Frequent Flyer Tips For The Not-So-Frequent Flyer

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Actually, Carlton, we’ll be using the frequent flyer miles to get to Douglashire. Now run along and get me a spot of tea.” That’s often what I hear when people boast of free dream trips courtesy of their frequent flyer miles. In actuality, not every snooty voice in my head has an English accent, just this particular one (names, places, and accents used in this post are completely fictional and in no way represent. . . . you know what I mean).

You know how it feels, though. Not everyone is a travel warrior, earning free tickets every couple weeks. In fact, Frommer’s recently reported how some frequent flyer programs require at least eight round trips before you qualify for that coveted free flight.Do you think Arthur would drop that kind of a bomb without helping a brother out? Nope.

There’s still hope for us not-so-frequent flyers. Luke tackled the subject of frequent flyer miles last week, but I decided to give my take as well, because, you know, I’m better than him. (Luke, buddy, just kidding, can’t you take a little online prodding?) Here are two particular ways that we can take advantage of those miles.

One: Focus on a single program and start earning points all kinds of non-traditional ways. Hotel chains and car rentals often have deals to get you miles. Take a second to read the fine print and you may learn that your card — an airline-specific cards are the best — may be in cahoots with certain restaurants and shopping outlets. Sometimes cards are attached to cell phone companies, electricity providers, or even Lasik!

Two: Redeem those points for many smaller perks. Now that you have tens of thousands of points (yeah, right), and you spent a measly 3,000 visiting your old fraternity brother in L.A., how can you use them without losing them?  The best value for the point can be by subscribing to magazines and newspapers through the airline. Other good deals would be dining out (you may have to visit the airline restaurant website for gift certificates), some airlines have auction websites where you can pick up sports tickets at a good value, or when the deadline is approaching, you can always visit that annoying SkyMall magazine online.

Other options include giving your points/miles to someone else, but look for the huge fee collected in the transfer. You can also give to charity; most major airlines have a slew of organizations to choose from.

Whichever you choose, make sure you don’t slip into any kind of accent when discussing your miles, or drink a spot of anything after the discussion.

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