Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Operation Frequent Flier: A Public Service Announcement

Look - I love a good freebie. Who doesn't? But with years of flying between coasts as often as 8 times a year, not including my other beltway exodus', I have honed my skills on how to score free airline tickets. Now I have to preface this by saying, this is how I do it, I know there are other ways the masters, like John Matthews, practice their craft. I just thought I would share the wealth.

Operation Frequent Flier: The Jen Richer Plan
(These are the basics. I'll do an advanced appendix later)

There are 3 major airline alliances.Look at this for a quick and dirty graph. The deal is you pick an airline in each alliance that you fly the most and sign up for their frequent flier (ff) program. Anytime you fly an airline in that alliance you give them your ff # for the partner that you are signed up for. Then when you go to book your reward travel you have all your points in one spot. If the airline that you are a member of doesn't fly where you want to go, they will do a codeshare and book a ticket with a partner airline for you.

For example: I am a member of United for Star alliance but often I fly USAIR instead (cheaper). But because my account is with united and they are in the same alliance I give them my United # and book my reward flights through United. For One World I am with American, and for Sky Team I do Continental. The two that aren't alliances that I have in addition to these three are Jet Blue and Southwest. It's super easy to find the application on all of these sites. Hit the home page and look for the frequent flier program tab, and sign up is usually the first option in the drop down.

When looking for tickets sure I use cheap tickets,, and priceline for ticket research but I NEVER buy tickets from them. They are deeply discounted and won't let you count them for miles. Instead I look to see how much the tickets are and go back to the airline sites, use Kayak, or or I usually can find the same price, or cheaper,  if I fiddle with the options, flex dates, etc. It's also important to remember what you save in the short term on tickets from the previous sites you lose big in reward travel. I just booked my $1,500 ticket to Brazil and Argentina for FREE with American Air. Just sayin'.

Other ways to rack up miles. 

Do you shop online? Are you willing to click a link from an email a couple times a day? Join mypoints. All you have to do is sign up for their emails - I get maybe 2 or 3 a day and click the 'see this offer.' I never sign up for anything but those points can be cashed in for miles. Shop at office depot? Ebay? Go to the homepage first and see if they have a partnership( 'earn points tab'). (The ones I mentioned do) and all you have to do is click through to those vendors and shop like you would normally. I get about 5,000 miles every 6 months doing stuff I would already be doing.

Many of the ff programs also have the option to link your grocery store member cards too to get a few extra points while shopping. Also use your ff# when staying in a hotel or renting a car and get both points with them and airline miles.

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