For many people, using frequent flyer miles seems like a black art only business travelers and the credit card-obsessed can master. It can be hard to convince people otherwise – until they earn their first free flight or upgrade. I tell people who want to make use of frequent flyer programs it’s not as complicated as it seems and my live chat guest today can help get you going.
Travis Sherry is one of the world’s foremost experts in frequent flyer miles, which allows him to do awesome things like fly to Japan for $10 or Rio for $5. His mission is to help anyone and everyone travel more while spending less, which he teaches you how to do through his blog, Extra Pack of Peanuts. For those who really want to get whipped in to travel shape, he runs Frequent Flyer Bootcamp, the world’s first interactive class on the subject and is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles.
The chat is now closed, thank you everyone for joining!
We’ll be online this afternoon to answer anything you want to know about airline alliances, how to claim miles for past flights, and the best programs for travelers. One of us should also ask Travis how he booked round trip tickets to Rio from Philadelphia for just $5. He’ll be there for the World Cup, but I’m not sure there’s a trick for game tickets, or is there? Head down to the comments below to find out – Travis and I look forward to the discussion!
Hi, this is for today’s live chat.
I travel internationally two to four times a year to visit family. When I buy tickets, I am usually looking for the least expensive flights. I have my favourites; however, most airlines I use are not part of the same networks when it comes to frequent flyer mileage. As a result, the mileage has never benefited me because it is not cost effective based on what is available at the time of purchase or my saved frequent flyer miles have expired. I guess I need to have some additional strategy when purchasing tickets outside of finding the cheapest price available.
I need guidance. What is your advice for someone like me? Besides price, what else should I be considering?
Thanks in advance!
Ismail- Great question!
If you are looking to accrue frequent flyer miles through just flying, it will take quite a while to earn enough for a ticket.
For example, 25k miles earned will get you a domestic roundtrip ticket or 60k will get you between North America and Europe.
So, that being said, you should definitely try to earn miles in the same airline. So what I would do is look for the cheapest tickets but also be aware of what airline you are booking with. If you already have United miles and want more, and a United ticket is $700 and a Delta ticket is $670, it would be worth it to spend the extra $30 but accrue miles with United, so that down the road, you can get a free ticket.
Also, be aware that if airlines are in the same alliance, you can credit those miles to each other. For example, if you fly on Singapore Airlines, you can take the miles you would earn with them but credit them to United since they are in the same alliance.
I’ll be working during the chat, but would be interested to hear what he thinks the single most valuable (preferably economy class) redemption opportunity is? Also, proponent of more trips in Econ or nicer trips in Biz/First?
Stephen- Personally, I’m a proponent of more economy class flights than nicer trips in biz or first, but my wife thinks the opposite!
I would say that at some points, it is worth paying a little more for business class, if you have multiple stops.
For example, we paid 40k per person for Japan-Singapore-Indonesia-India-Japan over a month long span, but business class would have only been 60k a person. At the end of the trip, we wish we had splurged, seeing as we had many different flights. Also, biz class allows you access to lounges, which is great for long layovers.
As far as the best economy class redemption, you cannot beat American Airlines off-peak awards. From Oct 15-May 15, you can fly North America to Europe for 40k roundtrip (the regular price is 60k).
Another favorite is United or USAirways from North America to Asia for 60k, BUT…. you can stopover in Europe for free. This means you can go New York-Paris-Tokyo and back for 60k. Two vacations for the price of one, since a stopover can be up to 365 days.
Hi everyone, Trav will be joining me live later today at 2pm US EST but you can begin submitting your questions now; they’ll appear when Trav signs on.
Hello! We’ll be flying Chicago-Hong Kong-Manila next year and will be using AA miles. I have to use 35K AA miles from ORD-HKG, then 15K AA miles from HKG-MNL. We’ll be staying in HGK for 3 days so AA said we have to shell out an additional 15K. My question is, is it better to use 15K AA miles to MNL or use 7500 Avios points and pay $45 in taxes?
teresa- Yes, anything over 24 hours is considered a stop, hence why you’ll need to pay an additional 15k for the HKG-MNL leg.
I would 100% pay 7500 Avios points and $45 and save my 15k AA miles. AA miles are much more flexible and valuable, so burn your Avios when you can instead of AA miles.
Sounds like an awesome trip!
Hi! I have about 33K of Delta sky(pesos)miles. What’s the best use of this? Can I transfer these miles to anywhere?
teresa- Sky Pesos indeed!
