If you use reward points to get airline tickets, sometimes you have to be a little bit creative. Unfortunately, there have been a number of changes in frequent flyer program terms at airlines like Delta, United and American airlines, all of whom changed the number of miles required for various award seats and, in some cases, double the cost.
Below are a few tips and tactics to get the most out of your reward cards, and the best seats. Some are easier than others but all will help you to take that next vacation a little bit faster.
The first is to sign up for several new credit cards every year just to get the bonus miles. Brian Kelly, the founder of ThePointsGuy.com, recommends this tactic but also says that consumers have to be careful because anytime you get a new credit card it could possibly affect your credit score. Kelly also says that some card issuers have become aware of this tactic and are now limiting the bonuses that new cardholders can get, requiring them to keep their account open for a certain amount of time in order to get them. Still, he believes that an airline credit card or a rewards card with a decent points transfer program can be a smart tactic. Some offer up to 50,000 bonus miles as well as waiving their annual fees for the first year.
The founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, George Hobica, says that buying miles can also be a good tactic in some cases. He advises that consumers definitely have to do their math first and, in his opinion, it’s best to skip offers at check-in or at the airport that offer to double or triple your miles earned because they’re typically the worst deals. The best are online he says, where, in many cases, a 100% bonus on miles earned can be found. Hobica also warns that, even though one mile is worth about one penny at redemption, when a consumer purchases miles it’s usually three times that amount. What that means is that the pricier a flight happens to be, the more likely that a miles purchase will work in their favor.
One tactic that many people have been using for years is simply to pay their regular bills, like their federal taxes, cell phone and mortgage, with their credit card and earn miles that way. The problem here is that many vendors, including the IRS, charge a 2 to 3% processing fee for doing so. This of course negates the value immediately. For those transactions that don’t have this makes sense, but only if a person pays off their credit card balance in full each month. If they don’t, any interest fees accrued would wipe out the value of any bonus miles. If you’re still keen on earning some extra miles, purchase gift cards to give as wedding gifts and graduation gifts and you can earn miles when you do.
The main point to keep in mind when trying to earn bonus miles for airline tickets is that if you actually spend more in fees, interest and charges than the flight actually costs, you’re really not going anywhere for “free”. Use common sense, pay off credit card bills on time and, at the end of the day, you should have the bonus miles you need to take that trip. Just make sure to bring us back a souvenir.