Are frequent flyer miles actually valuable?

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A shocking number of people don’t bother to collect frequent flyer miles on any given flight.  While hard statistics are difficult to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that your seatmate may very well not have bothered to sign up for any frequent flyer program.  This will be even more surprising to regular readers of this blog, who well understand the value of miles and the best ways to redeem them.

To help persuade the masses on this issue, I decided to interview a few travelers who had recently redeemed miles and received value from doing so.  I asked three questions, and I’ll let their answers make my argument for me.  Read and be inspired by the power of frequent flyer miles:

1. How have you used miles and points recently to save money?

Erin McNaughton of Analyfe:

I recently used my miles to fly to Costa Rica for a personal development retreat for entrepreneurs. The retreat itself was a huge investment, so I was thrilled to have my international flight completely covered by my earned miles. If it weren’t for the free round-trip flight, I could not have afforded to attend the event.

Olivia Raymer of Powered by Tofu:

When I first got my Chase United card, I used miles for some fairly cheap domestic flights. It saved money, but I have since learned that was not the best use of miles! So with my Citi AAdvantage card bonus miles, I was able to use 50,000 miles (and $50 for taxes/fees) for my Japan and Korea trip this last November. This was probably my best use of miles yet, flying from Portland, doing a free 1-day stopover in Honolulu, onward to Tokyo, and then flying back out of Seoul two and half weeks later, another Oahu stopover on the way home for three days, and then back to Portland.

Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts:

We’ve used miles to fly for free to France and Italy… last year, we used points to stay for free in Istanbul, Turkey. We’ve been amazed at how easy it is to use points and miles to save major money when traveling.  We both travel frequently for work and we maximize accumulating our work points by being loyal to certain airline and hotel brands.  Then, we use those points for personal travel, making certain vacations almost completely free.

2. Before this, had you used miles very much before?

Erin McNaughton of Analyfe:

I have accounts with several airlines and a few thousand miles here and there, but before now I had never used miles or points to purchase a flight. For a few years now, I’ve been aware of travel hacking, but didn’t realize how accessible the tips are to those who don’t have a huge disposable income. I regret waiting so long to put mileage-spending to the test!

Olivia Raymer of Powered by Tofu:

I really only have gotten into collecting miles in the last couple years. I took a round the world trip in 2008 but other than one round trip (Portland to Beijing), I traveled mostly overland, by boat and low cost carrier one-ways (JetStar, easyJet etc). So my first dedicated mileage card was the Citibank American Airlines card that had a 75,000 bonus miles signup offer. I’ve since gotten the Bank of America Hawaiian Visa (my sister lives in Hawaii so I visit a few times a year now), and the Chase United Card, with the add-on AMEX later.

Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts:

We’ve always accumulated miles and used them.  We’ve been surprised at how quickly miles and points accumulate.  There are certain hotels we don’t stay at frequently, but we enrolled in the guest program and have been able to get free rooms over time.

3. What would you say to travelers who don’t bother to collect miles and points?

Erin McNaughton of Analyfe:

To those who don’t bother to collect miles and points, I would suggest at least doing a bit of research. There are programs where simply spending a certain amount on a credit card will earn you a free trip. You don’t have to spend excessive amounts of money or jump through hoops and read the fine print. It’s easy and there are many resources and experts online that can help you travel cheaply or for free. There are so many incredible sights to see and people to meet -stop making excuses about the cost of travel and begin taking advantage of all the resources at your disposal.

Olivia Raymer of Powered by Tofu:

Unless you have some serious self-control/money issues when it comes to credit cards, you’re throwing away opportunities if you don’t collect miles. Get a credit card with a great miles signup bonus, and set it up to auto-pay the full balance every month. Not only will you be working towards offsetting one of the single-largest travel expenses (airfare) for your next big trip, but you’ll be getting about 30 days float on your monthly expenses! It’s a no-brainer.

Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts:

People who don’t bother to accumulate points or miles are making a big mistake.  Even if you don’t stay frequently, the points accumulate.  But the biggest reason is that you can’t predict your future travel plans.  You might not be staying at Hotel ABC a lot right now, but in the future, that could change and you’ll have missed out on a lot of potential benefits.

So there you have it, testimonials from three experienced travelers about the value of miles and points.  What are you waiting for?  Start on your journey to free travel today!

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About the Author

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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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