For anyone in this chat, I would tell you to stay away from Delta Skymiles at all costs. They are VERY, VERY hard to redeem.
Definitely start earning United miles or American Airlines miles if you can. Better availability and much easier to use.
Of course, if you already have some skypesos built up, then you’re best bet is to try to use them on a domestic redemption. It will be hard to find tickets domestically, but easier than international with Delta.
Unfortunately, you can’t transfer miles between programs ever. So if you have Delta miles, you’re stuck with Delta. If you have United miles, those are United miles, and so on.
The only things you can transfer are when you earn bank points. For example, if you earn Chase points (my favorite) you can transfer them to United, Southwest, or even hotels, like Hyatt.
I second that they are difficult to redeem. I think I have a billion Skymiles I can’t use.
What is a good credit card to get where the points can be used on a wide variety of airlines and the points won’t expire?
Also, too add to this question, what’s the difference between points, miles, and advantages between the two?
Anil- Great question, and one people always get confused.
Here’s how to break it down. There are basically 3 types of things you can earn:
Airline miles- These are tied to a specific airline and can be used ONLY on that airline or their partners. An example of this would be earning American Airlines miles. You can use them to fly with American Airlines or any of their 12 OneWorld alliance partners.
These CAN’T be transferred anywhere.
Hotel points- Similar to airline miles, but with hotels. If you hear Hyatt points, you can only use them at Hyatt and Hyatt brand hotels.
Bank points- These are points like Chase points or American Express points, and my favorite ones. You earn Chase points, and these CAN be transferred to various partners, such as United, Southwest, Hyatt, etc.
Amex points can be transferred to British Airways, Korean Air, Delta (don’t do it!), etc.
Also, you can use bank points without transferring them to. When you do this, it is for a fixed value. This means that 1 Chase point equals 1.3 cents worth of travel.
So if you have 50k Chase points, you can spend $633 on travel. You simply go through Chase’s system, find a flight you want, and book it with your Chase points.
The good thing about using it as a fixed value is that since you are “paying” for the ticket, you can book any ticket on any airline AND you’ll earn miles for the flight.
However, once you get good at redeeming miles, you’ll see that the value is usually higher if you transfer bank points to an airline first and book that way.
Thanks for the great explanation!
Daniel Davidson- My favorite things to earn are Chase points. Chase points transfer to a variety of partners, including United (the best one for international flights), Southwest (domestic) and even hotels.
Also, the transfers are instant. So what I do is I keep all my Chase points in my account until the moment I find a flight with United, then transfer them to United and then book the ticket.
The best cards to earn Chase points are the Chase Sapphire Preferred for personal use and the Chase Ink Bold for business use.
You can find a more thorough breakdown of my thoughts on them on the Best Current Deals Page:
And the sign up bonuses are great: 40k for the Sapphire Preferred and 50k for the Ink Bold. Definitely my go to cards!
Hello and welcome everyone, we’re live now for the next 3 hours, ask away…
@tony T’Kach- I don’t see them becoming any less popular. In fact, the more flexibility you have with who you can transfer to, the better they are.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to transfer points to multiple airlines, meaning their value is better than a card that simply earns airline miles with one specific airline, such as the Citi American Airlines credit card.
And the Barclays Arrival card is a fixed value card, meaning you get 40k points for signing up, and that’s good for roughly $400 in travel, no matter what airline you choose.
So I see this as a positive thing, because more options means a better chance of using it for the flight you want!
@Katie (atinymorsel)- In order to find the cheaper flights, book as far in advance as possible.
Airlines open up award tickets (tickets that are “paid for” with frequent flyer miles) 330 days in advance of the flight date.
So if you are trying to go somewhere during peak time (like Europe in the summer or Rio for the World Cup), you’ll want to book as quickly as possible.
To book my tickets to Rio, I literally booked EXACTLY 330 days out, and at the end of the day, they were all sold out.
If you do miss that window, they will open up more tickets here and there, but the other big time to look is 6 weeks out. At that point, they figure that all the people who will pay for tickets have already bought them, and so they open up their extra empty seats to people using frequent flyer miles.
From Facebook Rachel asks:
“I now have 150,000 miles, what’s the best way to get the most out of them?”
@Rachel- It depends if you have all the miles with one airline or scattered about.
If you have them all with one airline, you have enough miles to fly anywhere in the world, and most likely in business class.
