Financial Travel Tip #85: The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles

by Nora Dunn on June 21, 2013

 

In this mini-series on frequent flyer miles and strategies, we’ve looked at the Travel Hacking Cartel, Canadian Free Flyers, and First Class Flyer programs.

 

This week, it’s the (aptly-named) Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles.

 

 

Why This is the Ultimate Guide

On the premise that anybody purchasing a guide like this doesn’t want to re-invent the wheel and wants access to the best deals and creative strategies for accumulating and redeeming frequent flyer miles, I really enjoyed this book and it befits it’s “ultimate” status.

As something of a frequent flyer mile travel hacker, I was surprised to learn quite a bit from the Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles. Here are some of the perks:

 

Multi-Media

To demonstrate complex concepts to those who are better visual/audial learners, the special links to video tutorials are a nice touch.

 

Credit Cards

As any good frequent flyer mile guide needs to, the Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles provides a detailed section on credit cards; and which are the best ones to own for frequent flyer mile accumulation.

Here are just a few of the additional credit card strategies and ideas touched upon:

  • What to do when you are turned down for a frequent flyer mile credit card
  • How to enjoy the lucrative bonus deals with business credit cards (even if you don’t have a business)
  • Churning, and the best credit cards to churn (with suitable time frames for each one)
  • Applying for multiple credit cards without hurting your credit rating

 

Creative Accumulation Strategies that are Free

In order to satisfy minimum spending requirements for valuable new credit card bonuses, or simply to accumulate the miles you need for your next flight without actually spending any money, here are some interesting examples I’d never heard about that are explored:

  • Using Amazon payments
  • Kiva: a lovely way to accumulate miles and help somebody in need, and ultimately get your money back (and then some). Kiva even has a Milepoint team made up of frequent flyer mile junkies on the same mission.

 

Creative Accumulation Strategies that Cost a Wee Bit

Usually you’ve got to spend some money. The trick is to find ways to earn mega-miles by spending on things you would buy anyway. Here are a few such strategies:

  • Online shopping portals (the author cites an example where he got 30x the frequent flyer miles by combining a Groupon deal and a Chase online shopping portal deal)
  • Attaining “status” on airlines; the perks of having elite status are tangible, but you need a laser-sharp focus to get there
  • Gift card strategies
  • Dining clubs
  • Hotel programs

 

Redeeming Your Miles

Earning miles is the easy part! Your true hacker-status comes with smart redemption strategies. The Ultimate Guide recognizes this, and thus explores many strategies for getting the best redemption value, such as:

  • Searching with Quantas will show you flight availability on all the One World partners
  • Award Travelr reveals flight availability on both Star Alliance and One World carriers
  • Off-peak deals: the guide includes a lovely spreadsheet outlining the best times to cash in your miles with each of the major airlines
  • Tips for reducing the inevitable taxes and airline charges that exist even if you have a “free” awards ticket
  • Judicious use of stop-overs and open-jaw tickets to get two vacations for the price of one; the guide reveals extensive research around the rules specific to each of the major airlines
  • Resources like Milez.biz which outline how many miles your desired flight will cost for each class

 

Paying Cash

Sometimes it’s better to pay cash for a certain flight rather than redeem your miles for a mediocre value-per-mile. Here’s why:

  • You can earn status (the benefits of which are explored in the guide)
  • You can take advantage of bonus mile deals
  • Flights searches are made easy with ITA Matrix (dubbed “Kayak on steroids), which is also referenced in the First Class Flyer; use it to suss out business class and first class deals that you may inadvertently exclude in a standard airfare search, but which may be cheaper than an economy ticket

 

 

Overall

The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles does get a wee bit repetitive at times, but unto itself it’s a good way to hit home the important strategies (just in case you’re a distracted reader like me who needs to be hit over the head a few times to get the point).

 

Biggest Bang for US Residents

It stands to reason that US residents will get the most from this guide, since the best programs, deals, and credit cards are generally available only to US residents (with secondary benefits for Canadian hackers).

So although the section reviewing the best credit cards is lovely, it was useless for me, as was the section on dining programs – which are great accumulation vehicles (but again not for me since I’m not often in the US).

 

Guarantee

Regardless, if using the strategies in this book don’t earn you a $500 plane ticket, then you’re entitled to your money back.

 

As with most frequent flyer mile strategies, you’ve got to put in some effort, but this guide is intended to help you reduce the learning curve, and as such, it has the ingredients to get you there.

 

 

How Much?

There are three tiers of membership, ranging from $49 (for the basic 68-page guide), to $79 (for two additional books, the contents of which are incorporated into my review above), to $199 (which includes two 30-minute consultations).

 

You can explore your options with The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles here.

 

 

Other Frequent Flyer Mile educational tools

 

Financial Travel Tip #84: Being a First Class Flyer

Financial Travel Tip #83: Frequent Flyer Mile Accumulation for Canadians

My Business Class Travel Adventures, and Using Frequent Flyer Miles

Travel Hacking, and Earning 4 Free Flights Per Year

 

 

 

 

(Editor’s Note: I received a free copy of The Ultimate Guide, and there are some affiliate links in this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own and unbiased).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael June 22, 2013 at 3:16 am

As always, great blog, Nora!

Qantas will not show you availability on One World partners on JAL, Royal Jordanian or S7. Also, you’re out of luck if the city you want to search from isn’t one of their presets in the the drop down box. It isn’t just regional airports that are missing, but also some very major ones like Lima!

A good post about when to use which search engine for One World awards: http://milevalue.com/best-practices-for-searching-oneworld-availability/

Reply

theprofessionalhobo June 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

Great advice and clarification, Michael – thanks! And your site is a cool resource too!
In terms of your credit card consultations, do you work internationally, or just with US residents?

Reply

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