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. Try to use some of the new one way awards, often these have more availability than the regular standard (25K) awards. I have found them to be available when I cannot a round trip.

  2. Keep a positive attitude and the longview about reaching your destination. Actual airtime goes quickly when you are calm and content.

  3. Don’t be afraid to check costs of adding additional legs (and miles) to your flight! I wound up paying a lot less by adding 2 more stops to my cross country trip, gaining me segments and EQM!

  4. Attend the 6th Annual Ann Arbor Art Fair DO. This year is devoted to discussing the ins and outs of award ticket booking. It is the perfect opportunity to network with fellow points and miles fiends. Details available at

  5. Concentrate on quickly gaining the highest elite status in one program, because you can parlay that into status at others through matching. Plus it makes the travel that much more comfortable

  6. Stick to one or two programs for each of air, car, hotel, etc and be completely loyal to those, for example, go with SPG + SPG Amex + stay only at SPG hotels and sign up for as many promotions as possible via milemaven/pointmaven

  7. Don’t let your miles expire. For $1 (more or less), you can extend them buy buying a song for download to your PC through the airlines web shopping mall’s portal to Itunes.

  8. Find a program and stick to it. Pay very close attention to the expiration dates on your rewards, especially the free car vouchers and such (like the 1 2 free promo by National, those things expire really fast.
    Especially when dealing with rental cars try and break into a higher tier as you’ll get better service and better cars usually.
    For what it’s worth I’ve found points don’t matter as much as the perks to me. I would much rather get upgraded on 20 domestic flights than get one free international flight.

  9. If you book a complex itinerary, attempt to allow a one-day pad in your schedule somewhere during the trip in case something goes wrong.

  10. If you’re a business traveler, ask if your company would allow you to charge your air fare to your own card, and reimburse you. That way, you get the frequent flier miles without having paid for the initial (work travel) air fare in the first place. Then, when you cash out your frequent flier miles, it is truly a “free flight.”

    Safe travels and Happy flying!

  11. Do your homework! Know EVERYTHING about the loyalty rewards program you chose: one-time promotions, how to get bonus points, who are the partners, etc.
    Every time you make a reservation/pay for something (store, hotel, restaurant, purchase on-line, concert, trip to a museum, etc) remember to check if you can use your loyalty card. EVERY LITTLE BIT ADDS UP!!!

  12. There are so many good tips, and here is the only one that hasn’t already been said and resaid:

    When you have a lousy experience with an airline, CONTACT the airline immediately; often you will receive double miles or at least courtesy miles. And if you don’t, you’re not being descriptive enough!!

    I’ve had great experiences with Delta’s customer service responding to some horrid flight experiences (when you fly 80,000 miles a year, you’re bound to have a few ugly ones!)

  13. Sign up for to keep track of your mileage balances if you are a member of several programs (like me!). The free version is great, but for as little as $1 for 6 months, you can also keep track of expiration dates for your programs, so that you don’t lose your hard-earned miles & points due to inactivity.

  14. Keep it simple! Choose one loyalty program that best suits your personal needs. They sometimes change so get updates, because what you don’t know about your loyalty program can hurt you.

  15. Earn airline miles with one carrier/alliance but with at least two hotel chains to ensure that there’s a location you can use points on a trip and in case the hotel of choice has no rooms available, that way you have a backup to use when you want to cash in points for a trip.

  16. Always know the promotions for your program and do your best to take advantage of them.

  17. Do the math. Even if a domestic ticket seems expensive, it’s almost never worth it to burn miles. Save them for your international trips.

  18. If you get a rep that says it cant be done, hang up and call again until you get a rep that will work with you and is knowledgeable. Try try try again.

  19. My top tip for using mileage points is to plan well in advance and to fully understand the specific restrictions of the program.

  20. My advice would be to “get loyal” with a favorite hotel chain/ airline/ rental car company – higher level loyal members, Starwood Platinums, Hyatt Diamonds, United 1ks, for example not only earn base points but bonus points for these member classifications, as well as other perks and upgrades (free) that rewards the loyal frequent traveler.

    Also, using a branded credit card to pay for these hotel rooms and plane tickets (United’s Visa, Starwood’s Amex, for example) have a way of being a point multiplier for increased earnings ad well.

  21. Be aware of opportunities to transfer miles/points from one program to another for free without devaluation.

    A good one I’ve used heavily is Amtrak Guest Rewards -> Continental OnePass. Limit of 50K per year – and even that might only be for Amtrak elite pax. Still, it’s a steal. For example, right now there’s a (possibly targeted?) offer for the co-branded Chase MC that yields 18K Amtrak points upon activation and another 18K with $2K spend. Easiest 36K Continental miles I’ve every heard of.

    Similarly know how much the miles/points are worth to you so you know when to earn and when to burn.

  22. As I’ve gotten older, my time has become more valuable and I’ve had more disposable income. Therefore, I recommend being a little more willing to spend money instead of sacrifice time to build mileage balances.

    On Continental, I have the Presidental Plus credit card, which gives a 25% redeemable miles bonus. I pay in advance for the Extra Mile bonus, which is another 50%. I have Platinum status, offering a 100% bonus. And I frequently purchase B fares, which are upgradeable at booking and earn 150% EQM, good for keeping status.