If they are scattered about amongst airlines, then you’ll have to get more creative.
Are they all with one airline, and if so, what airline(s)?
What if you’re a few thousand away from a free flight, worth paying for the extra miles ever or better to buy your next trip full price (and then using the miles later)?
Anil- The only time I ever recommend buying miles is if you are close. Usually, they charge you an arm and a leg for buying miles.
So, if you are 3k miles short of a 60k mile trip, then maybe paying the $60-80 is worth it. But I’d always make sure that it’s not too much money, and check how much the ticket actually costs to buy out of pocket.
If you’re going to spend $150 or so buying the extra miles, and the ticket is only $500, well….then maybe save your miles for next time. If the ticket would be $1300, then it makes sense.
Via email from Hulus:
“Is there a deadline to record your miles? ( 6 months? A year?)”
@Hulus- I assume you mean is there an expiration date?
If so, the answer is: It depends!
Some airlines, miles expire after 12 months, some after 18, some not at all.
However, the clock only starts ticking after you haven’t had any activity.
So if you earn miles today, and then don’t earn anymore or use them at all, your clock starts ticking today. But as soon as you earn more (either through flying with that airline, spending $1 on your credit card with that airline, etc.), the clock resets.
So if you are close to having them expire, think of creative ways to get more miles and restart the clock. If you have a credit card with that airline, spend on it. You can also buy something through the online shopping portal of that airline, which I explain how to do here and here:
Using shopping portals is a great way to rack up HUGE amounts of miles and points as well. I bought a $300 hot air balloon ride for my parents for Christmas and earned 9,000 miles (which is equivalent to about $150 worth of value)!
Other than flights and upgrades, anything else miles may be especially good to redeem for?
Flights are the major one, since that is usually the most expensive part of a trip.
However, you can use points, specifically Amex or Chase, for all types of things. You can use them to rent cars, you can use them to buy train tickets sometimes, you can even sometimes use them to “buy” cruises and vacation packages through Chase.
Also, an important thing to know is that you can use your miles and points to book for OTHER PEOPLE. So even if you are going to be flying, or you have banked a ton up, you can book for family members or friends.
(but don’t forget to treat yourself from time to time too!)
Very good advice, I think I’ve spent my miles more on friends and family than myself. Actually, I’m sure of it 🙂
Via email from Yilmaz:
“The fact that airlines erase miles is ridiculous, why do they do that?”
@Yilmaz- I agree, it is ridiculous, but…
That’s why I always say “Earn them and burn them.” You never know when they will change the rules, and all of a sudden, points and miles are devalued.
For example, about a year and a half ago, British Airways completely revamped their program without much warning. Their miles used to be one of the best you could get, and now, they are pretty awful, except in certain circumstances (read this post below to see how to best use them):
Long story short, they want to make it difficult for people to use miles because if more people use them, they lose out on more money.
So they put all these rules and regulations in, hoping people get confused (which most do), and then never redeem them.
And that’s why I’m here…to help you use your miles to get the free flights that you’ve EARNED!
Hi Trav, welcome to the discussion! I’ve got coffee in hand and ready to go. How’s it going today?
Anil- I’m having a blast so far today. Just returned home from a long road trip the last 4 days (but I did win a competition I entered, so WOOHOO), and catching up on emails is always a great thing.
So many people out there hungry to know about miles and points and earn free travel…it always energizes me!
There might be some steam coming out of my server, love a healthy discussion. What was the competition if you don’t mind my asking?
I entered a competition called Lauchpoint, which provides a $50,000 prize to a travel start up to help them either create or grow their product/business.
This was the first round, and now that I won, I square off against 3 other winners from this past year. Whoever wins that, wins the $50,000.
I’m creating an app that will allow people to find good wifi in whatever area of the world they are. It won’t just be finding wifi though, it will be finding GOOD wifi, based on crowdsourced information.
So you’ll be able to sign on to the app, see a map of all the wifi hotspots around you, and then see how well each one is rated.
Because nothing is worse than searching for wifi in a new place, finding it, spending 20 minutes trying to get it to work, and then having to repeat that process 4 or 5 times in a day!
Sounds very interesting. Good luck and hope to hear more about the app as it develops.
I’m trying to get a better idea of what one of these grand international trips really cost. What do you estimate you spend per day on one of these trips? Obviously the miles and points take care of a lot of the hefty pieces, but there are is still food, transporation, and activities to take care of..
