Why collecting frequent flyer miles pays off (even if you don’t fly often)

Frequent flyer miles can get you free flights or upgrades for your booking to a higher class. Wouldn’t we all like that? But isn’t this only an option for businessmen who take the plane every other week for their work? No, not at all. It is also a smart thing to do for normal travelers. Even if you don’t even fly that often, you can get enough miles to get yourself a free flight or upgrade. I’ll tell you all about it!

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What are the frequent flyer miles?

When I talk about miles, I mean the miles you can save with airlines in their frequent flyer programs. As the name suggests, it once started with earning a point for every mile flown. These days the system is a lot more complicated. For example, you get more points if you fly in a higher class and if you have a higher status in the program. To make it really complicated, it also depends on your booking class. This makes it an almost impossible puzzle to figure out how many miles a certain flight will get you.

Tips: check the Canadian blog Frugal Flyer or the English blog The Points Guy if you want to learn more about this complicated system. How many points you earn with a flight is unfortunately never indicated on booking sites. Therefore, use Where to Credit to find out how many points you would get for your flight.

There are two types of points to save

Now you know how complicated the earning system is, I add another difficulty: there are actually two types of points. The points that you get by flying and can exchange for flights? Those are award miles.

Then you’ve probably heard of a ‘golden status’ with a frequent flyer program. This gives you access to lounges and you get all kinds of extras on your flight. You can save for that too in your frequent flyer program, but those points are called status miles.

Why saving frequent flyer miles also pays off if you fly little

In short? Because you get points for free and you can then exchange them for flights and upgrades. What’s not to like?

Even if you don’t fly much, you can take advantage of these benefits. Then just make sure to sign up for a program where your frequent flyer miles don’t expire quickly. For example, there are programs where your points expire after a year, but also programs where your points only expire after a long time or even never.

Also useful: with many programs you can exchange points with family members. Maybe you alone don’t earn enough points for a flight, but together with your partner, you might do.

Tip: do you still have your old boarding passes from your last travels? There is a chance that you can redeem these retroactively in your frequent flyer program.

You don’t always have to fly with the same airline

I don’t want to do that either. And fortunately, it is not necessary to earn points! Airlines are are almost always part of an alliance. The three largest alliances are Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam. Part of that cooperation between companies is that you can save your points from one company with another within the same alliance. So that way you can both earn and spend your points for a flight from another company within that alliance.

In short: sign up for free for a miles program within every alliance, so you will be able to earn points in all three alliances

Which program do I choose?

I don’t know enough about this yet and so much has already been written on the internet, so I will not advise in detail about this in this blog. But just know that it is not possible to say in general which program works best. It depends on your own preferences and how much you travel Would you like a quick high status to relax in the business lounge before your flights? Or do you mainly want to get those free flights? That all determines which program is the best choice for you.

What to look into:

  • Do I get a lot of points for my flight (from another airline)? Also, make sure that you earn a decent amount points for the flights of another airline within the alliance as well. With some programs, you get a lot of points for your flights with that airline itself, but you only get 50% or less of the points for flights with a partner airline.
  • How much are my points worth? It is also important to look if you can easily redeem your points for those free flights and upgrades you are actually doing this for. With some airlines, you need more points for that free flight than with others.
  • How easily will I get a higher status? Saving points can also bring you many other extras if you get a high status. There are travellers who only choose their miles program on this criterium. For example, the Greek airline Aegean is known for getting a higher status relatively easy.

With a credit card, you save points faster (without flying)

Here comes my very best tip: earn points without flying! Almost every miles program has a collaboration with a credit card company. For every euro or dollar you spend with that credit card, you get points. And you can exchange these points for miles points in your miles program. This way you can get points for your free flights and upgrades with your normal daily. How perfect is that!

Unfortunately for us Dutchies, the Netherlands is not a credit card country. In many places in the Netherlands, credit card payments are not accepted, so we are not able to get frequent flyer miles for every euro spent. Also, there is only one credit card company in the Netherlands with which you can save points: American Express (Amex).

An Amex Gold card normally costs € 16.50 a month, so you have to do some math to see if you’ll get enough free flights or upgrades to be willing to pay this amount. But do you register with our link? Then you can try the card for free in the first year. Also, you get a big welcome bonus in points right away (and we too, win-win). Depending on the moment you sign up, this can already get you started with 6,000 or 20,000 points!

We did this ourselves as well. So we started with a bonus of 20,000 points and a free trial for a year. We already noticed a credit card is often accepted for online purchases and in restaurants in the Netherlands, so we have already earned a lot of points with only that.

In short

  • Saving points is free and it also pays if you don’t fly much.
  • Look into in the different programs and choose the savings program that suits your flying behavior and wishes.
  • Sign up for 3 savings programs, so one per alliance.
  • Try the Amex card for free for a year to test how many flights and upgrades you get.