What are Airline Miles
Frequent flyer miles are cool. If you use them wisely and correctly, you can save a lot of money when you travel. However, for a layman, they are not always easy to use or start off with. It can be confusing to comprehend. Let us have a look at airline miles in detail and how to make the best use of them.
Airline miles are essentially miles or travel points that airlines offer you as a part of their loyalty program. You can collect a set number of miles based on the distance that you are flying or based on how much you are spending on a credit card. You can use these accumulated miles to buy tickets. Sounds simple, right? However, in reality, airline miles are not that black and white.
The term 'miles' does not actually equal the actual number of miles you can fly. It denotes the number of miles you have already flown. For example - If you travel a distance of 2734 miles from Seattle to Miami does not mean you get 2734 miles free and essentially a free ticket. The miles you collect on this flight is more like reward points.
Every airline has its own system of redeeming of these miles. For example - some airlines give you a free round-trip domestic ticket if you have collected 20,000 miles. So, it will take you four round trips from Miami to Seattle to gather enough miles to get a free ticket. So, airline miles work like any other rewards point system.
You can accumulate miles by either opting for the service offered by the airline or by signing up for a credit card that offers miles as rewards for shopping. You can use both at the same time.
For airline based programs, you need to sign up with them and get an account. Once you do, you will be assigned a frequent flyer number. Each time you book tickets for travel via that specific airline, you can give your frequent flyer number and the Niels accumulated for that particular trip get added to your account. You earn miles for each flight you take and once you have accumulated enough miles, you can redeem them for a free ticket or pay for part of your ticket with miles.
Usually, these miles do not expire as long as you are using your account regularly. What is good is that when you sign up for the first time, you can also redeem miles for the flights taken earlier. Dependent on the airline, this period can be anywhere between 3 months to one year. While it may be a hassle to go through all your old tickets and enter details, it is worth it if you are getting points for the same.
Credit card rewards that give you airline miles operate differently. Mostly they give you some points for each dollar you spend. You can then redeem them for airline miles. However, how much they are worth will depend solely on the credit card provider. You also have to deal with annual fees for your credit card and you can accumulate airline points only when you pay your card's fees. The plus is that you may use your credit card quite often so the chances of accumulating more miles are higher.
Airlines give out a limited number of seats to frequent flyers. Your flight choices are limited if you choose to pay via miles. If you are booking a flight around a major holiday then again you may not be able to book using miles. At such times, you can use your miles to upgrade your seat.
Do remember that even after paying with airline miles, the flight is not fully free of cost as you still have to pay taxes and fees which depend on the airline. Many airlines add a lost minute fee for booking using airline miles so you should ideally plan well in advance if you intend to use your frequent flyer miles to book your tickets.