Yeah, these trips can vary greatly depending on a bunch of factors.
How you travel (do you stay at hostels or guesthouses or 5 star resorts and hotels)?
Where you travel (SE Asia and South America are MUCH, MUCH cheaper than Western Europe or Japan).
How fast you travel (the more you move around, the more expensive it will be).
Just to give you an idea, if I went to Thailand with my wife for 1 month and we stayed in a local guesthouse that was decent, but not super upscale, we could probably get by with spending $2500 on 2 people per month or less. And many people do it much, much cheaper.
Of course, if we did that in Europe, we’d be spending double at least.
So it all just depends.
Sorry, should have linked this to.
There are some great ways to cut out the other major cost of travel, accommodations, that people don’t usually think of.
Things like staying in local guesthouses, couchsurfing, or, probably the best way, housesitting. You can stay in some phenomenal houses in beautiful places FOR FREE.
Here’s a post I wrote about the ways to save on accommodations:
And here is a fabulous podcast I did with the queen of housesitting, Dalene Heck. Her and her husband have stayed in penthouses in Manhattan, castles in Ireland, you name it!
Here’s the podcast as well to listen along with the thread everyone 🙂
What are some tips/ smart planning ideas to help reduce the YQ cost for transatlantic flights?
Are you talking about on paid tickets or award tickets?
For those who don’t know YQ stands for fuel surcharge, and is one of the most important things to understand when it comes to using frequent flyer miles.
I wrote a 4 part series on it (they are all short posts, don’t worry), but you’ll want to read up on that if you are interested in not getting screwed when redeeming miles. Start here:
To answer your question about reducing fuel surcharges, the only thing you can do is to make sure you fly on airlines that don’t charge it on their frequent flyer miles.
For example, if you are using AA miles, you can fly to Europe on AA’s airplanes and not get hit with a fuel surcharge. The ticket will cost you $50 or so in fees and taxes.
However, if you use your AA miles to fly to Europe and fly on BA’s airplanes, they will charge you a fuel surcharge and it is EXPENSIVE. You’ll be looking at $400-600 in fees!
That’s basically the price of a paid ticket sometimes!
So definitely be aware of what airlines charge fuel surcharges and when. That 4 part series I wrote to this day remains probably my most referenced post by frequent flyer experts around the globe.
I’m wondering if you know of any good programs for budget airlines or alliances/partnerships between some where it might be possible to pool points?
@Anil- Unfortunately, most budget airlines don’t use frequent flyer miles too much. That’s one way they keep costs down.
And to my knowledge, you can’t pool miles between budget airlines, just like you can’t between what we call “legacy” carriers (read: big airlines!).
I do know that Air Asia has just introduced a frequent flyer system kind of, and they have a credit card that allows you to earn what they call “biggies”. But even though I flew them alot, it never made sense to get the credit card, especially because the tickets were so cheap anyway.
The only budget airlines that have any types of real programs are the ones in America, such as Southwest and JetBlue, but nowadays, they aren’t exactly budget airlines since they can be just as expensive.
I am a HUGE proponent of budget airlines though, and will always, always look to buy tickets with them when I can since I love the service they are doing for us travelers.
PS- I once took 13 Air Asia flights in less than 2 weeks.
I LOVE their Tandoori Chicken wrap….!
Aside from using amazon payments for the minimum spend on credit cards, are there any other FREE sites or ways to fulfill minimum spends? Using bluebird/vanilla cards seem complicated and has a fee.
Amazon payments is the only one that is completely free. And I would urge EVERYONE to take advantage of it if they can. I’ve even made a video to explain the process in less than 3 minutes:
Using Bluebird and Vanilla Reload isn’t too complicated, but it will cost you $3.95 for every 500 miles. Still, that’s WAAAAY cheaper than you can actually buy miles if you are buying from the airline, and it will help you meet minimum spends.
Here’s how to use Vanilla Reloads with Bluebird (and another video…this one, showing off my acting skills!)
I should also mention that you can make donations to organizations like Kiva.org that are free. Then, you’ll get paid back over time, but you’re helping a great cause and meeting minimum spend requirements.
I’m curious what you think about programs available for those who don’t live in the United States. Are they at a major disadvantage? Many of the programs I’ve seen seem geared toward American consumers.
Anil- Yes, Americans are much luckier in the fact that they have bigger credit card bonuses, for sure. However, that doesn’t mean other people can’t take advantage.
