Major airlines such as American, Delta and United have been tightening rewards and changing rules for their frequent flyer programs, so what’s a traveler to do? Whether you’re a vacay-only flyer or pro road (er, air?) warrior, keep these tips in mind.
1. Always use one program. It seems like a no-brainer, but loyalty is rewarded. If you’ve chosen American Airlines as your preferred airline, and you’re considering taking Virgin on a transcontinental flight because it’s $60 cheaper, pay a little more to get the miles on your AA program. Also, learn your preferred airline’s partners, so if your carrier doesn’t service a certain location, you can fly a sister airline that does and put the miles on your account.
2. Use a credit card that gives you points. You’ve got two options here: 1) Get a card affiliated with a specific airline (most of the major carriers have cards that earn you miles) or 2) Get a card that lets you earn points that can be transferred to your airline of choice, like the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest or the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
3. And make use of those points any way you can. Don’t travel often enough to earn a free flight? Use the points to get more legroom, check a bag for free or use the members' lounge.
4. Keep track of it all. Award Wallet is a web site that monitors and updates all of your awards programs. Best of all, it informs you when your points are about to expire.