Airline Miles Basics: 15 Things to Know To Earn More Miles

Published on October 23, 2018 by Chris

Things YOU need to know to maximize the amount of airline miles you earn. I explain Airline rewards programs that can often be confusing and complicated. Don’t let your airline miles go to waste, they are yours.. you earned them! Well.. as long as you put in your frequent flyer number!

1 – Why earn miles?
Simple.. free flights! Or upgrades!
If you dont like to travel, you are probably in the wrong place
People often ask me how I can afford to travel so much.
Simple answer: miles

2 – How do you earn them?
Credit cards
Shopping portals
Rental Cars
Partner deals
When the airline makes a mistake
Transfer in

3 – Revenue based vs distance based
These programs started based on distance
But now are typically somehow based on revenue.
Usually a complicated formula based on dollars spent, class of service, elite status, and maybe distance flown

4 – What about elite qualifying miles?
These are earned typically in a calendar year to qualify for a certain tier. Elite miles reset annually and can’t be “redeemed” for anything.

5 – Redemption for anything else besides travel is a bad deal

6 – Not all miles and points are equal
Every airline has it’s own award chart, United miles generally more valuable than Delta Skymiles
Surcharges can sometimes be crazy
Having a transferable currency is more valuable because of transfer options

7 – Premium class travel gets you the best redemption value
Often best on that airlines metal, other carriers may cost more.
Upgrades can sometimes be worthwhile if the copay is reasonable
Avoid British Airways

8 – Not all award options are online
Often have to call the airline to book

9 – Sign up for a rewards program even if you are only going to take 1 flight with the airline
Never know, it could be more. Or that’s at least a free magazine subscription

10 – Focus or diversify?
Focus on one program in each alliance.
Star Alliance
One World
Sky Team
You can credit miles from one airline to your account with a different carrier in the same alliance. Pay attention to the fare class.

11 – Miles expire
Use something like awardwallet, or a spreadsheet to track them

12 – Mileage Run
Going the furthest for the cheapest price
Doesn’t work on revenue based programs

13 – Credit Cards
My favorite way to earn
Ultimate Rewards are my favorite reward currency
3 points on Chase Sapphire Reserve for travel

14 – Shopping Portals
Every airline has one
Look for the best earning portal
Usually a percentage of purchase price
But sometimes bonus lump sums

15 – Booking tips
Award availability is typically not all seats
Sometimes the best awards are booked last minute
Or 365 days out.


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