Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

The 2 most common reasons that I hear from people as to why they don’t want to play the credit card sign-up bonus game is 1) they don’t want to ruin their credit 2) they think that it’s impossible to redeem the miles for flights.  I’ve already talked about understanding your credit score.  So today’s I’ll talk about redeeming miles.

I redeemed miles for trips to Hawaii over February school break, Alaska and Wyoming over the summer and many others.  You can use your miles to travel to places you’d love to go.  You just need to do a little planning. 

Most frequent flyer programs allow you to book trips 331 days in advance.  You can use services like Expert Flyer or the KVS Tool to help you find flights (and even send you a message when a flight you want becomes available).  Or you can use the web site of the airline you’re redeeming miles on.  If you’re flying to a popular destination at a popular time, you want to try to book the trip 331 days in advance.  Many airlines allow you to book one-way tickets and some allow you to put a hold on tickets.  If you know you’re traveling at an in demand time, you should think about redeeming your outgoing flights and return flights separately.  If you wait until the entire round-trip is available (331 days before your return flight), your outgoing flights may not be available.  If it’s a really popular destination, find out EXACTLY what time the airline opens up the schedule.  I’m talking down to the minute.  When I was booking a trip to Hawaii over a school vacation, I found out when each leg of my trip was becoming available.  I was on the computer at that exact time, and I put holds on each of the legs.  When I had all of the legs held for the outgoing trip, I released the holds, and then immediately booked the flights.  You won’t need to be that extreme for all flight redemption.  But if you know it’s going to be a hard one to book, you may want to consider it.

Consider flying out of alternate airports.  Tickets that book up really fast are those between smaller airports and hubs.  So be flexible and look at airports that are not too far for you to drive to.  Same advice on your destination airport.  For example, if want to travel to Rhode Island, you should search Providence, Boston, Hartford, LaGuardia, Manchester, NH, and possibly Albany, NY.

Consider flying on partner airlines.  Most airlines partner with other airlines.  Depending on where you’re going, you may be able to find availability on one of the partner airlines.

Talking of partner airlines – Don’t let anyone tell you that a partner airline doesn’t have the same flights available to them than if you were booking with frequent flyer miles from that airline.  When I was booking American Airline tickets using British Airways miles, the first customer service representative told me that they didn’t have access to all of the American Airlines tickets.  That simply isn’t true.  It’s not worth arguing with the customer service representative.  Just call back to get a different customer service representative.

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