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One of the biggest mistakes you can make with frequent flyer miles, aside from not redeeming them at all, is using miles on an airline-to-airline basis. Make the most out of the points you earn flying by accumulating your frequent flyer miles in one place and thinking in terms of airline alliances. The best way to do this is by signing up for three specific US-based airline mileage programs – United Mileage Plus, American AAdvantage, and Delta SkyMiles – which will allow you to collect points from over 60 airlines as though they were a single carrier.

The Importance Of Funneling Your Miles

There are three major airline alliances: Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam, founded by United, American Airlines, and Delta, respectively. What most people don’t know is these three airlines – United, American, and Delta – accept miles flown on any of their partner carriers. The reverse is not true however, meaning partner airlines won’t accept miles from each other (in most cases).

For example, say you fly twice this year on Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines (both Star Alliance), 3,500 miles each. Most people would claim the first 3,500 miles with Lufthansa’s Miles and More program, then 3,500 with Turkish Airlines’ Miles and Smiles. That leaves you with 3,500 miles in two accounts that cannot be combined. Instead, if you were signed up for United’s Mileage Plus, both of those Star Alliance member flights would go into the same account – now you’ve got 7,000 miles. The best part: all partner airlines must accept points from United’s Mileage Plus. The same goes for American Airlines with oneworld members and Delta for SkyTeam carriers.

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You want to avoid spreading out your frequent flyer miles when possible, even if you regularly fly the same airline if it happens to be one of those listed below:

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Star Alliance – Use United Mileage Plus When Flying Any Of These 25 Airlines

  • Adria Airways – Aegean Airlines – Air Canada – Air China – Air New Zealand – ANA – Asiana Airlines – Austrian – Avianca – Brussels Airlines – Copa Airlines – Croatia Airlines – EGYPTAIR – Ethiopian Airlines – EVA Air – LOT Polish Airlines – Lufthansa – Scandinavian Airlines – Shenzhen Airlines – Singapore Airlines – South African Airways – SWISS – TAP Portugal – THAI – Turkish Airlines

oneworld – Use American Airlines AAdvantage When Flying Any Of These 16 Airlines

  • airberlin – American Airlines – British Airways – Cathay Pacific – Finnair – Iberia – Japan Airlines – LAN – TAM – Malaysia Airlines – Qantas – Qatar Airways – Royal Jordanian – S7 Airlines – SriLankan Airlines – Mexicana

SkyTeam – Use Delta SkyMiles When Flying Any Of These 19 Airlines

  • Aeroflot – Aerolineas Argentinas – Aeromexico – Air Europa – Air France – Alitalia – China Airlines – China Eastern – China Southern – Czech Airlines – Garuda Indonesia – Kenya Airways – KLM – Korean Air – Middle East Airlines – Saudia – TAROM – Vietnam Airlines – Xiamen Airlines

You don’t ever have to fly United, American Airlines, or Delta to use their mileage programs as giant point collectors. All you have to do is follow to follow a simple process when checking in at your next flight.

dancing airportEvery Time You Fly Any Of The Airlines Listed Above Remember This When Checking In

Although the best flight search engines give you the option of adding a frequent flyer account number when booking, it’s much more reliable to work with the person at the check-in counter. When you hand over your flight details and identification, make sure to tell them you’re a member of (i.e. United Mileage Plus, American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles) and hand over the appropriate account number. Then, hold on to your boarding pass stubs for at least 4 weeks afterwards in case you notice the miles were never credited. This way you can call United, American, or Delta, with details (and proof) to make sure you get the points you’ve earned.

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In Case You’ve Been Lazy You May Be Able To Redeem Past Flights

Once frequent flyer miles are credited to an account, they can’t be moved elsewhere under most circumstances. So if you’ve got your miles scattered across airlines, the best thing to do is begin concentrating them for the future, now that you know how. For the procrastinating travelers out there who might not have bothered collecting points for past flights, United lets you go back 18 months, American Airlines 12 months, and Delta 9 months. Browse through your inbox to find the specific flight details and with a single phone call you’ll be on your way to earning a free flight or upgrade in the most efficient way possible.

In case you’re still not completely convinced on using frequent flyer programs, here’s an 8 minute guide to getting set up for reluctant travelers and 7 ways to bump up your earning a notch with and without getting more credit cards.