Financial Travel Tip #103: Frequent Flyer Mile Accumulation, Management, and Redemption

by Nora on December 21, 2013


The deeper you delve into frequent flyer mile accumulation, management, and redemption strategies, the more lost you can get. Transferring between accounts, valuating miles, managing multiple programs, and ultimately – strategizing for your next free flight (hopefully in business class) – can be a lot of work.

But once you are familiar with the territory and have systems in place, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Frequent Flyer Mile Accumulation

Although you can expect to earn frequent flyer miles through a variety of programs and offers, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with the major airline alliances, and which frequent flyer programs will serve your travel goals best. It’s often recommended to choose an airline from each major alliance and focus most of your efforts on them. It’s also good to use a program with “universal” points, that allow you to convert to multiple programs at a 1:1 ratio.

Accumulation strategies abound, from little social media promotions, to frequent flyer mile credit cards, retail bonus deals, online shopping portals, and of course, flying.


Frequent Flyer Mile Management

Management of your frequent flyer miles can be an onerous task. Although you can use a few different sites to track your miles, you’ll also need to manually monitor and track the attribution of miles to your accounts. Some programs have up to 90 days to deposit miles to your account; it’s easy to forget about in the meantime. If you monitor the miles due to you, mistakes (which happen) can be easily fixed with a phone call.

You also want to keep an eye on expiration dates (which frequent flyer mile tracking sites can assist with), but think carefully about switching miles between accounts through these sites; it’s usually a bum deal.


Frequent Flyer Mile Redemption

Now it’s time to reap the hard work of accumulation and management. Frequent flyer mile redemption, however, isn’t exactly a walk in the park either.

You’ll have to find the alliance that offers the best deal/routing for your trip, then book with the frequent flyer mile program you’ve been accumulating with. Getting available seats is the next trick, since flights offer limited rewards seats. You’ll have the best luck by booking early; consider different routes if there’s nothing available.

And remember – “free” flights aren’t actually free. When you book a rewards ticket, you’re still on the hook for airport taxes and airline fees – which can be hefty. Some airlines/airport fees and taxes are notoriously bad; you can lower your costs by looking at alternate routes/airports.


Confused Yet?

These posts below expand on all the points above and provide resources for you to explore.

Everything You Need to Know About Frequent Flyer Miles

5 Tools for Hacking the Frequent Flyer Mile Game


Additional Resources

These e-books and programs will help you get your frequent flyer mile freak on – big time. Some also provide deal alerts to your in-box (a valuable time-saver).

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

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

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carlos November 6, 2015 at 4:40 am

To redeem miles you have to set an Origin, destination and dates, and then get how many miles you need.
I would like to know, within a certain timeframe, what are the best deals I can get. Are there tools for that?


2 Nora Dunn November 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Hi Carlos,
Great question! You might get what you’re looking for with this Ultimate Frequent Flyer Mile Award Calculator (warning: you must have Excel to use it – Open Office doesn’t work):


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