Credit card bonuses have been falling in the US and on the rise in Canada, for example. If you aren’t able to get American credit card bonuses, take a look at what is best in your country, and then take advantage of that.
Each country has programs that are available, they just might not be as lucrative.
For Canadians, specifically check out RewardsCanada.ca.
Any good ways services that allow sign up to US programs from outside the country?
Unfortunately, if you’re not a US resident or citizen, you won’t be able to get US credit card sign ups. If I knew a way around this, I’d be rich (and probably get put in jail)!
The key is getting rich enough to hire an amazing lawyer first…
What’s up with Award Wallet? I love that service but many airlines seem to be canceling their partnerships with them and similar others. A dying breed or is there some hope?
There is HOPE! Award Wallet actually just got back American Airlines, a major win.
For those who don’t know, Award Wallet is a free website that tracks all your mile and point balances. For people like myself, who have millions of points scattered across 10 or so airlines and 10 or so hotel chains, it is invaluable.
It also tracks when your points will expire.
What happened was, of course the airlines didn’t want you to have this tool, because it meant there was a better chance you’d redeem your miles. So they blocked it from accessing their sites, claiming it was a “security issue.”
In reality, they want to make it as hard as possible for people to know what miles they have and when they expire. But the guys at Award Wallet are fighting it, and have just gotten AA to let them have access again (due to bad publicity).
So it looks like it’s here to stay, thankfully!
“What happened was, of course the airlines didn’t want you to have this tool, because it meant there was a better chance you’d redeem your miles. So they blocked it from accessing their sites, claiming it was a “security issue.” Can’t (but sadly can) believe this was the reason airlines pulled out of these programs.
What’s the value in having a program if you don’t want people to redeem? Any studies that show it builds brand loyalty from those who sign up but don’t take advantage of the programs?
I don’t have any studies to back it up, but I do think the numbers bear it out. I have people telling me all the time that they “want more USAirways miles” because they already have some, but then when I ask them if they’ve ever used them, they say no.
So the value for the programs is that people will be loyal to them because they have gotten something from them (airline miles) even if they’ve never used them.
Strange, but when I sit and think about it, I find I do that in my life sometimes as well. You buy a product or get something from someone, and even if you don’t like it that much or use it, you naturally feel drawn to continue to feel loyal to that company.
I remember reading some thing about what you’ve noticed and brands, interesting. I’ll see if I can find it…
Closest I could find, though it’s not the article I had in mind:
What’s the best airline to use?
Depends on what you are doing. As far as the BEST frequent flyer mile program, I’d say it would have to be United.
They have good availability, they never charge fuel surcharges, they are partners with 28 other airlines (meaning you can go anywhere in the world), and they have a website that actually works pretty well (as opposed to most airlines).
On top of that, you can use stopovers and open jaws to get 3 vacations for the price of 1.
Think New York-London-Paris-Madrid-New York, stopping in each city for as long as you want, instead of just New York-London-New York.
It’s AWESOME, and the best frequent flyer secret out there. Check out how to do it here:
I’m a big Star Alliance program user as well. Never really had problems redeeming miles with any partners. But – and correct me if I’m wrong – it’s best to sign up through United since their miles are good with partners but not necessarily the other way around.
Yes, you DEFINITELY want to credit your miles to United when you fly on Star Alliance partners. This is because United never charges fuel surcharges when you use their miles and like you said, you can use them with all the partners.
i have 10,000 miles but won’t fly anytime soon. are they useless
@khalid- If you know for a fact you won’t fly at all soon, then you should cash out your points for gift cards. Usually, 10k miles will get you a $100 gift card.
I don’t suggest that for people who will fly, since they are more valuable than that, but if you aren’t going to fly with them, might as well get something for them!
All 150k of my miles are with United.
United is the best to have them with. Now, it just comes down to figuring out where you want to go.
So, what’s your dream trip?
And would you go alone, or with a friend/spouse?
If you tell me, I can tell you exactly what you should do to maximize those miles!
anything you think most people don’t know but should about these kinds of programs?
The first thing is fuel surcharges. Everyone thinks using miles means their flight will be free…which isn’t the case.
It can be close to free if you don’t get hit with a fuel surcharge (like $5 tickets to Rio), but if you do get hit with a fuel surcharge, it can cost almost as much as a ticket costs to buy.
