Earning Miles 101

Whether you are a college student planning your summer travels or a well established professional planning your family vacation, the first step you should take is making a frequent flier account for the U.S. legacy carriers (American, United, Delta, Southwest) as well carriers such as JetBlue and Alaska. Remember, to make a frequent flier account with any of these airlines is free. And if you happen to fly on any of them, all you have to do is plug in your frequent flier number and you earn miles for that trip. With all of these frequent flier programs, you don’t even need to fly to earn miles. Your routine spending habits might assist you and I will get to that in a future post.

Once you have accumulated enough miles, you can redeem them for a free flight.  Sometimes when I make this suggestion to friends,  they might respond by saying “that airline does not fly to my home airport so I won’t need it.” Never say never.  Over the last 16 years, mergers and acquisitions have resulted in airlines serving a locality which they may have not served before. For example, if you live in Minneapolis, a city not currently served by JetBlue,you might not give much thought into opening a frequent flier account with JetBlue. However, it might be just a matter of time before a larger airline such as American, Delta, or United becomes fixated with JetBlue and decides to acquire them. Or JetBlue might decide to expand to Minneapolis and if you are equipped with miles, you have a head start in accessing their network to different destinations.

Applying for a Miles Earning Credit Card

Before getting started on posts detailing the advantages of various credit cards, I wanted to get a few important points across via a simple flow chart. This flow chart is aimed mostly for the younger mid-20’s and under crowd but I suppose anyone can benefit. It is important that you don’t rack up unnecessary spending on a credit card just for the sake of getting the bonus. My general rule is this: If your normal spending habits allow you to get the credit card bonus and you meet the criteria of the flow chart below, go ahead and get it. This includes paying tuition or buying a big ticket item such as a laptop or TV that you would have purchased anyway.  If you don’t see yourself spending the $2,000 or $3,000 that is required over the first three months to hit that bonus, wait until an opportunity arises. If you don’t pay off your monthly balance in full, the interest you will pay will negate the benefits you have earned from obtaining the credit card bonus. As the old adage goes, that is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Credit card bonuses are certainly the easiest way to earn a huge chunk of points/miles but a little discipline is required.  If you find yourself not being a good candidate to earn miles via a credit card, don’t be discouraged.  There are other ways and I’ll get to those in upcoming posts.


Thanks for reading

– Shiraz