Win a trip to Australia!

Thanks to the generosity of American Express and Boarding Area, I am pleased to offer this contest to readers of Pearls of Travel Wisdom. You have an excellent chance to win a 7-day trip for two to Down Under. Total value of this contest is about $13,000.

To enter, simply post a comment here answering this question: What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points?

Increase your chances of winning by posting a comment on all of the 20 participating blogs. Each blog offers great content with a different perspective on travel, all worth a regular read. Keep an eye out for their posts about the contest.

Also, you can follow the blogs with an RSS feed. If you use Twitter, a great source to keep up to date on all the Boarding Area blogs is @BoardingArea and feel free to follow me on Twitter, @smartwomentrav.

Please hurry, the last day to enter is Sunday, March 28, 2010.

The contest is open to anyone who is a US resident at least 18 years old.  Very sorry, but this does not apply in Canada, US Territories, or the rest of the planet.

One lucky random winner will be chosen from all qualifying entries. Complete rules and details are here.

Again, many thanks to American Express and Boarding Area for offering this opportunity to my readers. Best of luck to each and every one of you winning what will be the trip of a lifetime!


  1. Be flexible and if you are planning to travel internationally, be willing to fly to another gateway city to take advantage of availability there.

  2. Try to consolidate travel and therefore mileage earning into one airline program and make sure that the airline is convenient to your home location. That way elite status is more within reach.

  3. Consider buying miles when US Air has the 100% bonus offer. You can get two business tickets way under cost!

  4. Sign up for every hotel/airline/train loyalty program out there. Just because you think that you aren’t going to actually fly on a particular airline or stay in a particular hotel chain, does not mean that’s a reason not to sign up for these programs. After that, make sure that you participate in every bonus, sign-up promo or opt-in promo available (think Continental’s frequent 100 mile promos). You never know when those couple hundred miles or points will come in handy for a larger promotion that is being offered. Often you can transfer points or miles to other programs via to get that last necessary partner participation.

  5. Use a single credit card for everything you purchase including travel, household and personal expense, utilities, and paying your taxes. The card you use should be the one that has the best rewards program and flexibility for your personal lifestyle.

  6. Jumpstart your miles by getting status. AA offers a Platinum challenge. Once you get status, many other airlines are willing to match. After you have status, you earn twice as many miles for every trip.

  7. follow travel sites on Twitter for bonus offers and make sure to check for point partners to your loyalty program…those flowers you send or items you buy could earn you points

  8. Read the various blogs and follow their tips. I’ve added thousands of miles this way.

  9. Bundle, bundle, bundle — have hotels, cars, credit card, etc., all point to the same airline to reap a lot of rewards quickly.

  10. Always be sure to keep up to date with promotions and special offers of your favorite loyalty programs. These promotions allow you to earn points, miles, and rewards at greatly accelerated rates. Read the T&C’s carefully and be sure to follow up with Customer Service if any bonuses do not post.

  11. Check alternate days for availability and even partner airlines if you desired date/itin isn’t immediately available through awards.

  12. Jumpstart your miles by getting status on one airline. AA offers a Platinum challenge that can help you get status very quickly. Once you have status with AA, many other airlines are willing to match it. When you fly with status, you get more miles. Now you just have to earn it the hard way next year. 😉

  13. Enjoy reward flights sooner with a Household Account.

    You and up to six other members of your household, including children, can earn and spend British Airways Miles together. Each member has an individual account, which is linked with the others so you can pool BA Miles, making it easier to take reward flights sooner.

  14. When trying to redeem miles for an award ticket plan on doing all the leg work yourself – most airline phone agents will search the simplest routings, find no availability, and stop. Know all your airline’s partners (both in and outside the alliance) and all hub and gateway cities, and tell the agent exactly what you want.

    For example, Delta had no availability for a West Coast to Israel award. But the agent only checked Delta flights. By knowing ahead of time that Air France serves Seattle, SFO, and LAX, and that Alaska serves my city and the AF gateways, I got the outbound on the exact dates I wanted.

    Similarly, secure the international flight first. There is only one SEA-CDG flight a day. Find availability for that, then work on getting to SEA – there’s likely many more options for the domestic flight. Many agents will not even search the international flight on a particular day if your first domestic segment doesn’t appear to be available.

  15. Wow, apparently a new tip for me is to read the other Boarding area blogs, some of these are good.

  16. Research the spring break week of every state and do MR within these dates to increase your volunteer opportunities.

  17. EARN- Sign up for a credit card affiliated with miles,(if possible CHURN!); always makes sure that your hard earned miles actually post; travel when double miles are being offered; and look around at, and FT, for the many bonuses out there.
    SPEND- If you’ve got the miles, USE AND ENJOY THEM, unless the price to pay is the same value as the points or cheaper, when then you might as well save your miles for a different occasion, and actually earn miles on your current flight or stay.

  18. My husband and I dump all of the points from our credit and debit cards into a single frequent flier accout — mine, since I travel the most and have the highest “elite” status.” This lets us accumulate miles MUCH faster than if we were each dumping our spending miles into individual point accounts.

  19. If you aren’t a business traveler who flies a lot, I tell my friends in the US to gravitate towards Continental’s Onepass program. It’s the only program where miles never expire, so you can slowly but surely build towards a reward over however many years you need. Nothing is more discouraging for an aspiring frequent flyer than to have their miles erased for no good reason.

  20. Focus your travel on one airline and one hotel chain as much as possible. Use your points-earning credit card for every possible purchase and pay it off religiously (pre-pay each month for bills you know you’ll accrue. And decide ahead of time how you’ll use your points, then go ahead and follow-through.

