This year, make a resolution to earn more miles and take advantage of more free flights and elite status. To help you achieve your goals, we’ve compiled a list of the top five things you can do to increase the miles you earn without spending a lot of extra time and money.
1. Consolidate your mileage earning
You may be tempted to sign up for the frequent flyer program of every airline you fly, but having a few thousand miles in each airline’s program will never get you a free flight. The best way to speed up your quest for a free flight is to consolidate your mileage earning in one or two programs. This year, choose the airline that best fits your travel habits and try to fly that airline as much as possible, even if it means occasionally paying a few extra dollars for a flight. In this way, you’ll rack up miles in one program, allowing you to earn enough miles for an award more quickly.
2. Get a mileage-earning credit card
Think about how much you use your credit card each month, then imagine how many miles you’d have if you earned one or two miles for every dollar spent. Most U.S. airlines have an affiliated credit card that lets you earn miles for each transaction you make. The majority of cards have annual fees, but you can find no-fee cards that offer one mile for every $2 spent. Alternately, you can choose a bank card with a low or no annual fee. With these cards, you’ll earn points that are redeemable for free flights; however, you can’t combine the points with the miles you earn from flying. If you’re not vowing to cut up your credit cards in 2005, you might as well resolve to earn miles for your purchases.
3. Earn miles for everyday activities
Do you shop online, talk on the phone, surf the Web, or buy groceries? You can earn miles for all of these activities with little or no extra cost to you. This year, remember to check the mileage malls before you purchase something through an online retailer. You might be able to earn one to 10 miles per dollar spent (and that’s in addition to the miles you’ll earn when you pay with your new miles-earning credit card). Plus, always ask if you can earn miles for signing up or paying bills for your cell or regular phone service, Internet provider, grocery purchases, loans, mortgages, and financial accounts. For more information on which companies partner with your preferred airline, visit the SmarterTravel.com Mile Finder. Your everyday routines will suddenly become your ticket to a free flight.
4. Utilize airline partners
Most U.S. airlines have a long list of airline partners that allow travelers to earn miles in their preferred program when flying on a partner carrier. If you need to fly a route that your airline does not serve, fly a partner airline and request to earn miles in your preferred program. Just provide your main frequent flyer number when you make reservations or when you check in. You’ll end up with fewer orphan miles and more miles that can work toward an award seat.
5. Take an elite challenge
Elite status gives you special privileges, such as priority check-in and boarding, and it also allows you to earn more miles each time you fly. To earn elite status at an accelerated rate, ask your airline if you can take an elite challenge. Certain airlines will award you elite status for flying a certain number of flights or flight miles in a short period of time. If you know you have a few trips coming up, sign up for the challenge and enjoy perks and extra miles for the rest of the year. To find out if your airline offers a challenge, call your frequent flyer program’s customer service department and ask.