  23. Be friendly with hotel/airline counter agents! You just may get upgraded – especially if you are traveling on a special occasion such as your honeymoon, anniversary, etc. Let them know!

  24. Buy plane tickets on Tuesday afternoons. This is generally the cheapest time, because on tuesday evenings the prices get recalibrated based on demand-and they usually go up.

  25. Use them for car rental, you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck than when you do for flight. You may save more getting a good seat sale than using your points but the car rental prices are fixed.

  26. Know what your programs’ expiration rules are and what it takes to keep your miles/points from expiring. Even if you don’t have enough miles in your account to take a flight, you may have an opportunity in the future to get enough for a ticket. Keeping miles alive in many programs can also be done cheaply. For example, buying a song on iTunes keeps United miles alive for another 18 months.

  27. Always register for every mileage promotion that your chosen airline (because you should really try and stick with one alliance) offers. Whilst you might not expect to go to Hong Kong in the next month you never know, and it would be a real shame if you did and didn’t get maximum mileage!

  28. Many airline carriers allow for one-way award redemptions. If you have trouble finding round trip award availability at the lowest redemption level, do some one-way searches before ponying up the higher amount of miles

  29. What’s your top tip for travelers who want to earn and use their loyalty points? At Christmastime, do all your shopping online for FF miles! I’ve racked up lots of points this way and have traveled to Europe and California using my FF miles.

  30. Focus on your goals – where do you want to go/what do you want to do – that way you can really focus on the loyalty programs that will get you to your goal quickly and easily.

  31. concentrate earnings in one or two programs and learn the rules of it, so as to maximize usage

  32. Use no fee reward credit cards from your local or regional banks. Most offer redemptions for no black out travel on multiple airlines, hotels and rental car companies.

  33. Use the Starwood AMEX to accumulate points, then transfer to your favorite airline program with a 25% bonus for 20,000 point exchanges. Alternatively keep Starwood Amex points in reserve so you can transfer smaller amounts to “top off” airline accounts to reach the award you need.

  34. I charge virtually everything I can on my credit card so that I’ve earned points for each and every purchase — in addition to the loyalty points I will also earn from each merchant at which I make a purchase. Pretty much the only thing I can’t charge on my card is our electric bills as our service provider doesn’t accept any credit cards. Too bad, as we have electric heat and that amounts to more than $2,500 in lost points each year.

  35. Try to earn/consolidate to one frequent flyer program of an alliance. Always check the ‘Fare basis code’. Starwood Preferred Guest card is best credit card for earning miles, gives 5k bonus for redeeming 20k miles to 30 different FFP program.

  36. some miles accounts will dump you if you do not stay active. No need to fly. Just be sure to spend some money through their shopping portal, or dine with their program.

  37. My top tip:

    Never let a mile go waste: Never pay cash when you can charge to a mile earning card, never let any miles expire, never miss a mileage promotion and never use miles for free flights for yourself.

  38. To maximize use of your miles, travel on airlines that have shared mileage agreements. When you need to use miles that require more than you have in one account, transfer the partner miles to the chosen account and you’re off to your chosen destination.

  39. Air miles and some hotel points expire. When you sign up to earn these miles, ask the related parties how long you have to accrue the points, how long they are valid and if there are policies on extending earned miles or awards. Be careful!

  40. Consolidate to one or two rewards programs, enter all promotions, and use points as they accumulate so much as is reasonable to counter any fears of inflationary pressures the points may face (and limits the need to worry about expiration dates).

  41. I am a big fan of Hilton HHonors for hotel loyalty programs. But use your points on the really really expensive hotels — you can get a $600 room for the same number of points as a $200 room. Also if you are the highest loyalty level (diamond) you can get a guaranteed spot even in a full hotel, and you pretty much get upgraded to the nicest room automatically. So pay for the cheapest room with points, and then get upgraded to an executive suite with lots of free goodies. Also you can earn points with them through their dining partners — pretty wide selection of restaurants.

  42. If you find you are getting “spun” by the hotels and airlines when you try to use your points/miles, write directly (and nicely) to the CEO of the company (registered mail), with all the facts and details, enclosing all relevant documents. We had hundreds of thousands of points and miles but couldn’t use them for one reason or another for years… UNTIL I did that. We were contacted Immediately and got to have the honeymoon of our DREAMS, and the hotels and airlines treated us like GOLD! I have used this technique effectively with CEOS from several major corporations. As my dad said “You don’t ask, you don’t get”! But ask Nice!

  43. Choose one airline and accrue points only for that on Amex and for biz travel. Also–stay only at one type of hotel–I use Hilton honors.

  44. If you only travel a moderate amount, make every hotel stay one night and then switch hotels for the next night. This is the qucikest way to elite levels at the hotel chains. The hotels always require less stays than nights to reach elite levels, so by switching hotels nightly, you can earn elite status with just 2-3 stays per month. Once you have status, you’ll start earning additional bonus points and upgrades.

  45. The best advice I ever received is to pick one carrier/alliance and one hotel chain and stick with it. It’s much better to be the top of one program than the middle of many. You want all of the points you achieve to get you the most you possibly can, not spread out across different alliances or chains.

  46. Read Flyertalk and blogs like this for the latest advice on mileage earning and burning opportunities.

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