Definitely be aware of them. I’ll link the post about fuel surcharges again, because it’s that important:
The other thing is that you can earn miles in a variety of ways. For the first 28 years of my life, I thought you could only earn frequent flyer miles through flying, so I never paid any attention or gave it any thought.
Then, I realized that flying is one of the hardest ways to earn them. I started taking advantage of good credit card deals, shopping online as opposed to the store, and doing everything I could to earn miles without flying.
In 2 years, I’ve earned over 1 million miles and points and only 8k of that (less than 1%), have come from flying!
Any tricks to getting around the fees charged for booking close to departure date (a common occurrence for us last-minute planners).
Like you, I’m a last minute planner and usually get hit with that fee as well.
There are only two ways to get around it:
1. Have high end status with that airline. For example, if you are AA’s highest level status (Executive Platinum), they waive all the fees all the time. No late booking fee, no fee for changing tickets, nothing. It’s pretty amazing (I’ve heard).
2. Book with an airline that doesn’t charge one. And the only one I know of that doesn’t charge any late booking fees (which is usually defined as 21 days or less before departure) is British Airways.
They may suck for everything else, but BA is good in that regard!
Oh, and maybe one other way….beg, beg, beg (but it’s never worked for me). Who knows, you may be more of a charmer!
haha, I’ll give it a try! In case my charm doesn’t work, I’ll see if there’s some way to keep my United Premier Gold status without flying *quite* as much…
Going to grab some water, brb!
Back! Well, been back but forgot to mention it 😉
What credit cards are good for everyday use that doesn’t charge an annual fee? After doing the minimum spend, we usually stop using any card we signed up on. Our GO TO card is Citi AA mastercard for the AA miles. Once we receive the statement with the annual fee charge, we cancel the Citi card and apply again.
I’m interested in doing the Bluebird/Vanilla system to pay for mortgage and utilities that normally can’t pay with credit cards. I know I can get Vanilla cards at Walgreens around us. What credit card will maximize my points if I do so?
Hmmm…no annual fee is tough. I’d suggest getting one card that is your go to card and paying the annual fee. That’s because the points you earn with those cards is SO MUCH better than the points you earn with no annual fee cards.
I’d suggest the Chase Sapphire Preferred…it’s $79 a year, but it earns you Chase points which can transfer to United. Plus, then if you use it for Bluebird and Vanilla Reload, you are essentially “buying” points for less than a cent a piece. That’s great value.
Plus, the Sapphire Preferred gives you a 7% bonus for the points you earn each year (so if you earn 50k, they give you 3.5k more) AND it gives you 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, a nice plus.
That’s what I’d use as my go to, even if it does have a small annual fee.
I keep getting United cards offering me 30,000 miles but have once seen them for 50,000. Should I wait? Is there any way to predict a better offer coming up?
The “public” offer is only 30k, but yes, you can get the 55k offer pretty easily. I actually wrote about how to do it here:
If you have United miles in your account, try to get the offer to populate for you as a higher offer. If it doesn’t work, then you can sign up for the lower offer and “bump the bonus”, which is basically sending Chase an email after you get approved and get your 30k to give you more miles.
I’ve had 100’s of readers over the last year “bump their bonus” and no one has been told no yet.
You mention on your site you can help people find their first free flight within 3 months of working with them. Without giving away all of your secrets, how is this possible?
The people I am usually working with on that are people who haven’t earned any frequent flyer miles or know very little about it…newbies, essentially, much like I was 2 years ago.
When I first start telling them all the ways they can earn miles, they can’t believe it. If you think about it, most credit cards offer a bonus of 50k miles for signing up.
If a roundtrip domestic ticket is 25k, just by signing up for one card, you’ve earned enough for 2 domestic tickets. Or, you’ve earned almost enough for one ticket to Europe.
A lot of people also then want to get more than one card, or they have a significant other or family member who wants to get a card.
Plus, they then start buying some stuff online at times when there are big promotions (such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.).
Pretty soon, they are SWIMMING in miles!
It really is much easier to earn them than people think…and once I walk them through how, the floodgates open!
It just comes down to getting over your fear and apprehension of them and just starting with it.
What inspired you to get into working with miles?
My desire to start helping people understand and use frequent flyer miles is borne out of my belief that travel is one of the best vehicles we have to really learn about ourselves and the world around us.
I wouldn’t be half the person I am right now without my travel experiences, and that’s why I want others to travel as well.
Of course, I realize that many people are in the same situation as me: They want to travel, but they don’t have a ton of money lying around.
