In my travel hacking book The Freedom Project, I recommend even infrequent flyers to be enrolled in not one, but all airline frequent flyer programs. Do yourself a favour and buy a copy of the book today to learn why, it’s available worldwide on Amazon and they often have discounts and promotions. In this article I’ll share some tips and tricks to maximize your frequent flyer miles – so you’ll be on your way to that free ticket to the Bahamas sooner.
First a brief history of the airline frequent flyer program. In May 1981, American Airlines introduced AAdvantage, the first frequent flyer program. The goal was to retain their best customers by rewarding them for their loyalty. The program tracked member’s miles flown, and provided incentives in the form of free flights and upgraded amenities. Today, there are more than 70 frequent flyer programs, with over 100 million members. It’s been years since I personally paid for a flight, which prompted me to write my travel hacking book – which quickly became a #1 international best seller.
Once you implement the strategies I share in my book, here are the keys to maximizing your frequent flyer awards:
1. Join the program
This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people fly without their frequent flyer number on their boarding pass. You can’t accumulate miles if you’re not a member OR don’t use your membership number while checking in. There is generally no cost to join, so don’t get left behind. Aeroplan is my favourite program.
Focus your travel on as few airlines as possible, so that your miles accrue in one account, and you attain elite levels faster. Also, be aware of any alliances that airlines have, which allows you to fly on one airline but credit the points to another airline – for example Star Alliance or Sky Team are two of my favourites.
3. Keep track of expiration dates
Most frequent flyer programs expire miles after a period of time, usually 2-3 years after being granted. Filling up your tank at a participating gas station is usually enough to extend your miles for another couple of years. Since I add new miles daily, mine never expire and I usually earn them back faster than I can use them for rewards travel. How? Read the book!
4. Credit card promotions
Airline credit cards are a popular way to put an extra 5-10,000 miles in your account when you sign-up, sometimes enough for at least one free flight. Click here to learn more.
5. Hotel and rental cars
Check hotel and rental car agreements, you can pick up extra frequent flyer miles based on where you stay and which car you rent.
6. Elite levels
Try to achieve and maintain elite levels with at least one program. Besides bonus amenities such as seat upgrades and preferential boarding, elite members frequently get bonus miles. Click here to learn how I get elite status right from signing up with some airlines.
7. Leverage merchant partnerships
Airlines have signed agreements with various merchants to provide frequent flyer miles for purchasing partner products. Find out which merchants your airline has partnered with and adjust your spending. This is also a great way to extend the expiration date of your miles.
8. Read more about travel hacking in The Freedom Project
Do You Dream of Traveling the World… and flying for free? The Freedom Project shows a new approach to travel as a lifestyle. Travel has countless benefits to all areas of life, and they are available to everyone. This book is the liberating blueprint for finding freedom and happiness in your traveling life.