Budget Tips, Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide To Frequent Flier Programs – Part 2

August 1, 2011 • By

Last week, we discussed the importance of Frequent Flier miles and their critical they were in helping you to achieve your travel goals. Today, we will discuss ways to help achieve those goals with a quickness.

Frequent Flier programs

 

Is there a way to get a lot of miles quickly?

At this point, the best way to get a significant number of miles quickly is through airline specific credit cards.  They offer bonus mileage and perks which requires you to meet certain conditions in order to qualify.  I applied for a  AMEX Delta Gold card recently.  The process was seamless and I got an approval immediately.  If I spent $1000.00 within a month, I would receive 50,000 Delta Skymiles, 2 (one-time use) passes to their Sky-club lounge, the first bag that I check in would be at no charge an the annual fee would be waived.  If you think about how quickly you can accrue $1000.00 in expenditures, you’d see it was a great deal.  I used the card to pay for gas, groceries and for other purchases I usually make.

Once upon a time,  my motto was if I can’t see what I bought with a credit card the next month, don’t buy it!  That would exclude gas, groceries or any other perishable item.  However, branded cards have changed my way of thinking.  I use credit cards anyway, why not make it work to my advantage?

If you are unable to pay the card off in a timely fashion, then I would caution you about seeking more credit than you currently have.  This method will only work for you if you are fiscally responsible.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to guard your good credit fiercely, so do not take the seriousness of getting in over your head lightly.

I will share something that happened to me that I think is pretty fantastic.  I had one (cash rewards) credit card with a balance that I wanted to transfer to an awards card that was offering 30,000 bonus miles and a 0% interest rate for a year.  I figured why continue to pay finance charges when I can just transfer the balance (the card did carry a 3% transfer fee…blah) and save some money in the long run?  After I was approved and had been using it for about a month, they began to offer another promotion for the same card, but the bonus miles had jumped to 75,000!  I didn’t see that one coming, but lesson learned.  I kept my cool and decided to contact the company via their secure messaging system through my online account to see if they would match it.

I knew deep down that my chances were poor, but I had to give it a try.  A couple of days later, I got a response where I was let down easy.  The agent went on to say that as a one time courtesy, they would be adding 20,000 miles to my account which should post immediately to my account (it did).  Moral to the story?  It never hurts to ask (very nicely), so give it a try should you find yourself in a similar situation.  You never know what they may try to do to keep you happy.

Rule # 1: If your card doesn’t offer a chance to earn miles, get rid of it if you can.  Frequent Flier programs

If your credit is good, you are probably getting inundated with these types of offers in the mail anyway.  Seek out the ones that offer the most miles and go for it.  I would never secure a credit card that didn’t offer an award of some type and not all of them charge an annual fee.  I see no reason in making the banks richer and getting nothing for my troubles.  However, I didn’t always think that way.  I saw credit cards as a convenient way to pay a bill or purchase goods or services.  I had no other use for them besides that.  Now I realize that they can serve another purpose and that is to allow me to earn miles for living life as usual.  But, you should be judicious about which offer(s) you accept; some are better than others.  My 50k Delta deal is now down to 25k for current applicants.  I say wait until they offer a similar deal, no need to rush, always hold out for the most miles.

Not long afterward, an incredible deal came across the FF boards.  British Airways was offering a branded visa through Chase.  If you spent 2k in 2 months, you would earn a whopping 100k miles.  Do you think I turned that down?  The only downside is that you were billed the annual fee ($95.00) almost immediately.   However, you got 50k miles immediately too….after the 2 months you would get the other 50k.   The one thing that bugged me was that I could not use a credit card to pay my mortgage.  Can you imagine how quickly you would meet the spend requirement if you were allowed to do that?

Amazingly, I discovered a site that will allow you to pay your mortgage with a cc.  ChargeSmart is the solution to mortgage companies who put up similar roadblocks.  ChargeSmart doesn’t charge a fee, but your mortgage company probably will.  You will be told how much before the transaction is processed.

 

Frequent Flier programs

I believe that increasing your FF mile cache is an art.  You must always continue to focus on learning new ways of earning miles.  To that end, I suggest that you check out the following sites that offer incredible insight into securing frequent flier miles:

Frugal Travel Guy

The Points Guy

One Mile At A Time

Flyer Talk

Frequent Flier Crier

Also check out deal sites like Fatwallet and Slickdeals where FF mile earning opportunities are discussed regularly in their forums.

 

Frequent Flier programs

There are some frequent fliers who are dedicated credit card churners.  This means that they apply for numerous credit cards  (some, every three months) in order to earn bonus miles .  Once they meet the spend requirement and collect their miles, they will either close the card within six months or accept the card issuer’s offer to transfer them to a no fee card.  The reason why they cancel within six months is because usually the annual fee is waived within the introductory period (the first year) and they do not want to pay when that period is over.   The downside is that your credit score will take a hit for about six months before it recovers.  Therefore, it is not a good idea to do this if you are planning on buying a house or a vehicle because it will hurt you in the short-term.  Keep in mind that these people are not novices, they have been doing this for years.  If  you try it, you do so at your own risk.  I do not condone or condemn such practices, this is merely information that I am passing along since it is pretty prevalent in the FF world.

Next week…..we will discuss how to maximize those miles.