When I first started learning about frequent flyer miles, I thought it was too good to be true. But the more I learned, the more I realized that this was going to be my gateway in to showing myself the world.
And of course, why would I want to keep this secret to myself?
I KNOW that I can travel anywhere in the world, whenever I want now, for free.
At this point, I get as much joy out of helping others travel than I do from traveling myself. It’s just amazing to get emails from people telling me they got to go to their dream destinations and how much they have changed because of travel.
I feel very, very lucky and blessed to not only be able to do it myself, but to help others do it as well. I couldn’t ask for a better “job”!
This might seem silly but the US government shutdown right now has me thinking – any programs or benefits for federal employees?
Hmmm…interesting question. To be honest, I’m not really sure. There is nothing that sticks out in my mind as being a benefit for being a government employee when it comes to frequent flyer miles.
Sometimes, military personnel get better treatment, priority boarding, etc. though.
Do you have status with any airlines or hotels? Do you find it worthwhile to try and chase it?
Personally, I don’t have status with any airlines at the moment. That’s because I have so many frequent flyer miles, I never pay for my flights (and only paid miles count towards status).
I may, however, actually try to get AA Executive Platinum next year, since its by far the best airline status out there. Still trying to determine whether it is worth it or not (will probably cost me $1,500 out of pocket + time flying around just to earn miles).
I have some lower end statuses with hotels just from getting their credit cards, the best being Hyatt Gold status, which is free breakfast and free internet.
Overall, I wouldn’t try to chase hotel status because it’s hard to get AND not that worthwhile. But if you are close to getting the highest level status for an airline, then it might be worth it.
Can miles be turned into cash?
Not cash, but gift cards. That’s the closest you’ll get to cash.
Can’t imagine the airlines would let anyone get away with miles to money direct conversions… would be nice though.
what if i want to fly 1 domestic, one international. how many miles will i need and how long will it take to get them?
Depends on what airline, as each airline charges different prices in miles for certain flights.
Best website to use is milez.biz to determine how much a flight costs for each airline.
But usually, it’s 25k miles roundtrip domestically, and then about 60k roundtrip to Europe, 65k roundtrip to Asia, and about 80k roundtrip to Australia/New Zealand.
As far as how long it will take to get them, that is determine by how many cards you want to open and how much spending you will do on them.
If you open up 2 cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Ink Bold, you’d have 90k miles from sign up bonuses and be able to take those two trips just from that.
I’m curious to hear more about your Rio trip and any others you have coming up. The traveler in me can’t resist.
Believe it or not, I have less trips planned right now than I have in a long time.
I booked tickets for my wife and I to Paris for Oct. 21st, but looks like we’ll be changing the date on that until next spring for a variety of reasons (one being my passport just expired and I can’t get a new one with the government shutdown)!
The only trip we actually have on the horizon is going to Rio for the World Cup. We are flying down to Rio on June 12th for $5, and we haven’t booked tickets back yet because, well, we may want to stay down there!
So we are flying in to Rio, but plan on heading around the country with a Brazilian friend of mine and then possibly backpacking around S. America after the World Cup if we can stretch our funds.
Neither my wife nor I have been to S. America before, so we are really looking forward to it.
That sounds very exciting. Never been to Brazil but like South America, although Argentina and I didn’t get along at first. I’ll quickly say though if you can, visit Ecuador. One of my favorite places.
(Also prediction: Brazil will win! You can’t give them home advantage, it’s too much for such a good team :)))
I signed up for the same AA challenge and trying to decide if Exec Platinum is really worth it if I plan the majority of my trips on miles…
Yeah, I’m with you. I’m on the fence. It would be nice to have, but if you don’t pay for many tickets, then it isn’t worth it.
However, the reason I think I will go for it is that you earn 2x for every mile you fly with Executive Platinum. So, now all of a sudden, it makes more sense to pay for some tickets.
If you book a $800 ticket to China, and it’s 20k miles roundtrip of flying, you’ll get 40k AA miles for flying that if you are Executive Platinum. So it’s really like only paying $400.
Ever worry that the airlines are going to notice sites and ebooks like you and begin restricting already tight FF programs?
Yeah, funny you should ask. I used to think that “wow, we are flying under the radar (pardon the pun), and if the airlines find out, they will start restricting things.”
But the reality is, so few people actually maximize frequent flyer miles and know how to use them that it’s no big deal to the airlines. It’s easy for me to forget, because I’m always talking to other frequent flyer mile nerds, but 75% of frequent flyer miles go unredeemed.
