This is a question people always ask and debate, “are airline miles actually worth anything?” In short, yes but not for actual money.
Each airline offers a different rewards programs to show appreciation to their travelers… especially their loyal travelers. Here are a few major US airlines and their respective rewards program;
Alaska Airlines – Mileage Plan
American Airlines – AAdvantage
Delta Air Lines – SkyMiles
Frontier Airlines – EarlyReturns
Hawaiian Airlines – HawaiianMiles
Island Air – Island Miles
JetBlue Airways – TrueBlue
Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
Spirit Airlines – FREE SPIRIT
United Airlines – MileagePlus
and many more…
Keep in mind that some airlines partner with others via airline alliances. You can read more on airline alliances on my blog post here (pending).
Each airlines rewards programs allows travels to accumulate reward points, miles, or whatever they offer (I’m going to use miles because my name is Myles). The key to miles is to understand how each miles is accumulated and how you make the most out of accumulate miles. It is not difficult to figure out how these programs work… lets face it, they are designed for every days people. Checking the airline’s website is the best way to find the answers to your rewards program questions.
A most common method for earning miles is paying for your flight with actual cash (via debit or credit card.) For example, Delta has a elaborate, yet very rewarding, frequent flyer program called Skymiles. For ever dollar you spend, you earn 5 SkyMiles. Then based on your Medallion Status, you could be entitled to bonus miles. It’s quite really easy to earn miles but make sure that you book directly with on Delta.com. Booking through a travel agency will disqualify you from accruing miles for flights.
TRAVEL TIP #1: You MUST book your ticket directly with an airline to accumulate miles.
Delta is also the second largest airline in the world based on the number of passengers, scheduled distances flew and fleet size. American Airlines takes the number 1 spot. So it should be expected that their frequent flyer program is widely used.
So why earn miles? Simple, to pay for flights! Miles can be used to pay for future flights on that airline… and sometimes on partner airlines. This saves you the upfront costs associated with purchasing tickets and allow you to save actual cash for spending at your destination. The downfall is that it often takes a while to earn enough miles to pay for a full round trip ticket… but there are many tricks that you can do to earn bonus miles and when you are ready to book, find the cheapest mile redemption flight. When you start looking for flights, you must book mile rewards with the airline directly… REMEMBER this!
So, how many flights do you need to take before you can accumulate enough for a free flight? It varies but it is often a lot…. With Delta, the lowest miles flight they offer is 12,500 which would take about 10-12 flights segments to accumulate this. Each airline is different so earning miles can vary. One way to boost miles earned is with offers like airline branded credit cards. Need a suggestion on which credit card to select? Check out this article but do keep in mind when selecting a card that each airline is different and each rewards program is different. If you are selecting a co-branded credit card that you research the airliens destinations. Nothing would suck more than 100,000 miles for an airline thats nearest airport is 500 miles away from you. The other method for earning miles is simply to fly and fly often. Make sure if an airline has routes to destinations you want to visit.
Once you have enough point for a flight, get to searching! Most airlines have a search function by viewing a “calendar” or select a “flexible date” option. Your returned results should provide you with several options for flights by showing the lowest airfare offered. NOTE: Points are not directly related to the cash value of a ticket. Sometimes a flight that costs $300.00 will be 25,000 miles and a $425.00 flight will also cost 25,000 miles. This is not always the case but this is something to keep in mind when booking a flight with miles and cash or traveling with someone who isn’t paying with miles. My suggestion is this:
- Find the destination you are interested in traveling to
- Find the cheapest flight options
- Go to the airline’s website and search the flight but with points. See if there is a connection. You may be able to book a better flight for the same amount of points.
- ALWAYS check the cash purchase price before booking with miles. Just in case you are traveling with someone and or you need to change your flight. Airlines often look at dollar amount vs miles when re-scheduling flights.
- Remember that you will still need to pay any fee’s that are not legally allowed to be paid with a reward. In the US, you must pay a $5.60 per flight, per person, no matter what, security tax. International fees are also often not covered by points being redeemed
Which is my favorite? Southwest… you can redeem a flight for as little as 3,000 RAPID REWARDS POINTS for a one-way flight. My second favorite is Delta, this is due to the number of locations Delta services and the superior perks that come with the Delta AMEX co-branded credit card. For a $195 a year membership fee, you get a companion pass which is good for a free flight for one person to travel with you on a continental US flight, plus many others.
Interested in other ways to make the most of the miles, ready my latest post here.
Hope this helps. Stay tuned for more!