A Beginner’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles

And How to Start Travel Hacking Like a Pro

Learn how the whole process works so you can start earning miles without getting lost and confused.

Getting Started with Frequent Flyer Miles: Learn about the major airline alliances, and which frequent flyer programs will serve your travel goals best.

Setting Travel Goals Having a travel goal and a reason to earn miles is much more effective than collecting miles for the sake of collecting miles.

Understanding Airline Alliances: There are 3 major alliances: Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team. Choose 1 airline from each alliance as your focus point for accumulation.

Collecting Universal Points: There are a handful of these (eg: Marriott Bonvoy and American Express Rewards), and they give you flexibility to transfer points across multiple alliances

Tips For Accumulating Frequent Flyer Miles

Get a Credit Card (or 2, or 3) Credit cards are excellent tools to accumulate miles on everything you buy. Choose one with a great sign-up bonus and a program that focuses on one of your chosen goals.

Go Shopping (With Your Miles Card) Some frequent flyer mile credit cards award extra points for regular/daily purchases like gas and groceries.

Online Shopping Portals Some airlines have online shopping portals, where you can earn extra points if you click through their portal to the site you were planning on buying from anyway. Cashback Monitor shows you which airline program offers the most miles for your intended purchases.

Go Flying: Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more for the flight/airline in your program and accumulate points (and even elite status) than to get a slightly cheaper flight that doesn’t earn you anything.

Get a Travel Hacking Membership Subscription These will let you know of deals and opportunities as they come up, so that you don’t have to go searching for them.

Hotel Points Did you know some hotel loyalty points are transferable to airline miles? Hotel points can also be used for hotel stays, and to open up special hotel-related perks such as free WiFi and upgraded rooms.

Frequent Flyer Mile Management Sites like Award Wallet and Points.com help you oversee and manage mileage accounts with multiple airlines. 

Getting Organized - Rewards Management Sites - Beware of Losing Point Valuation With Transfers - Keep an Eye on Expiration Dates - Track Your Strategies

What to Look For When  Booking with Miles: Find the airline/alliance that offers the best deal/routing for your trip Don’t be afraid to call customer service Being flexible with your dates and itinerary And remember – “free” flights aren’t totally free.

Remember Hotels While you may think you should only use miles for flights, sometimes using them for accommodation can be lucrative. Paying With Miles Calculate the valuation per mile; usually miles + cash deals aren’t great value. Sometimes it's better to pay all cash and earn miles instead.

Buying Miles An alternate strategy is to buy the remaining miles you need to pay for the whole transaction with miles. Not usually the best deal, unless there's a special bonus. 

Business Class vs. Economy / Long-Haul vs. Domestic: Valuating Miles Evaluating cost-per-mile is imperative. Generally, flying in business class and/or long-haul gets you better valuation per mile.

Don’t get Sidetracked Some rewards programs let you use your points for things other than travel, like goods, services, and gift cards. Honestly? Save the miles for your trip.