Part I: Credit Cards
Part II: Points and Miles
Part III: Aspirations, Earn and Burn
What absolutely kills me is when people don’t sign up for loyalty programs and leave valuable points and miles on the table every time they travel. I don’t care how short the trip is or how rarely you use that airline or hotel chain, every point can be valuable and there is nothing more important (or more simple) than adding your frequent flyer number to that flight reservation!
One of my favorite tools for keeping track of my rewards accounts is Award Wallet. It’s a surprisingly simple site that can be used to track miles and points and I use it every time I book a flight or hotel reservation and need to remember my loyalty program details. Super simple and easy to access your information at any time - now you have no excuses!
One of the most important things to understand when you book flights and earn miles is what alliance that airline is part of. A lot of people don’t realize that you can book a flight on one airline and credit the miles to another if they are part of the same alliance. This can sometimes allow you to book those cheaper flights on airlines you don’t fly very often, but credit the miles to an airline that you currently have a mileage balance with.
For example, when I flew to South America last December, the cheapest flight was on LAN Airlines, but I don’t go to South America often enough to use those miles for future flights. Since LAN is part of OneWorld, I credited the miles to American Airlines, which I use much more often.
Always consider alliances when booking flights and try to keep your miles credited to the lowest possible number of accounts - there’s nothing worse than having a bank of miles but not being able to use them because you only have 12,000 and the lowest possible redemption is for 15,000.
Shopping Portals, Surveys, and Contests
A majority of my mile balances come from credit card sign-ups or actual flights I take, however, there are a few other ways to earn points and miles when you need to top off an account or, more importantly, keep your miles from expiring.
Some of you may have experienced point expiration. Imagine you have a nice sum of miles from a random flight on a rarely used airline and you're saving them for a rainy day. You finally find the perfect flight, set up the booking, then realize at the last moment that the miles have expired. There is truly nothing more awful than expired points for a travel hacker!
What a lot of people don't realize is that you don't necessarily need a large sum of miles to be contributed to a mileage balance to prevent expiration. In fact, you don't even need to take a flight. This is where shopping portals, surveys, and contests come in to play.
Most airlines, hotel chains, and credit card providers have a nifty shopping portal you can use to make purchases through which allow you to earn bonus miles and points. These portals can offer shopping from retailers like Nordstrom, The Home Depot, Kohls, Walgreens, and tons more and give you bonuses for buying via the portal.
I'll admit it's a bit of a pain to remember to use these and I honestly rarely (read: never) use this method to earn miles, but it's nice to know it's there.
Here are a few links to some of the more popular portals:
American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping
Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping
United Mileage Plus Shopping
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping
Delta Skymiles Shopping
Also be sure to check out the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus cards. Ultimate Rewards points are often more coveted because you can transfer them to multiple airlines or hotel chains, rather than dedicating yourself to one airline.
A while back, I had a small cache of US Airways miles that were set to expire, but hate flying on US Airways and didn't want to credit my United miles (this was back when US Airways was part of Star Alliance). Since you don't need a ton of miles to keep your existing miles from expiring, one of the easiest things to do is take a few surveys to earn miles on a particular airline.
I signed up for e-Miles.com and spent maybe 30 minutes taking surveys until I had enough points to transfer to US Airways, then I was done. This bought me another year plus until my US Airways miles are set to expire again. So simple!
Contests are obviously a bit trickier to come by since they aren't running all the time, but if you follow your favorite airlines and hotels on Twitter or Facebook, or receive promotional emails from them, you will likely receive plenty of communication about any contests they might be running.
For example, until May 23rd, American Airlines is running their AAdvantage Passport Challenge on Facebook, in which you complete simple tasks in order to earn bonus miles that will be credited to your account. You can spend maybe 20 minutes playing a few games and inviting a few friends and you'll get over 1,000 miles for it. Not a terrible waste of 20 minutes.
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.