How to Get the Most Out of Your Frequent Flyer Miles

This hipmunk original was syndicated by our friends at Lifehacker! Thanks, guys.

You may not think of yourself as a “gamer,” but if you’ve watched your frequent flyer miles climb higher as you eagerly awaited redeeming them for a free flight, you’re engrossed in some real-life game mechanics. And like all good gamers, we like to get the most out of the system — so those miles don’t end up as free magazine subscriptions.

  • Be flexible with airports (e.g., if you’re going to NYC, consider EWR) and consider departing from and returning to different airports.
  • Don’t travel during the holidays. Fly on slow travel days (Tuesday through Thursday). And the sooner you book, the better.
  • Consider connections in addition to nonstops.
  • Most airlines allow redemptions on their partners, too, even if they don’t expose this feature on their website. Call if necessary to check.
  • Try and stick to a single carrier/alliance (hipmunk search lets you set a preference, and be aware of the best airlines for getting a frequent flyer seat).
  • Save those miles for long trips, because that’s here you’re going to get the most for your miles.
  • If you can be responsible with your credit card (don’t buy things you can’t afford and always pay off the entire balance every month) their reward programs can be a great way to rack up the miles.
  • Keep an eye out for expiration dates! Don’t let them disappear. And while you’re at it – keep an eye out for promotions in the program’s newsletter.

Have more strategies for helping your fellow hipmunks get the most out of their frequent flyer miles? Let us know in the comments!