Earning Frequent Flier Miles

Old Jan 8th, 2006, 10:14 AM
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Earning Frequent Flier Miles

I know this probably sounds like an incredibly stupid question, but how exactly do you earn frequent flier miles? I've flown with Delta a lot in the past couple of years, so I've decided to join SkyMiles. With that, do I earn the exact amount of miles that I fly on each flight? Also, if my family of four flies, do I earn miles for all four of us, or only for one person. Any other pertinent info would also be good. Sorry for asking such a stupid question, but I just realized that I really don't know anything about it.
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 11:27 AM
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Each airline has different rules regarding mileage accumulation. With Delta, you get the actual miles flown, or 500, whichever is greater. You get 50% "bonus" miles when you fly in business or first class. You can also get miles from flights with partner airlines, provided you record your Delta FF number when you book the tickets. Of course there are numerous other ways to accumulate miles - car rentals, credit cards, blah blah.

If you fly a lot (say, 25,000 miles a year or more) you might be able to qualify for elite status with Delta's program. As an elite flyer, you get bonus miles, have preferred check-in and seat selection options; you can obtain upgrades, and in general life at Delta will be much improved.

You should review the rules and benefits of the Skymiles program on Delta's website; you might also want to lurk or register at www.flyertalk.com, a message board specifically targeted to frequent flyers, FF plans, and air travel.

Welcome to the madness...
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 11:28 AM
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Meant to add, you only get miles for your own trips. Other family members should have their own FF numbers. Some plans offer a "family" component, where you can share miles among family members. I don't think Delta does this, but am not sure.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 12:55 PM
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Many airlines also let you earn miles with an affiliated credit card - sometimes you get bonus miles on flights you book and pay for with their credit card. Just beware fees, etc.

If you travel for business and are required to use a personal credit card rather than a corporate card, this can really help pile on the miles. My husband spends thousands of dollars each month on business travel and other expenses, all charged to USAirway credit card, for which we are then reimbursed. We also charge our sons college expenses to this card. Several free tickets each year are hatched in this way.

The other side of FF miles is using the miles. While you can not earn miles from flights of others, you can use FF miles for ticket for whoever you want.

Using FF miles is a whole science in itself. Airlines "black out" certain dates or make you pay a premium number of miles to get a ticket during that time. Also, number of free tickets per flight is limited and can be zero, even from the beginning.

People always ask what happens to miles if airline ceases to exist (like Independence). No rules for this, so it remains to be seen, although we all have our own educated guesses.

That is a very rough overview of FF miles.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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Also, some frequent flyer cards have a shopping prgram whereby you get points for online buying that is linked through the airline FF program website. United's Mileage Plus has a very good program like this, with over 120 online stores; some are big general stores like Target.com or JCPennys.com, others are specialty stores like Barnes and Noble's, electronics, office supplies, florists, etc. I did almost all of my Christmas shopping that way. And then I get points on top of that by using the Mileage Plus credi tcard to pay for it.

Also, many of the programs have dining programs whereby you get points for dining out at certian restaurants.
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Old Jan 10th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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I don't know if Delta will allow you credit for past flights when you join, so you might want to check with them on that. Check also as to whether your miles expire after a certain period; miles on my airline-affiliated program don't expire, and they used that as a selling point, which implies that there are other programs with an expiration period.

Some credit cards offer a frequent flyer program that is not affiliated with any specific airline, and you might want to look into that. I joined an airline program after checking that that airline offers service to the places we are most likely to fly. I'm happy with it, but at the same time I feel somewhat constrained when I see a good fare or an attractive feature on another airline, but feel compelled to stick to my FF airline.

Also, in a FF program, a lot of people seem to become obsessed with earning miles, and spend all their time trying to figure out how to maximize their miles account. There is even a term - mileage run - that is in vogue among these people. A mileage run is a flight for no purpose other than to pick up a lot of miles for a low price. These runs usually don't even allow you time to leave the airport when you get to your destination; you just get on another plane to get back home. And using your miles once you have accrued them in an airline program can involve a lot of work. A non-affiliated credit card program can be a lot better in this respect, too.

I've encouraged each of my children to get into some program even while still in school. Families today are often spread all over the country, and many jobs require long distance travel, and the alternatives to flying are becoming more and more limited.
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Old Jan 10th, 2006, 12:30 PM
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Before anyone get affiliate cards, and do other activities to maximize your miles, he/she should think about how many miles one actually fly a year, and in what class.

If a person won't even earn 25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles a year on DL and become an entry-level elite, one really should not even try getting a airline-specific card.

Instead, get a cash-back card or one that earns miles that can be spent on multiple airlines.

Now, if you are earning 25K MQM per calendar year or close to it, then we can discuss what programs/cards/activities you should consider.
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Old Jan 11th, 2006, 12:50 PM
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Delta miles expire if you go 36 months without a flight.

We recently had a flight cancelled, re-routed, delayed, etc., and a month later discovered that Delta gave us triple miles for the ordeal. Too bad they didn't tell us at the time, it might have made us feel better!
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Old Jan 11th, 2006, 01:10 PM
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With Delta it's 36 months without any qualifying activity, not 36 months without a flight. Miles posting from a credit card is an example of a qualifying activity.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 08:13 PM
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Is there any advantage to being with one program or another? I signed up with Delta, because it goes where I want, namely Europe, with convenient flight times. But, I also signed with United, just in case.
And, no, those aren't stupid questions, at least not to me - I was wondering the same things!
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 08:23 PM
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The advantage is being able to capitalize on offers or deals that one airline might offer vs. another. In almost all cases, though, you're better off by picking one plan and sticking with it, amassing enough miles so that you can use them where they count the most (for example, business or first class travel or upgrades, rather than inexpensive domestic tickets.) Having several memberships is certainly okay, but runs the risk that you'll amass "orphan" miles in several accounts - not enough for any "bang" for your mileage "buck." Since combining miles from several programs is not allowed, sticking with one will leverage more options. But be sure you pick a plan that has enough earning/spending partners, and an airline that you prefer (for routes, prices, whatever).
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 08:48 PM
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The important thing is to become an "elite". Which is obtained by flying 25,000 elite qualifying miles (EQM) in a calendar year (DL calls it Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQM).

Lots and lots of benefits - bonus miles, more award availability, dedicated security lines, priority boarding, etc. If you think you can fly that much a year, then definitely stick to one program. You can earn DL Skymiles and MQM on Skyteam partners NW, CO, KL, AF, etc, plus some other DL partners.
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