When you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2007, consider striving to become a better frequent flyer. Everyone’s mileage-earning and redeeming strategies can use a touch-up once a year. To help you out, I’ve listed five goals that will help any loyalty-program member maximize the results of his or her mileage collection.
I won’t pin my hopes on a merger
From first class to coach class, everyone is talking about the possible airline mergers. It’s tempting to imagine how large your mileage account would be if you added together your balances from two merging airlines. Before you plan free trips in first class around the world, remember that many of these potential mergers will never become a reality. Even if they did, it would take months, if not years, to approve the tie-up and consolidate the frequent flyer programs. You should continue to earn and redeem miles as if the airline situation will remain exactly the same. This strategy will prevent you from getting burned if your hoped-for alliance fails to materialize.
You can follow the merger situation in our travel blogs:
- [% 2286625 | | Today in Travel %]
- [% 2286624 | | Up Front with Tim Winship %]
I will reevaluate my frequent flyer affiliation
It’s easy to keep earning miles on the same old airlines without stepping back to see if you’re making the smartest decision. With U.S. carriers adding or changing routes, the airline that used to be best for your travel plans may no longer be the top choice. Or perhaps you’ve moved or changed your flying patterns. This year, take some time to evaluate flight routes and prices to determine whether you should switch your loyalty to a different airline.
These articles feature additional tips to help you evaluate your loyalty:
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- [% 313020 | | Should you be loyal to one airline? %]
I’ll choose the credit card that makes the most sense for me
The same advice holds true with credit cards. Your airline-affiliated credit card might not be worth the high annual fee if you’re having trouble redeeming miles for award flights. Perhaps you’d be better off with a card that gives out points that can be traded for flights on any airline, or a free credit card that gives you cash back. Some airlines let you downgrade your high-fee mileage-earning card for a no-fee card that offers fewer miles per dollar spent. A combination of two cards might be your ideal situation. Resolve to reevaluate your charge cards before you pay this year’s annual fee.
The following stories explain your credit-card options:
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- [% 1261751 | | To earn airline miles, plastic is fantastic %]
- [% 1602480 | | ‘Best’ airline mileage cards %]
I’ll use my miles
Many travelers hoard their miles. Perhaps you want to save them for retirement, or maybe you aren’t planning a vacation. With the current messy state of the airline industry and the rapidly decreasing value of a mile, it’s not smart to save your miles for a long time. This year, vow to use your miles. Treat yourself to an overseas vacation or fly a long-lost friend or relative out to see you. It’s okay to build up your account toward a dream trip, such as a first-class flight to Africa or Australia. Just be sure to book those flights once you’ve accumulated enough miles. If you wait too long, the airline might liquidate or increase its award-ticket prices, and your miles will be worth less—or even worthless.
You can learn strategies for redeeming miles in these articles:
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- [% 1594175 | | How to get the most value from your miles %]
- [% 1284094 | | When is it best to book an award online or over the phone? %]
- [% 317290 | | Beyond free flights: Airlines look to alternative awards %]
I’ll be better about earning miles for nonflight activities
You’ve heard this advice before, but many people still forget to earn miles for nonflight activities. I can’t count the number of times I bought something online then slapped my forehead because I could’ve used a mileage mall and received miles for the same purchase. Do whatever it takes—post-it notes on your computer or a daily mantra—to remind yourself to check a mileage mall or airline website before you make an online purchase, book travel, or sign up for any kind of service. You’ll be surprised how many free miles you can collect in this way.
Want to know what purchases earn you miles? Read on:
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- [% 1304427 | | Online shopping malls beckon mileage mavens %]