Frequent Flyer Miles – When Should You Use Them?

At a moment’s notice last week I decided to fly from Los Angeles to Florida so I could be with my dad and help him get settled into his winter rental after being discharged from the hospital/rehab center. It’s a long story, but last month he fell on the beach, broke his back, had some complications from lying in bed for two weeks and became very weak after losing 25 pounds. Instead of shelling out my credit card I turned to my frequent flyer miles.

LAX to FloridaTo buy a last minute, nonstop, one-way ticket from L.A. would’ve cost me over $400 (except for Spirit Airlines’ base fare but after all of their nickel and diming it would’ve been comparable). I didn’t even bother to look at using my Delta Sky Miles since they don’t discount one-way tickets and the trip would’ve been at least 40,000 miles with one or two stops.

I checked United.com and I could’ve flown their soon-to-be-former partner US Airways (they just announced they are merging with American and will be a part of the Oneworld alliance) for 12,500 frequent flyer miles, but the times weren’t great and I would’ve needed to make a stop in Phoenix.

AA Frequent Flyer MilesI ended up cashing in 12,500 frequent flyer miles and paying $2.50 for the September 11 Security Fee to fly nonstop from LAX to Fort Lauderdale on American Airlines. That’s obviously a great deal and it saved me a good amount of money.

The point of this post is to show all of those naysayers out there that keep saying “Frequent flier programs are a scam” that they are mistaken. They can keep living in the dark and shelling out their hard earned cash while we whisk around the country/world on points.

To accrue 12,500 frequent flyer miles doesn’t take long. In fact, you can do it within a few minutes by signing up to an airline’s credit card to receive anywhere between 15,000 and 40,000 bonus frequent flyer miles at signup.

Or you can charge purchases on your airline credit card or buy from their partners to earn anywhere between 1-15 frequent flyer miles per dollar spent (just be sure to pay your credit cards off on time or it’s not worth it).

And of course, you can earn miles the old fashioned way and do it by flying. To accrue 12,500 frequent flyer miles requires flying just 2.5 round trip tickets between the east and west coasts and that’s if you don’t have elite status or are flying on a premium ticket. Those with status and/or flying up front can do it in a lot less.

Related: Frequent flier programs are NOT a scam – here’s why you should signup now.

 

Comments

  1. Just booked my tickets to TBEX on American also at 12.5K each way. That’s only 25K total RT. Amazing!!!

  2. Good Point! They are definately not a scam. The US is a hotspot for earning points. I’m a full blown “travel hacker” in Canada and even started a site to help Canadians do the same. I had some friends say points are useless cuz you can never get a seat. I just shake my head. Really? I’ve never had an issue. Yeah, if your trying to book a reward flight last minute to Austin during SXSW, you might be in trouble. Otherwise, I’ve used points to go to Mexico city with stopovers in Chicago and Houston for fun. I’m going to SXSW this year on points. Without flying, I racked up 200,000 points in the last 3 months. Lovin it!

    Congrats on your deal! $2! haha. woooo

  3. Daniel Lauzière says:

    Mattew, which site ?

  4. My question is, do you have tips for someone who only has one frequent flier account? I don’t travel enough to accrue miles on various airlines, so I can’t pick among my various frequent flier banks. I have a United card, so I try to stick to them when possible.

  5. Flew into Westchester Airport this afternoon from Tucson, which would’ve cost me around $400 vs $300 or so to LGA: also just 12,500 miles on American, and MUCH more convenient for me. I join ‘em all, since I never know which airline I’ll fly on…must’ve joined AAdvantage 20 minutes after it began…my FF # doesn’t even begin with a letter!

    • Our FF card is numbered in the 400′s. We signed up when FF miles were quite new. I had a friend who was a travel agent and she pushed hard to show what a good deal FF miles could be. We charge everything and pay in full every month. Never any interest or service fees. So far we have 16 LAX to Europe tickets and charged every cent while there. Except the hostels where they were not accepted. Di P.

  6. Unfortunately, AAdvantage is bad to and from Europe, at least recently. I tried to find flights between AMS and SFO, and though I could have used only 40k miles!! the taxes and fees added up to about $650 or so!!!! NUTS! United, on the other hand, was great, costing about $80 in taxes. Flying Blue to and from Europe is also a crazy rip-off. Same itinerary- $450 in taxes and fees :(

    • Was that on their partner KLM or British Airways? Stay away from there flights.

      • Well, I tried using FlyingBlue for all sorts of flights with different connecting airports. For AA, I remember trying to avoid London, but it was kind of hard. I couldn’t find a different connection city, so BA was definitely always involved.

        Within the US and North America in General, all these programs are quite good, but I also tend to find cheap flights anyway, so it seems like a waste to use them up domestically. I might have to bite the bullet and just do it, though. Or, go somewhere cool like the Caribbean or Central America, or maybe even Hawaii (never been!).

        I once got a brilliant last minute direct flight from JFK to AMS and back, in June no less, for 60k and about $55 in taxes. But, before and since that flight, SkyMiles has also been a pain. I’ll use up those miles whenever I get the chance, and then try and avoid them.

        Great site, Johnny, and I listen to you when you go on Leo’s show, too.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I use my AA miles to upgrade to business or first class when I travel abroad..I save them and buy a coach ticket then upgrade on points..Haven’t flown coach to Europe yet…

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