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The 6 Laws of Frequent Flyer Miles

Frequent Flyer Miles

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Editor’s Notice: Welcome to our Factors Rules collection, a weekly publish devoted to explaining the fundamentals behind the complicated world of frequent flyer miles and journey rewards factors. Comply with alongside as we lay out a number of the constructing blocks to journey for almost free. And verify again to the Factors Rules web page to see what floor we’ve already coated.

We continuously preach concerning the worth of factors and miles, and there’s no query that there’s a studying curve. We’re studying day-after-day, too. Airways make these frequent flyer miles obscure and use for a purpose, and it’s all the time evolving as they attempt to keep forward of shoppers.

However there are a number of fundamentals which are useful to know as you dive deep into this always altering, opaque and complicated world. We name them the 6 Legal guidelines of Frequent Flyer Miles.


1. They’re Not Only for Frequent Flyers

You possibly can earn a boatload of frequent flyer miles with out flying ceaselessly. Let that sink in for a bit. Appears rather less daunting now, doesn’t it?

The simplest – and quickest – solution to begin bundling frequent flyer miles is to join a bank card and spend a number of thousand dollars. Will you spend a number of thousand dollars in your regular bills over a three-month interval, and repay your complete invoice each month? Or do you could have an enormous buy arising that may permit you to hit a $three,000-$5,000 spending requirement in a single fell swoop? You’ll want to begin sluggish and make sure you’re not making purchases you’ll be able to’t afford. Play it proper, and you may benefit from sign-up bonuses on a brand new bank card for some free flights.

That being stated, you need to nonetheless be incomes miles on each flight you buy. Ensure you’re signed up for the key airways’ frequent flyer packages if you’re reserving a ticket.

Thrifty Tip: Learn our Newbie’s Information to Credit score Playing cards and information to Getting Began with Journey Rewards Credit score Playing cards.

2. You Can’t Mix Miles from Totally different Airways

It’s some of the frequent questions we get from individuals simply getting began with miles and factors. Sadly, you’ll be able to’t mix your Delta and United miles. Or United and Singapore miles. They’re all separate currencies, no matter whether or not or not the 2 airways are part of the identical alliance.



Fortunately, there’s a world of factors which might be much more versatile than your airline’s frequent flyer account. Financial institution factors like Chase Final Rewards, American Categorical Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou factors assist you to use factors to guide with any airline instantly. And higher but, they can help you switch miles to dozens of various airline companions. It’s one of many fundamental options that underscore the distinction between bank card factors and airline miles.

That degree of flexibility is among the major causes we’ve named the Chase Sapphire Most popular our #1 starter card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve our #1 journey rewards card.

Whether or not you’re new to miles and factors or a seasoned professional, having a mixture of transferrable currencies and airline-specific miles is important. It helps broaden your choices when reserving flights with factors.


three. Not All Factors and Miles Are Created Equally

Pop quiz: Would you relatively have 100,000 Chase factors or 100,000 Delta SkyMiles? When you answered that they’re the identical, you failed. Whereas we personally love SkyMiles, there’s no query Chase Final Rewards factors are extra helpful.

And that’s an necessary piece of the training curve in miles and factors and one of many key legal guidelines. Factors are identical to currencies around the globe: They’re value totally different quantities and values can change over time.

Simply how a lot SkyMiles, American AAdvantage Miles, United MileagePlus miles, Chase Final Rewards Factors (and on and on) are value varies wildly. Each main airline blogger, to not point out each flyer, values every foreign money in a different way based mostly on their wants and journey patterns.

It is dependent upon the place you need to fly, whether or not you need to fly enterprise class, in case your journey dates are set in stone or versatile, and extra. A lot of it hinges on the strengths and weaknesses of an airline’s award chart, which units what number of miles they cost for a given flight.

For instance, if you wish to e-book a flight to Europe, a stash of Southwest Speedy Rewards miles is nugatory as a result of Southwest doesn’t fly throughout the Atlantic. If a visit to Japan in enterprise class is in your thoughts, chances are you’ll somewhat have American Airways miles than miles with Delta or United, as a result of American fees far fewer miles for these flights.

And the pliability that comes with financial institution factors like Chase Final Rewards provides them an automated increase. It permits you to switch them to airline accounts or e-book an affordable flight instantly via the Final Rewards portal.

four. Understanding Airline Alliances and Partnerships is Key

You should use Delta SkyMiles to guide a flight on Air France or KLM. United miles can get you on a flight to Germany on Lufthansa or Taipei on EVA Airways. Probably the greatest makes use of of American Airways miles is for a flight on Qatar Airways.