We are such a small subset, that it is the airlines that are laughing all the way to the bank. They sell their miles to credit card companies, who give them to people for signing up for cards, who then never use them. So the airlines are making money, lots of it, off them.
Also, the airlines know what is going on. I’ve been in conferences and meetings with heads of the airlines, and they know our group exists, they know forums exist, they know blogs exist. The fact is, they use us to tell them what people want and what’s going on in the frequent flyer space.
I don’t anticipate it getting large enough that they start restricting things.
Are all Vanilla cards created equal? Does it matter where you buy them? Are there stores that charges less activation fee? Is there a specific credit card can I use that would give me more bang or points for buying the Vanilla card?
NO, THEY ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! Sorry for the caps, but don’t want you to get the wrong ones. Get the ones that look exactly like this:
I’d just use whatever card you want miles on the most (I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred) or whatever card you have to hit a minimum spend on.
As far as activation fee, they will all charge the same. However, the only store I know of that lets you buy them with a credit card is CVS, so you’ll have to go there to find them.
Hi everyone, we’ve only got a few minutes left so if you have any questions unanswered for Trav, now is the time to ask.
How many times can you apply for the same credit card for airline miles? I hear of people getting hundreds of thousands of miles with a single airline that way. Do you have to close your card, wait for a certain period of time and re-apply?
You can usually only apply for the same exact credit card 1 time. However, there are usually multiple variations of a card that give you the same miles.
For example, the Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Freedom all give you Chase points. You can get 1 of each, but they are all the same type of points.
There are a few cards you can “churn” (get the same exact card more than once), but this is getting harder and harder. In order to do this, you’ll have to close the card and wait until at least 18 months after you first opened it to go for it again.
And this never works with Chase cards, just occasionally with Citi.
With Amex, you have to wait a year from when you CLOSED the card to try for it again.
And with all of them, there is no guarantee you’ll get approved.
Trav, before you sign off, I want to be sure everyone knows about your Frequent Flyer Bootcamp, anything to add?
Yeah, I just started Frequent Flyer Bootcamp a few months ago and it’s been SO MUCH FUN!
Basically, it’s a month long course that you go through in a co-hort, where I send you video tutorials once a week, you watch them, and then we have a 1 hour live Q&A about it each week.
We also have a private Facebook group that is super lively and you can ask questions at any time in.
I take people who are just beginners or intermediates and turn them in to experts…and we actually book people their crazy dream trips during the Bootcamp.
We even booked one girl a round the world, 13 stop trip last Bootcamp. It was amazing.
This session is full, but if anyone is interested in knowing more or joining next time, they can check it out here:
First of all, thank you for all or your miles/points accumulation tips. You’re the reason why I have what I have, and I’ve only been doing this a few months! My question is…..between my daughter and I, we have a total of 360k US Air miles (me 210k, her 150k), plus I have 34k Starwood and 41k Chase UR if needed to transfer. I would lovelovelove to work some reward redemption magic, and turn them in to 3 super sonic awesome biz class tickets (three generations of women having a girls trip!!!) to London with a 5 day-ish stopover in Paris during March 2013 (to take advantage of US Air’s promotion where I’ll get 25% of my redeemed miles back) Doable? Or just wishful thinking?
Awesome…really appreciate it, and glad I could help. Getting you to your dream destination is why I do what I do!
Your trip is 100% doable. Even though March is coming up, it’s not peak season to go to Europe so you might be able to find availability.
If you go to my Award Booking Page and fill it in with the info you just told me plus your flexibility on dates and where you are flying from, I’d love to try to see what I can get for you!
Here’s the award booking page:
Hi everyone, it’s tough to end a great chat such as this one, but thank you everyone for your wonderful questions and comments. Also, thank you very much Trav for spending your valuable time with us today and sharing your insights into frequent flyer miles, programs, and more. I certainly learned *a lot* – and thought I knew more than I did!
To learn more about flying for free and making the most out of airline programs, you can find Trav on his website, Extra Pack Of Peanuts and check out his ebook The Ultimate Guide To Frequent Flyer Miles.
Trav also runs a Frequent Flyer Bootcamp where he mentors others on becoming experts on the topic.
Finally, you can follow Trav on Twitter and Facebook for more insights.
Thank you again everyone. My next live chat will be during the first week of November, here’s more information.. happy travels!