Friday, March 17, 2006

Avoid These 9 Costly Mistakes With Your Frequent Flyer Program

budget adventure travel, family adventure vacation

All travel is an adventure, but one of the best ways to stay within your budget is to make the most of your frequent flyer program. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make with airline affinity programs, and how you can avoid them:

  1. Don’t spread your miles among a lot of different airline programs. As a general rule, they do not allow you to transfer miles from one competitor to another, and you will never (OK, it will take a looooooong time) build up a lot of miles or status unless you concentrate on one airline.

  2. Know when your miles expire. If you aren’t sure if your program ha a mileage expiration policy, trust me on this: ALL FREQUENT FLYER MILES CAN EXPIRE. Most programs will keep you and your miles on their books for 3 years without activity, but some have even tougher rules. See my recent article on How To Keep Your Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring. The link for this article is

  3. Get and use an affinity credit card linked to your mileage program. Earn miles when you buy groceries, gasoline, dinner out, medicines, school tuition, etc. Whatever you spend money on in the course of your non-travel life can earn you miles.

  4. Don’t neglect other non-flight mileage earning opportunities. For example, American Airlines allows you to earn miles by shopping online at places like Home Depot, Target Stores, Circuit City, and even Starbucks. They also have a Dining Program that allows you to earn miles for eating out at participating restaurants.

  5. ”Double dip” by using your affinity credit card when taking advantage of any of the non-flight opportunities above. Not only will your credit card pay you miles, so will the other partner.

  6. Keep yourself informed about special bonus offers. Airlines will occasionally offer extra miles if you travel to certain destinations or take certain routes during special promotion periods. Generally you have to register for these bonus offers before you buy your ticket, so don’t hit your delete button too quickly when you receive email from your airline.

  7. Which leads me to the next mistake to avoid. Don’t “opt out” from special email offers too quickly. There is often gold in them emails (or even traditional mail) in the form of the aforementioned special bonus offers, but also in the form of reduced mileage awards. ( Let me clarify: the special bonus offers give you ways to earn extra miles, but reduced mileage awards gives you reduced priced airfare when you pay for your flight with miles instead of money). But you must opt in to receive these email alerts because airlines don’t want to be accused of spam.

  8. Know how many miles it takes to fly to certain destinations. The airline’s website will most likely have a chart or other explanation for you to refer to. Also find out how many miles it takes to upgrade to first or business class.

  9. Find out about the elite status levels your airline offers. You should also find out what the benefits and qualification requirements are for each level. For example, if it is December 26 and you only need a few hundred miles by the end of the year to move up an elite level, you might want to consider taking a really cheap flight to get you over that last hump. It may just be worth it to you for the entire next year to enjoy that higher status.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

budget adventure travel, family adventure vacation

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