1) I often hear, “my miles are expiring, so I have to take a trip” and it makes me cringe.
Check your miles periodically as you would check your credit card statements. Put the expiration date in your calendar as a reminder. (If you’re an expert flyer, there are paid programs to monitor your miles and I doubt you’d be reading my beginner’s tips.)
In order to prevent your miles from expiring, you need to generate activity. It can be positive or negative activity, meaning you are not forced to take a trip.
- Easiest way to earn miles. This is only a high level summary. These programs run promotions on different things all the time. E.g. I got a chunk of miles for signing up for Netflix or linking my mom’s supermarket loyalty card to my United account (in my younger days).
- Dining Program: Link your credit card to a dining program. American Airlines and United Airlines both have one. I am always pleasantly surprised when a random visit to a restaurant or bar generates activity. Note: you cannot link the same cards to both dining programs and double dip.
- Online Shopping: If you’re shopping online, see if you can shop through a mileage mall. Again, AA and UA both have one. This takes time to hit your statement, so it is not ideal to shop the day your miles are expiring. And if you’re not going through a Mileage Mall, please try to go through eBates. I always think about how I can maximize my purchase. When eBates has 6% back from Sephora or Gap, that’s like a tax refund!
- Buy miles.
- Link it to a car rental. If you already rented a car and didn’t have it linked to any program, they may be able to retroactively link your mileage number to your reservation.
- Get an airline affiliated credit card. There are a ton of them out there right now and many have other perks like free bags, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fee, etc.
- Spend miles without flying. Although I think these are totally not worth your miles, if you have nothing else to do with your miles…
- Subscribe to a magazine.
- Donate miles.
- Rent a car.
2) Never ignore airlines you’ll never fly again. Over the holidays, I flew Qatar Airways, which I credited to my ANA account that I set up ages ago to look for Star Alliance award availability), and Aeroflot and Air France, which I credited to my Delta account. I no longer fly Delta, but I also know I need a little bit more miles for a good international reward flight. This goes along with saving your boarding passes until your miles are credited. It’s always good to know who your favorite airlines’ friends are and like reality, the friends often change!
3) British Airways for short haul awards. Their Avios program is distance-based program. While there are no longer amazing deals to Latin America and Asia, there are now amazing deals for short haul awards on American Airlines. The best use of BA points is non-BA flights so you do not have to pay fuel surcharges.
- When I have to go to Chicago, I usually book two one-way awards (because if I needed to change a leg, it’s easier to deal with each leg individually) for 7500 Avios points + $2.50 each way. The flexibility I have with my miles has turned me into the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to booking travel. I don’t pay to fly BA and earned my points through their credit card promotion and transfers from American Express (during a bonus promotion).
- I also used Avios for hops within Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air. Those $200-400 flights can add up!
P.S. CB, I hope you accumulated miles for your flights to/from Paris because the roundtrip points should be enough for 1.5 legs to QB!