A Beginner’s Guide to Airline Miles

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Frequent flyer miles, also known as airline miles or travel points — sound like music to my ears. This is because by using them I’m able to save money on traveling. Even though I’m usually nervous flying so high, it’s always worth it when I use airline loyalty programs. But I wasn’t always a pro at using them and it was often confusing.

Let’s clear up airline miles and figure out how to use them.

What are Frequent Flyer Miles?

Frequent flyer miles are points that you accumulate based on how much you spend on a plane ticket. You can earn points by flying with an airline often, or by using travel reward credit cards. You can then use these points to purchase more plane tickets, upgrades or other travel perks.

How Do You Get Frequent Flyer Miles?

Who doesn’t love to travel for free? Imagine checking out your loyalty program’s points and finding out that you have enough points to catch a free business or economic class flight – wouldn’t that be great?

If you get frequent flyer miles you get free flights, upgrades, and other travel perks. The most basic way to earn airline points is to fly often and with the same airline carrier. You can earn points without flying by using travel reward credit cards.

The Difference Between Credit Card Rewards and Airline Rewards?

Every airline has their own frequent flyer program, and you can earn points by flying through them.

However, with credit card rewards you can earn points by flying on any airline, or some cards are airline specific.

Both credit card rewards and airline rewards have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they can be used at the same time.

Most people will use their credit cards more often than flying, so it’ll be easier to accumulate enough points than with an airline rewards program.

How to Pick the Right Travel Credit Card

Getting a travel credit card is only worth it if you can earn enough points or miles that you can redeem for travel which will ave you money. The best starter travel reward credit cards are:

How Many Airline Miles Do You Need for a Free Flight?

According to our research, the average number of miles needed for a free one-way domestic U.S. economy flight is 14,165, while an international coach flight will run you about 36,800 miles.

The exact number of miles needed for a free flight will ultimately depend on three factors: your origin and destination, the cabin type, and what airline you fly with.

When it comes to credit card miles, cardholders will frequently need enough miles to cover the price of a ticket, which is typically equal to 100 multiplied by the airfare.

Which Frequent Flyer Program is the Best?

Based on the latest travel industry trends, the best frequent flyer programs are:

  • Delta Air Lines – SkyMiles
  • United Airlines – MileagePlus
  • Alaska Airlines – Rapid Rewards
  • JetBlue Airways – TrueBlue

According to Statistica, American Airlines’ frequent flyer program, AAdvantage, generated around 5.5 billion U.S. dollars in billings, making it the leading frequent program in the world (in 2018). A frequent flyer program is an airline loyalty program to encourage airline passengers to accumulate points, also called miles or kilometers, which can be redeemed for air travel or other rewards.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

Redeeming frequent flyer miles can be tricky. Learn about the mistakes you need to avoid when trying to get more travel points.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to utilize their points correctly. This makes us want to educate them on how best they can redeem their travel points before losing them.

Even seasoned award travelers slip, costing themselves a luxurious flight. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people think in order to accumulate free miles, they need to fly as much as possible. A person taking frequent monthly flights can easily accumulate enough points to catch himself a free flight after a year or so.

Following are the mistakes you need to avoid when trying to get more travel points:

1. Not Using Your Credit Card for Eligible Purchases

Most people use cash only for small and big purchases. This is a mistake that is costing you your points. Your credit card can be linked to your frequent flyer points, which gives you the opportunity to collect points when making big purchases. So, put that cash and checkbook aside, and next time you are out shopping, use your credit card.

2. Relying on the Airline’s Website

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is using their airline’s account to keep track of the points. Due to this, they are unable to compare routings and available flights because not all flights are listed on the airline’s website.

What you can do is signup for sites like Points Bank and views all your points together at a single website. Moreover, these kinds of websites not only give you advice on how to best redeem your points but also help you in choosing the right hotel.

3. Depending on a Phone Agent

Booking a flight directly through the airline’s agent can be really annoying. Most of them have limited information about frequent flyer points and they can be quite flippant.

When you book a flight through sites like Points Bank, the agents gives you many options that allow you to use your points in the best way.

4. Forgetting to Join Segments

Do not wait for last-minute flights or assume that you will get a flight, once you land somewhere in the middle.

Yes, connecting flights can be really annoying but when a single flight does not take you to your destination, try choosing the most reasonable route instead of the one that offers savings.

5. Make Late Payment on Your Credit Card

Say you have accumulated a good number of frequent flyer points on your credit card and are hoping to travel next month on a business class seat. However, your next month’s bank statement is a little off because you were unable to pay the interest amount.

This will cancel out all your points and you will be back at square one. Therefore, keep a light hand on your monthly spending, so that you can make the payments on time.

Redeeming Airline Miles – It’s Simple

It’s not that difficult to earn, redeem and upgrade your frequent flyer miles. Learn the best mistakes to avoid when reviewing and redeeming frequent flyer miles above. Just be sure to avoid travel burnout when you are traveling for cheap from now on.

Good luck redeeming your miles!

Got 5 minutes to spare? Here are some more travel tips I’ve found over the years:

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