  21. See if your company has a status granting or status matching agreement with an airline; this will enable you to immediately start earning bonus redeemable miles, which make it much more lucrative to collect miles.

  22. Pay attention to promotions within your chosen program and consolidate your travel within the time periods of the promotion

  23. Use the credit card partner for your airline of choice and any related utility offers. Miles collect extremely quickly this way.

  24. Always have a spouse/partner/friend take part in the promos and deals so you don’t have to fly first class all alone!

  25. Use a the same credit card for ALL OF YOUR PURCHASES and the same for travel – you will say DANG! I EARNED ALL THOSE MILES!?

    Don’t limit yourself to a hotel chain…there is no worse way to travel…be free…go where the road leads you. It is about the journey not the destination!

  26. Just calling in to a live person always works best for me. Unfortunately, the websites never seem to show the same availability that you can get dialing in directly. It is a hassle, but worth it when you need to get complex trips for multiple people

  27. When booking a hotel in a busy city location or at a busy time of year, hotels are less likely to let you use points for free nights or upgrades. Many programs,like SPG (Starwood) allow you to pay cash + points. I’ve found this a great way to book a nice room ( usually the free rooms are by an elevator, ice machine, lower floor etc). But by using the points and cash option, the rooms are usually upgrades. You still earn points on the portion of the room paid in cash so it’s a win/win.

  28. Tip: Start a mileage program only with the major airline serving your area, and search online for free mileage contests and promotions! (and check this site frequently, from some really knowledgeable flyers)

  29. Sign up for the promotions that link two travel partners together when taking a trip, like get bonus Delta miles for staying at Marriott or get bonus Hertz points for staying at Hilton. That way you get extra points from the promotion with one company and regular with the other. It’s a win win for sure!

  30. If you accumulate points mostly on spend and can’t decide on a card—- the American Express charge cards and the SPG Amex offer flexible points that can be redeemed for hotels, merchandise or highly sought after upper class international airfare.

  31. SPG points to LAN kilometers is the best credit card deal out there per dollar spent, especially for short, expensive flights on OneWorld partners.

  32. Don’t neglect mileage credit on partner airlines – sometimes really small lines are affiliated with your program. It’s worth a little extra time on the website to ensure that you can be credited for trips on small carriers.

  33. My top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points is to do their research and utilize as many resources as possible. For example, utilize partnered dining websites and shopping websites. If you are going to buy something you might as well get points for it. Additionally, always ask if a loyalty program is doing a promotion for bonus points (there is always one going on). For those looking to use their points my best advice is to research forums and ask questions of experienced travellers. We are a community we are always there to help! Also, see if there are combined packages that are available. It may cost less points to transfer your airline miles to hotel points and take advantage of a combined vacation package. In summation, ask questions! The worst answer you could get is no, and usually you will get tips and advice on how to maximize your points.

  34. Use RSS feeds and SMS alerts on your phone from favorite travel and deal websites to ensure you see the best points deals and promotions that you can take advantage of while you are traveling.

  35. Keep airline accounts active for every member of your family by using the mileage malls offered. At a mimimum, buy a magazine using miles to keep you kids’ FF accounts from getting wiped out. They’ll thank you some day!

  36. If travel is flexable wait unil you find a good promotion before booking. I never travel unless I can get at least double points.

  37. Be flexible with travel dates–experience new places when the price is right and earn miles along the way 🙂

    Use searcher to get best deals regarding cost per mile and to find those new places to see.

    Stay loyal to one airline to get even more miles with elite bonus miles!

    Take advantage of promos & join community to keep up with the latest.

    Always look for the new route bonuses!

    Get a credit card that gives you miles per $ spend (my pref Delta Plat Amex) and charge everything paying balance off at end of the month. Track what you spend and when you hit the annual spending that gives you more miles–switch to 2nd point card (for me SPG Amex).

    If looking for award tickets to Europe, always call the agents and be patient and very kind to them–they will work it for you and search all of the partner sites too. It has taken me some time on the phone but they have always been able to find me a low mileage award ticket even on short notice for Europe in the summer 🙂 If by chance they can’t find anything then at least you were nice to them anyway as I am sure that is always welcome.

    Don’t overlook discount European airlines if you can not get into your desired European destination–fly into where the award is low if you can coordinate a cheap flight to your desired destination.

    And most importantly—Enjoy life & the adventures!

  38. look into alliance partners and non-flight earning opportunities, such as miles for shopping online.

  39. Use an availability tool like ExpertFlyer to search for and alert you to award availability. The savvy searcher gets the awards!

  40. Make people around you and your family aware of the benefits of miles. You”ll be surprised to find how many people just let go of miles and don’t know how to take advantage of them. You can benefit from miles of your friends and family members too by doing certain promotions together and doubling your miles.

  41. When booking an award ticket with miles, use allowed free stopovers to get the most value out of your miles and see new places that you may not otherwise have seen.

  42. Pick your loyalties and stick with them! Switching around between airlines and hotel chains will scatter your points around and probably not earn you elite status anywhere. It’s worth it in the long run to not always go with the cheapest price in order to maintain your loyalty to that carrier or brand!

  43. Make sure every fare/hotel you stay at “actually” earns points, I don’t know how many times people book something and they end up not earning points on it. Look for promotions and BE FLEXIBLE when it comes to redeeming. The farther out you can book the better off you are!

  44. Concentrate your loyalty to only a few programs(at most) and take advantage of all their bonus promos! They add up surprisingly quick.

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