Frequent Flyer Programs : The Beginner’s Guide to Travel (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 - 2 Comments
Darling Harbour (Sydney, Australia)
Darling Harbour (Sydney, Australia)

I’ve received a lot of requests to write about airline travel from a beginner’s perspective, so people can understand how to use frequent flyer programs to travel to more places for less money. This is the first installment of a series that will appear every Monday.

What is a frequent flyer program? A frequent flyer program is basically a loyalty incentive program where you earn miles in order to get “free” flights or upgrades from coach to business/first class. You start by signing up with the individual airline mileage program of your choice (links below) and then you begin earning points by flying with them or their partners, shopping through their online portal, using a mileage earning credit card, etc… In fact, there are numerous ways to earn miles without even stepping on a plane.

After earning enough miles/points, usually 25k for domestic and 50k for international flights, you can book “free” (also known as award) tickets. To clarify, you still need to pay fuel surcharges, airport taxes and various redemption fees for the award tickets so they are not entirely free. But, paying approx. $200 for a round-trip flight from the U.S. to England in Business Class is pretty sweet considering the cost to buy that ticket can be as much as $10,000.

Why you should join. If you travel, plan to travel, or think you might someday like to travel, you should join a program now. It’s a good idea to start earning miles well before you even take your first trip. Heck, your first flight may even be free if you start earning miles now and take advantage of huge credit card sign-up bonuses and other ways to earn miles without flying. If you don’t join, you are simply deciding to throw away a benefit that is being given to you.

Next week I will present a plethora of ways to earn miles.

Until then, here’s a list of frequent flyer programs. Feel free to sign up for one or two or wait until part 3 when I discuss choosing the frequent flyer program that is right for you.

Links to mileage programs:

Air Canada Aeroplan

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines Aadvantage Program

British Airways Executive Club

Continental Airlines OnePass Frequent Flyer Program (Merging with United)

Delta Airlines Skymiles Program

United Airlines Mileage Plus Program

US Airways Dividend Miles Club

Virgin America Elevate

If you liked this information, check out my new book, ROCK YOUR TRAVEL.

It’s all about frequent flyer miles and travel hacks.

And while you’re at it check out the new website:

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  1. NICE! Since I hope we’ll be taking a really nice trip to celebrate Steve’s graduation (still two years off), we shouldget started now! Thank you!

    1. Where do you want to go?

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Hi, I’m Algis


I have an insatiable wanderlust which takes me to some crazy places where I try strange foods, pretend I'm a local and talk with elephants. Keep reading...

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