Live Rich on Your Travel Points

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on August 26, 2016 in Money Saving Strategies, Personal Finances

Andy Fleming writing on financial freedom

Did you know that most of the people sitting in first class are paying the same or less for their ticket as those in economy? It’s true, they’re just more savvy about acquiring airline miles and travel points.

There are literally millions of miles out there for the taking – and most don’t even get used. Between 75%-85% of airline miles expire without ever being redeemed. What a waste!

If you’re smart about earning points and keeping track, a life of cheap or free travel is within your grasp. Keep these tips in mind when getting started and you’ll be earning big in no time.

Choose the right credit cards: A lot of cards that pay off with big rewards come with a big annual fee attached, sometimes up to $450. Fortunately, there’s plenty of cards with no annual fee that will net you thousands of miles once you meet the spending requirements.

You can also sign up for cards with no fee for the first year, meet spending requirements, and cancel the card before the annual fee is incurred. In fact, there’s often no limit on the number of times you can do this, allowing you to re-apply, earn more miles, and cancel the card again. ThePointsGuy and MillionMileSecrets run “hot deals” pages that compile all the info on cards with good mileage deals and break them down into categories like “best domestic travel card” or “best card for hotel rewards”.

Stay organized: Remember, 75%-85% of rewards go unredeemed. Don’t end up as part of that statistic. You can sign up for a free mile-manager at AwardWallet or Tripit to help keep track of what you’ve earned and your potential rewards. These sites will notify you if your points are in danger of expiring and may clue you in to reward programs you’d otherwise overlook.

Stick with the same airline: By flying with the same airline repeatedly, you can earn “elite status” and qualify for special perks. This might mean you get to skip long security lines or receive free meals. It might even qualify you for a luxury private cabin on an overseas flight.

Earning elite status is supposed to take time and effort, but people are always discovering ways to fast track the system and posting them online. For example, check out this post on how to earn gold status with the Star Alliance group in a single flight. Flyertalk is a website where those obsessed with mile earning gather to share their secrets and debate about the best ways to game these systems.

Find the most profitable route: Picking the right route can mean the difference between earning 10,000 or 30,000 miles on a single trip. You can plug potential flight itineraries into MileCalc and juggle flight times/destinations until you find the most profitable routes to fit your travel plans.

This site – originally intended to be a tool for finding software developers – allows anyone to see the kind of behind the scenes data that travel advisors use to book clients the best trips.

It’s also a good idea to register with ExpertFlyer. Through this site you can enable notifications, which will let you know the minute special offers, rewards, and upgrades become available.

Get bumped: A quick way to benefit by intentionally inconveniencing yourself is to book flights where you have a high chance of getting bumped. This requires a bit of research and experience to get right, but there’s plenty of tips around to get you started. A well planned “bump run” could see you get bumped five times and earn you over $1,000 in travel vouchers for a single day of travel. Plus, it’s a great way to finish reading that book you keep putting off.

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