If you have any interest in traveling more and getting better value for your money, you are likely familiar with frequent flyer miles. While travel loyalty programs go by many different specific names, they are collectively known as frequent flyer miles. Regardless of which program you use, points can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars! Take advantage of the programs that you already use, even if you don’t care about more advanced strategies.
You won’t regret using them!
Sign Up for an Account with Programs You Already Use
Don’t worry about all the different programs that exist; just pick the ones you’re familiar with and get started! These are some of the most popular programs in the US:
|American Airlines + AAdvantage||Choice|
|Delta + Skymiles||Club Carlson|
|Southwest + Rapid Rewards||IHG|
[Recommended Read: How to Pick the Perfect Travel Accommodations]
Set Up a Tracking Method
Now, get your accounts straight! Most accounts set an expiration date on their points, so make sure you don’t let your points expire. If you have a credit card for some programs, one perk is usually that those points never expire. Some programs, like Delta’s Skymiles, also have no expiration date. For everything else, there’s a way to keep track!
Make a spreadsheet with Excel or Google Sheets.
Putting all the information in the same place means that you won’t forget! Put the expiration dates into your calendar or my mysterious system of choice (I explain here) to remind yourself. Ten minutes of work saves you later!
Put the spreadsheet in a place that is easily accessible. If you make a Google Sheet, bookmark it. If you have an Excel file, keep it visible. Any time you need to access your numbers, you know exactly where to find them.
“Back Claim” Previous Stays
If you have recently used one of these airlines or hotel chains, you can almost always “back claim” your points. This means that you can get points even if you didn’t tell them your loyalty number ahead of time. Get your details – usually flight number and date, or hotel name and date – and go to the airline or hotel website and submit a customer service request. These types of requests are very common; you should be able to find the option on the dropdown menu on the customer service request page.
[Recommended Read: Expedition Execution: Don’t Pay Your Bank!]
Example: Claiming Credit on United
The period during which you can back claim miles/points varies by program, but the process is usually similar. For United and Star Alliance flights, go to the United website. There, click on the MileagePlus tab, which takes you to the service center. (This page is also accessible from “Contact Us”.) Once you are there, click on the link that says “Request missing award miles”.
This is the page after you click “Request missing award miles”. The information here shows you how to request miles for each type of flight (or other transportation!) that you may have taken. Fill out the form, and wait for their response! For reference, I received a response from Delta Airlines within 24 hours via email, and United approved my request immediately. The miles for each flight were deposited directly into my account!
As you get more experienced, you can learn about advanced earning methods, credit card optimization, redeeming your points, and getting elite status.
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Have you started collecting frequent flyer miles? What great deals on airfare have you gotten with them?