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How to Use Air Miles to Get Cheap or Free Flights

The increasingly international state of our world means we’ve never flown as much as we have in recent times. While this increase in air travel has driven prices down somewhat, the cost of flying can chip away at your bank account over time.

Naturally, you may be looking for ways to cut costs. However, what if instead of cutting back on trips, you could use your status as a valued customer to leverage the competitive instincts of the airlines vying for your business?

Thanks to loyalty programs which issue credits known as air miles, you can turn the money you spend on tickets and everyday items in your life into free flights anywhere in the world.

After reading an article on a frequent flyer blog on this subject, you’re sold – starting ASAP, you want to start travel hacking. Before you start your journey, though, it is important to approach this subject with a cohesive strategy to earn every perk for which you are qualified.

In this article, we’ll let you know everything you need to know in order to get started.

Get an air miles credit card

In America, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to air miles credit cards. With plenty of competition in the skies above our nation, the likes of American, United, Delta, and many other airlines  constantly offer attractive incentives to get you to sign up with their loyalty program.

Your job is to take advantage of this situation to the fullest extent. Check out metrics like miles per dollars spent, where the card is accepted (i.e. Visa and MasterCard backed products will fare better in this regard than Discover or Diner’s Club), and whether they offer perks like travel insurance cover.

Weigh these factors against your daily and travel needs, and soon, you’ll find the air miles credit card that’s right for you.

Use your air miles credit card to pay for everything

Once you have activated your air miles credit card, start extracting every ounce of value you can by using it for every purchase that will take it.

Doing this isn’t without its risks – if you have a tendency to let balances ride, you end up owing a lot of money before long, so make an effort to pay off your balance in full each month. There are automated processes which make this task an effortless one, so call up your company to set up a monthly auto-debit from your primary checking account.

As you shop, certain retailers (grocery stores in particular) will have promotions which will allow you to earn a multiple of the air miles you would otherwise receive. Capitalize on these opportunities whenever they present themselves, and your air miles balance will amass quicker than you ever thought possible.

Pay attention to airline alliances

Just because you pledged your loyalty to a specific airline in America doesn’t mean you won’t be able to fly other airlines internationally. Thanks to groups like Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld, you’re able to redeem and earn air miles flying on carriers affiliated with your airline of choice in America.

For example, Delta is part of SkyTeam, which allows you to buy flights with air miles or earn them by booking flights with international airlines like Air France and Korean Air. This way, when traveling abroad, you’ll avoid wasting your capital on airliners outside your network, while taking advantage of the benefits of these worldwide associations.

Link your air miles account with other loyalty programs

Alliances like the one described above don’t just involve domestic airlines partnering with international ones – they also work together with hotel and rental car loyalty programs as well. For example, Thrifty works with airlines like American, United, and Alaska Airlines, while Starwood Hotels has linkage agreements with Delta, American, United, and Hawaiian Airlines.

Not sure about whether it is worth the trouble to link your accounts? Ask yourself this question: is it worth it flying business class? With all the air miles you’ll earn through this strategy, we’re confident that soon enough, your answer to this question will be “heck yes!”


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