moves by opening up more seats as competition stiffens.

Budget Travelers

For the more frugal or budget travelers, here’s how it gets tricky, the travelers hit hardest by the new reward configurations are budget travelers who take long haul, international flights. But you still shouldn’t hesitate to book the lowest fare you can find. In a New York Times article, the founder of Points Guys states that “it’s still better to forgo the miles if you’re going to get significant savings, because cash is king. Just be aware that discount carriers charge more for bags, seat selection and so on.” Budget travelers, Mr. Kelly said, can still get their miles by taking advantage of increasingly aggressive credit card offers that provide sign-up bonus miles.

Credit Card Rewards Program

In 1985, Diners Club launched a credit card that was linked to an airline loyalty program. Since then, the growing trend has been for airline companies to go into partnership with credit card providers, so that cardholders earn frequent flier miles for every transaction made with the card. It is one of the easiest ways to accumulate air miles, as you earn every time you spend. It gets even more tricky as some stingy airlines now make more reasonably-priced free seats available to loyalty program members than a few years ago, perhaps to satisfy credit card companies who spend billions of dollars annually buying points for their best customers, according to a new study. To identify which airline credit cards and credit cards with airline bonus rewards are best cards available for air travel, we will be doing more research before making any recommendations. Though annual fees can make airline credit cards some of the most expensive rewards cards to carry, cardholders who take advantage of their airline benefits can more than recoup that fee. The payoff can be worth it for cardholders who travel frequently and pay their credit card balance each month.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year and offers 50,000 bonus points you can use toward travel and other purchases, and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express offers 70,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in the first four months. Airline loyalty, spending habits and other preferences are different for every traveler, so the best airline card for you may not be the same as another traveler’s.

Shopping for Goods and Services

Major airlines operate partnership deals with tons of stores that they know customers will shop, so if you use your frequent flier card when purchasing goods and services that you would do any, you can earn air miles. This means you can accumulate frequent flier miles just by doing your normal shopping, including purchasing items such as apparel, groceries and even beer. You can also get air miles from things such as hotel stays, car rentals, mortgages, insurance and telephone services.


Sweepstakes that offer air miles as prizes are also great for accumulating points. Unlike a lottery, you do not have to buy anything to take part in the draw, and you could earn up to 100,000 air miles.

Oneworld Alliance

Oneworld alliance does not operate its own frequent flier reward program, but it can extend the range of your existing frequent flier program. Members of reward programs such as American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program, British Airways’ Executive Club or Qantas’ Frequent Flier Program who also join oneworld alliance can earn air miles by flying with any of its member airlines.

Promotional Offers

Before you book a flight or hotel room, check whether the airline or hotel chain is running a promotion that offers extra air mile rewards. By using a different airline or opting for another hotel you could double, or even triple, the miles that you earn.

Will Booking with the OTAs Count for Points

Few questions we get asked by few of our customers are, can I earn points for booking on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc through their programs while also earning airline mileage? The quick answer is yes, absolutely. What usually confuses a lot of folks is that many hotel loyalty programs only let you earn points and elite stay credit when you book your stays directly through them or one of their hotels but not through online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. That’s not the case with airlines, though. For example, if you were to book an American Airlines flight through either of them, or Expedia, etc., you’d still earn frequent flyer miles – award miles and elite-qualifying miles – on paid flights just as you would if you had booked directly through American. In fact we have done this for few of our customers through Expedia.

Seat Availability

Travelers have complained for years about skimpy or nonexistent availability of award seats and big increases in the number of miles needed for awards. Savvy travelers know they can get more bang for their miles if they use them for first-class upgrades and international business-class seats, or redeem them on partner airlines. But the basic-economy ticket is still the most widely used, and an important comparison of each program’s stinginess or generosity with award seats. In 2012, for example, American had award seats available on only 17% of trips longer than 2,500 miles—a key measure as travelers often want to use miles for long trips. This year, the long-trip success rate was 71%. American says it made more seats available so it would be comparable in award availability to competitors like United and Delta.

“Not only have we increased availability but it’s to markets that our customers value,” says Bridget Blaise-Shamai, American’s vice president of customer loyalty, promised. “It’s got to be where they want to go.”

If all this sounds a bit complicated, and you have no clue what plan to use when you book your ticket, we suggests you get in touch with our exclusive expert airfare travel consultants and trailblazing travel planners who deliver outstanding service and pricing. Our experts understand the ins and outs of travel, as we have a team of experienced consultants with a focus on product quality, great customer support and frequent flyer accrual as part of our detailed cost-benefit analysis. They will research and provide the best options and help you apply for the most advantageous program at your leisure.

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