If you’ve ever booked a flight anywhere before, you know that flying can be quite expensive. If you wait until the last minute to buy your ticket, the pain on your wallet will be even more intense. Had my wife been able to purchase her ticket a lot sooner than her scheduled March 2016 departure for Guatemala, she probably would have been able to buy her ticket there for less than the $700 she, in fact, had to pay. Or if she had earned frequent flyer miles, she might have been able to take her trip for free.
What Are Frequent Flyer Miles?
Frequent flyer miles are a loyalty program offered by an airline, a credit card company, a bank, among other business entities, for being a regular customer. You accumulate a certain number of points, and you earn a free round-trip airline ticket–simply for being a loyal customer. For example, in the Frontier program, for every 20,000 points you acquire, you get a free round-trip domestic ticket. Mind you, it won’t mean much to you unless you take about four flights to a given place–say, Detroit to Los Angeles– at regular price.
How to Qualify
Sign up and get approved for a credit card program that offers miles. Or apply through the website of your favorite airline. Then read and follow their instructions for qualifying. When you sign up, you will get an account number that you can use for future flight purposes. Put this number in a safe place, let no one see it or use it. Also, memorize it as you will need this number to cash in on your points. In choosing an airline to launch a frequent flyer program with, ask yourself this: “Which airline do I expect to use the most?” After all, it will not be helpful to set up an account with Spirit when you typically fly Delta.
Also, look at airline packages based on what flights they specialize in. According to US News, the Alaska Airline Mileage Plan would be most helpful to people located in Alaska and West Coast cities such as Seattle. On the other hand, if you frequent places like Dallas, Chicago, Miami, or New York, try AAdvantage, by American Airlines.
Credit Card Programs
As I said earlier, maybe you don’t fly a whole lot. No worries. You can earn frequent flyer miles through your credit card. The key is when you are in the signing up process, ask the person signing you up if the company offers free flyer miles, and if so, how it works. The usual way of earning miles is to make a certain number of purchases, and you can earn flyer miles to use. As the Life Hacker website points out, this is the easier way, because you are more likely to use your credit card today to make purchases than you are to book a flight. Ask what purchases qualify–groceries, appliances, entertainment items, and so on. And also, a caveat emptor is valid here–you only qualify for miles as you keep your credit card paid off on time.
Also, another warning is due here. As the Lifehacker website reminds us, all credit card programs are not created equal. Their usefulness to you can depend on some factors–such as the frequency with which you expect to fly, your average monthly spending and income. Enter this information to a website such as MileCards, and they will be able to suggest a credit card that may be best for you. Keep in mind that it’s up to the credit card company whether they want to accept you or not. And they do make these decisions based on your credit history.
Also, did you know that banks offer frequent flyer miles for opening a new account? Ask your bank how you can qualify, or if they are participating in such a program. Ask them what their rules are for qualification.
Did you also know that you can get frequent flyer miles for filling out surveys at websites such as emiles and Erewards? A warning about these types of sites is in order, as well. Investigate the history of these sites. Read reviews of them, for some of them are not legitimate–that is, they do not offer what they say they will. Their only goal is to keep you answering questions without an actual reward of any kind, and are, quite frankly, a waste of time.
Free Hotel Nights
You can also earn extra points by staying at a motel. Just go to a website like pointshound. The site will ask you questions like, “Where are you going?” and “What are your check-in and check out dates?” and “How many guests.” Then you will be asked to choose a loyalty program. Then book your room and watch your points accumulate. You can get over a thousand, and possibly over 10, 000 loyalty points that can be earned on checkout while you enjoy your sound sleep in your hotel room.
Or you can choose to stay for free in 5-star hotels by playing the Best Guaranteed Price game as explained by travel hacker Bart Lapers on his excellent blog. He carefully lays out how to use this strategy to your benefit with The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) hotels