Frequent-flyer program

How to Save Frequent Flyer Miles That Are About to Expire

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For many of us, earning enough airline miles for that free trip can take a while. Sometimes using a co-branded airline credit card can help speed things up. But while we’re waiting to collect enough, we might risk losing what we’ve already earned. While each frequent flyer program has its own set of rules, most will erase your miles if you don’t use them or earn new miles for a period of 12–24 months.

Check your airline’s loyalty program to see how long you have before your miles disappear. And if your expiration date is looming, consider one of these strategies.

Join an airline dining program

Since you can “reset the clock” on your frequent flyer miles with even a small purchase, airline dining programs offer an easy way keep your miles alive. While each airline’s program includes different restaurants, and the number of miles you’ll earn will vary, they all work similarly: You sign up for the program, dine at a qualifying restaurant, then earn bonus…

5 Steps to Picking the Best Airline Credit Card for the Most Rewards Value

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If you’re ready for a change of scenery but have limited travel funds, an airline credit card might be a dream come true. With an airline card, you’ll earn valuable frequent flyer miles you can use to book free airfare and seat upgrades. Some of the best co-branded airline credit cards even offer additional perks that make travel cheaper, such as free checked bags, companion ticket deals, and discounted award bookings.

But with so many airline credit cards out there, choosing one can seem overwhelming. Before you can truly benefit from an airline credit card, you need to learn about these cards and weed out the options that won’t work for you.

To get a handle on your choices, you should consider several factors including your airline preferences, your travel style, and your spending habits. Follow these steps, and you’ll have the ideal airline credit card in no time.

Step 1: Figure out which airlines you can fly

First things first. To pick the right airline credit card, you need to know which frequent flyer miles you can actually use.

To find out which airlines you should consider — and which you should mark off your list — check your local airport’s website. You might discover that nearly every major airline flies into your area, or that only a few do. Finding out which airlines fly out of your home airport is the best way to narrow down your options fast.

Step 2: Ask yourself where you want to go

Now that you know which airlines are at your disposal, you can ask yourself where you want to go. Maybe you have family that you fly to visit frequently, or you have a list of dream vacations that you want to tackle. Knowing where you want to fly in the near- to medium-term is key to narrowing down which airline’s frequent flyer program you’d like to concentrate on.

Larger and more established carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines fly almost everywhere. Smaller regional…

Airline Credit Card or Flexible Rewards Card: What’s the Best Way to Earn a Free Flight?

When it comes to strategizing how to earn free airfare with travel rewards credit cards, there are two main schools of thought. On one hand, you can sign up for your favorite airline’s frequent flyer program and get their co-branded credit card to earn miles through regular spending and flying. Or, you can get a credit card that lets you earn flexible travel rewards good for any airline instead.

Both strategies can be advantageous depending on your travel style and goals. Still, earning a free flight becomes easier when you’re able to make an informed decision about what type of travel rewards card is right for you.

So, which should you choose? Airline miles or travel credit?

Airline frequent flyer programs

While each airline loyalty program works differently, they all follow a similar format. When you pay for a flight, you earn frequent flyer miles based on the cost of your paid airfare and/or the many miles you fly. You can get more points by using the airline’s credit card to pay for it.

The upside of earning airline miles is obvious; through regular flying, credit card spending, or a combination of the two, you can earn miles and redeem them for flights around the globe. With the American AAdvvantage program, a round-trip domestic flight costs as little as 25,000 miles while a round-trip flight to Europe can run as little as 45,000 miles. Since the average domestic flight costs around $400 and the average flight to Europe can cost $1,000 or more, you can score an exceptionally good value for your miles with this program (points are worth 1.6 cents and 2 cents respectively). (See also: Which Airline Loyalty Program Has the Best Value for Their Miles?)

Keep in mind that, on top of your miles, you’ll need to pay government-mandated taxes and fees. These fees are usually $5.60 per leg for domestic flights, but can range in the hundreds of dollars for flights abroad. The fees also differ with airlines. Do your research before you settle on the airline program to pursue miles with. Other factors include where they fly and their partner airlines that you’d be able to get use miles for. Also, blackout dates and award seat availability are factors, too.

How to spot a frequent flyer program

These are the things you should look for when considering a frequent flyer program to join.

No blackout dates or seat limitations

The best programs allow you to redeem your miles for any seat on any flight as long as they haven’t been sold. Some programs designate a specific number of award seats per flight (or on select flights), or they impose blackout dates when you can’t use miles at all. Unless you are a solo traveler with very flexible plans on when and even where to go, you’ll end up very frustrated at your options and may see a lot of your points go unused due to the lack of availability. (See also: 10 Ways to Get Free — or Almost Free — Flights)

Multiple ways to earn miles

Being able to earn miles through other ways than flying with that airline makes racking up miles easier and faster, which means free flights faster. Airline credit cards will often give points for all spending, and maybe even bonus points for additional categories.

Travel…