How To Make the Most Out Of Your Miles

When the weather starts to get warmer and kids start asking you what you’re going to do for them summer, most people think of miles. Seriously, how else to get a family of six to Italy? Well, if you don’t learn how to use your miles effectively, it might just be like this:

my summer travel

my summer travel

People are sitting on almost 10 trillion unused airline miles worldwide. Want to know why? Because it feels like they’re impossible to redeem. Want to know why? Because with airlines flying at 80 to 100 percent occupancy, they’re holding onto those seats with dear life, particularly during the peak months of summer and holidays when we want them most for ‘free’ (nothing is really free) seats or for upgrades to better seats.

So how are we to use our precious miles in the best possible way? How can we travel to Italy be like this:

first class

first class

1. First off, All Miles are not Created Equal



Sometimes it’s better to buy your ticket and use miles to upgrade. Here’s why: A mile is worth about 1.2 cents. You multiply that by the number of miles required to determine the “price” of ticket. For example, a trans-Atlantic economy seat that requires 75,000 miles really costs about $900, so it’s really better to buy a round-trip coach fare and use miles to upgrade instead.

A Caveat: If you’re planning to use your miles to upgrade, be sure to buy a ticket that is “upgradeable.”  Believe it or not, airlines have now restricted the type of ticket you can upgrade, making it harder to do it on a dirty cheap ticket.

air up there 
For example, passengers who choose Delta Airlines instead of American or Continental are usually required to buy a more expensive economy-class ticket if they want to become eligible to upgrade to business class for international flights.

While Continental and American let passengers upgrade from an economy-class ticket, even the least expensive ones. For more information on using frequent flier miles go to www.insideflyer.com

2. Book Very Early or Very Late

To get that summer family trip with miles you have to either get on it early or late. Among the Big 6 airlines, you can book as early as 352 days in advance and on Delta and American 329 days. If you have no idea when you’re going to leave, you can sometimes get seats with miles within two weeks of departure when airlines open some up.

3. Call the airlines

Ask to speak with a frequent flier agent with access to all the partner airlines, they can sometimes find you a flight that you would otherwise never find.

4. Be Flexible

Avoid weekend travel. Midweek travel is often the best time for cashing in miles and finding seats.

5. Consider a Stopover

Make the most of “free” ticket by adding another city to your itinerary. The stopover won’t cost extra and you’ll get to do more, see more, experience more.



6. Check for New Routes

When a new route opens, like when Delta opened between New York and Tuscany and New York and Athens, there are more seats available. Check with your airline and see what’s up.

7. Plan for Elite Status


Elite Access

Elite Access


Consolidate your travel onto one card and know your airlines partners That way you’ll get closer to elite status, which can open many doors, making your travel so much easier with things like shorter lines, upgrades, and better car rentals from companies like Hertz.

8. Make Your Charge Cards Count

American Express Starwood (31 partners), Diners Club (21 partners), and American Express Membership Rewards (14 partners). Think of all the possibilities,

9. Save Your Miles

Save them for special trips or expensive flights, don’t waste them on tickets you can buy for a couple hundred dollars.

10. Make the Most of Your Spending

If you earn most of your miles from credit card purchases, some experts say to switch to a “cash back” card such as Discover and putting the rebate into a fund for purchasing tickets so you don’t have to deal with the difficulty if redeeming tickets.


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