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Do low fares mean no miles?

When you’re looking for the best airfare deal, it’s generally a good idea to shop around on different websites. But price shouldn’t be your only concern. Where you book your ticket may determine whether or not you’ll get miles?earnings that can help you get closer to your next free trip.

You’ll always earn miles on your ticket if you buy directly from the airline, and you can earn thousands of bonus miles for booking online. But there may be better deals elsewhere, on sites like Expedia or Priceline. Of the five biggest third-party players, here’s a rundown of who gives out miles…and who doesn’t.

Hotwire and Priceline offer extreme discounts on fares that are called “opaque” because you don’t see all of the details, such as the specific airline or exact travel times, until you agree to buy. These deeply discounted tickets do not earn you frequent flyer miles. Tickets purchased on Priceline’s retail site,, are eligible to earn miles, but the prices may not be as low as Priceline’s opaque fares.

If you book with Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity, most flights will earn you frequent flyer miles. However, some special fares on these sites may short-change your miles account. Expedia Bargain Fares, which are Expedia’s opaque fares, do not earn miles, nor do tickets on a few small airlines that are booked as part of packages. On Travelocity, most airlines offer miles on all tickets except opaque fares. On Orbitz, neither packages nor opaque fares will earn you miles.

To decide whether you should book a low fare that earns miles, or a really low fare that doesn’t, calculate the value of the miles you would earn on that trip. Using the industry standard that a mile is worth $0.02, you can figure out the value of the miles you’d earn, and then deduct that amount from the price you’d pay for the mile-earning ticket. Don’t forget to factor in the bonus miles you’d earn by booking online or for flying select routes.

After taking into account the value of the miles you’d earn, you can then compare the two fares. Choose the “cheaper” one and know that you’re getting the best deal.

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