Welcome to the world of airline alliances and partnerships, your key to getting extra out of your miles. For many freshmen we speak to, that is their “aha!” second that helps them understand that their miles are much more useful than they as soon as thought.

There’s an excessive amount of to get in to right here, however we’ll offer you a fast rundown. There are three main airline alliances, every with a essential home associate.


    • Sky Staff is the alliance of Delta airways. Different SkyTeam airways embrace Air France/KLM, Garuda Indonesia, Vietnam Airways, Alitalia and Korean Air.
    • Star Alliance is the house of United, in addition to different main companions like Air Canada, ANA, Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore, Turkish and Thai
    • Oneworld options American Airways and another prime airways like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Japan Airways and extra.


There are additionally a ton of one-off partnerships between airways, permitting you to earn and redeem miles on flights with totally different carriers.

For instance, Alaska isn’t in a serious airline alliance. Nevertheless, it’s top-of-the-line methods to guide first and enterprise class flights on each Emirates and Cathay Pacific – two of the perfect airways on the market. A partnership between American Airways and Etihad makes AAdvantage miles a good way to e-book a seat in Etihad’s First Class seat referred to as The House.


5. Flight Miles Not often Imply A Factor for Frequent Flyer Miles

Simply because your flight from Minneapolis to London is four,015 miles doesn’t imply you’ll want four,015 miles to guide the flight. Removed from it. And the identical is true of the way you earn miles.

The times of mileage-based redemptions and incomes are lengthy gone. Additional, airways are masters at making it extra obscure how far your miles will get you. Don’t hand over, that’s the place the Thrifty Traveler workforce is available in.

Most airways function underneath an award chart, which units the worth for a given flight based mostly on what area you’re touring to and the place you’re departing from. Each airline’s award chart is totally different, with various candy spots and weak factors. A part of mastering factors and miles is figuring out (after which remembering) which frequent flyer packages are greatest for a given route.


Frequent Flyer Miles

Every airline units the costs for flights utilizing miles with an award chart, like this one from Avianca.


For instance, British Airways Avios are nice if you wish to fly to Hawaii as a result of BA fees simply 25,000 for a spherical journey on American Airways from the West Coast to the islands. Japan’s flag service ANA is a superb option to guide a enterprise class flight to Asia as a result of they cost roughly the identical as most airways do in financial system.

Sadly, not each airline makes it straightforward to work this all out. Delta stopped publicizing an award chart and changed it with a extremely variable, multi-tiered award system. Learn our information on Understanding Delta SkyMiles to discover ways to get probably the most out of your SkyMiles.

It’s much more convoluted when figuring out what number of miles you’ll earn for a flight you bought. For some airways like Delta, United, and American, it’s based mostly purely on the money worth you paid. For different’s, there’s a extra complicated method based mostly on distance, ticket worth and extra.

The airline alliances and partnerships that provide help to use your miles additionally apply to incomes miles. Use nice on-line instruments like WhereToCredit to assist work out the perfect place to credit score your miles for a given flight.  

6. Use Your Miles – They’ll Get Much less Worthwhile Over Time

Within the ever-changing world of aviation, there’s one fixed: Airways will devalue your miles. It comes within the type of growing how a lot award redemption prices, tacking on further charges, or including new restrictions to award flights.

Some packages are extra are extra secure, whereas others will jack up the price of a flight in a single day with no discover. However over time, airways will all the time attempt to get extra money out of their clients by making their miles much less priceless.


Frequent Flyer Miles

To make it clear: Factors and miles aren’t an funding. This makes it crucial to spend your miles when you’ll be able to. They’re your license to see the world – whether or not you’re seeing extra of it with frequent journeys, or getting there in fashion in first or enterprise class.

Frequent vacationers make conscientious selections about when to make use of money versus spending their miles on a flight. We will’t blame you for making an attempt to get probably the most out of your miles. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to not get paralyzed in your quest to get the perfect worth. Ebook the flight, take your journey, see the world. Should you don’t, you may get up one morning and discover that your miles are value considerably much less.


Backside Line

It’s essential to have a couple of fundamentals in thoughts and an understanding of how airways strategy the miles you’ve spent years amassing. Whereas mileage redemptions and values might change, the guiding principals of how one can greatest maximize them shouldn’t. 


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Editorial Word: Any opinions, analyses, evaluations, or suggestions expressed on this article are these of the writer’s alone, and haven’t been reviewed, authorised, or in any other case endorsed by any card issuer.



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