What on earth are air miles and how can they benefit me? This article answers just that and lets you in on how best to earn those miles.
What are air miles
Airline miles or sometimes known as frequent flyer miles, are part of reward programs offered by airlines. Each airline has their own rewards program. A traveller accumulates a set amount of miles before exchanging them for (typically) airplane tickets.
Why airline miles?
As explained in my other article (How to get the best deals for flights and hotels) , redemption of plane tickets using miles gives good value. For example, a return flight (SIN – ICN) on business class for Cathay Pacific is approximately S$2,827.50. If redeeming tickets, a similar flight would only cost you 90,000 miles (or $1,800 in equivalent value).
If you had earned the miles with the tips we are about to discuss below, you are essentially travelling almost for free!
So how do I earn miles?
Flying: As its name suggests, being a frequent flyer earns you miles. Depending on the coach class you are taking, miles accrue at different rates. The general rule of thumb is that a full flight fare would get you a higher accrual rate than compared with a discounted fare. Take note that in some cases, the fares you will be paying are so low that you will not earn as much miles for that particular flight as you would have had you paid a higher fare class:
The chart above shows how an airline may distinguish between different fare classes and apply different miles accrual rates.
Credit Card – Sign on bonuses: Some banks offer sign on bonuses for first time customers. These sign on bonuses can either be automatic (i.e. without having the need to have a minimum spend) or subject to a minimum spend over a certain period. If you are diving into the deep end of the pool, you can consider applying for these various cards to swoop up these easy miles. If you play your cards right (no pun intended), you can get up to 30,000 miles just from such bonuses.
Just make sure to cancel your subscription thereafter to avoid unwanted annual fees unless the annual fees come with bonus miles. Such bonus miles are typically decently priced and offer a great way for a traveller to accumulate cheap miles quickly.
Credit Card – Spending: Simply put, you earn miles for each dollar spent on your credit card. While not an exact science, there are some ways to travel hack your way into business class and accelerate the entire process. We covered one such hack in this article where we discussed accrual rates of 6 miles to a dollar.
Partnership tie-ups: Other than flying and earning miles through your credit card spend, another possible source of miles would be to make use of tie-ups between websites and the frequent flyer program you are part of. Examples of such tie-ups would be Agoda’s PointsMAX and Kaligo’s option of earning points for certain frequent flyer programs. While this is an alternative source for miles, experience suggests that usually you can’t have the best of both worlds (i.e. a miles accelerator under a certain credit card + miles from the tie-up) because they are normally mutually exclusive. The exception to the rule is if your bank offers a discount code or promotion for a particular booking site and that site has a tie-up with the desired frequent flyer program. We can then use both options of not only getting a discount but also bonus miles. Remember to refer to the chart in this article showing the conversion of miles to its equivalent discount %. If your card’s discount rate is better, use that together with the bonus miles from the tie-up. If not, just use your miles card.
Buying miles: Miles can also be bought directly from the airlines. While the rates are not ideal (i.e. normally at a rate greater than 2 cents per mile), this option allows a traveller a chance to “top-up” the miles she currently has in order to redeem a specific ticket.
Miscellaneous: Be sure to go through the frequent flyer program’s site for different ways to earn their miles. We seen unusual ways to earn miles including giving reviews of tripadvisor. While such awards are insignificant, the miles do add up over time and may offer yet another easy way for a traveller to collect miles.
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Did we miss out any other ways to earn miles? Let us know in the comments section below!
Be sure to check out my other posts covering different aspects of travelling.