A beginner’s guide to collecting air miles

Frustrated with the cost and experience of flying these days? You aren’t alone, as it seems costs are rising and comfort is being sacrificed in order to cram more seats into economy. However, both of these problems can be avoided by making yourself an invaluable customer to a specific airline.

By signing up for their loyalty program, you can earn credits known as air miles. There are many points blog which talk about this subject, but many focus on travel hacking strategies which only seasoned travelers can comprehend.

If you are just getting started in this exciting subculture, this blog will help you to begin amassing air miles which will have you jetting around the world in first class before you realize it.

Let’s get into it below.

First things first – what are air miles, anyway?

As obvious as it may seem to those who have been earning them for years, the very concept of the air mile can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated. In short, they are credits given by airlines to incentivize consumers to fly with them on a regular basis.

After collecting a certain amount, air miles can be redeemed for free flights, irrespective of class (naturally, tickets in business and first class will cost more air miles, but you can earn them flying exclusively in economy, and then turn them in for a luxurious trip up front).

In some cases, they can be also be redeemed for other services, depending on the loyalty scheme and what alliances your airline has with other companies. Often, you’ll be able to pay for rental cars and hotel rooms (in part or full) making travel a less expensive endeavour in the long run.

How can I earn air miles?

Now that you understand the power of this travel hacking tool, you are probably eager to start stockpiling them so you can save a ton of money and travel like a rock star. So, how are air miles earned?

In its simplest form, you get them by signing up for your favorite airline’s loyalty program – once your application is accepted, just enter your frequent flyer number into the booking form every time you buy a flight through your airline’s website, and you’ll accrue air miles.

However, this is a slow and ponderous way to amass them – signing up for an air miles reward card is a much faster way to get to your first free flight. Firstly, virtually all of these card providers offer a sizable upfront air miles bonus – in some cases, it will be enough to book a free regional flight.

Resist the temptation to do so, however – by holding on this balance while you run your monthly spending through your card of choice, you will soon build up enough miles to head to a sunshine destination in the dead of winter, or to Europe in autumn.

Select a card with a high ratio of miles awarded per dollar spent, and these trips and others will become a reality sooner than you think.

Which credit cards are best for earning air miles in 2018?

The credit card industry is rife with cutthroat competition – this is excellent news for everyday people like you and me, as these cards throw attractive incentives at consumers in an attempt to get them to sign up for their product.

Unfortunately, this also means that blog posts even a year old are woefully out of date on this subject, as deals change all the time. As of 2018, there are a few issuers we can personally recommend:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card –While its air routes may be limited compared to its better traveled colleagues, Southwest Airlines excels at cutting its customers a sweet deal. With 50,000 points awarded after spending $2,000 in the first three months of membership, an annual fee of only $69, and the ability to use air miles to buy companion tickets, it is the best overall card out there. Just refrain from using it overseas, as a 3% foreign transaction fee is charged per purchase.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard –Of all the annoyances of modern air travel, having to pay for checked bags ranks high on the list. You and your travel copmapnions will no longer have to worry about this as a holder of the Aadvantage Mastercard, as they are granted free checked bags for themselves and up to four companion travelers. You’ll pay less for food on board as well, as you’ll have access to a 25% discount on all meals and drinks purchased while in the air.
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Card –Despite the flack United has gotten over the past year for various gaffes, this legacy carrier still excels at moving people around America and the world in relative comfort at the end of the day. By picking up their frequent flyer credit card, your adventures on United will only get better, as ownership entitles you to two United Club (their business class lounge) passes per year, as well as no foreign transaction fees on overseas purchases.

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