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This is the final post in a monthlong beginners’ series that started here.

You did it! You passed Miles Collecting 101. You should now have the basic tools to accrue millions of miles through credit card sign up bonuses mainly, but also manufactured spending, online shopping, dining, flying cheap paid fares, and many other ways.

So what’s next?

Your mileage education is never complete. There’s always something more you can learn, so check back daily at this blog, and sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts. You should now have the basics down and can understand the more complicated posts.

Keep up with your new hobby, and maybe I’ll see you at the front of the plane in the flying bed across the aisle from mine. It’s your turn to enjoy Free First Class Next Month This Month.

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Here is a link to every post in the series in case you missed one. Reading the whole thing should take less than hour.

Free First Class Next Month 2014: Table of Contents

  1. The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points (Introduction)
  2. Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet
  3. Introduction to Travel Credit Cards
  4. Best Current Credit Card Offers
  5. Transferable Points Program Basics
  6. Earning Miles from Flying
  7. Shopping Portals
  8. Manufactured Spending
  9. You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything
  10. Don’t Let Your Miles Expire
  11. Airline Mile and Hotel Point Redemption Basics
  12. Airline Hubs, Alliances, and Award Search Engines
  13. Basics of Redeeming American Airlines Miles
  14. Basics of Redeeming United Miles
  15. Basics of Redeeming Delta Miles
  16. Basics of Redeeming US Airways Miles
  17. Basics of Redeeming British Airways Avios
  18. Basics of Redeeming Alaska Airlines Miles
  19. Basics of Redeeming Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Frontier Miles
  20. Basics of Redeeming Singapore, Aeroplan, Flying Blue, ANA, Lufthansa, and Korean Miles
  21. How to Book Complicated Awards with Segment-by-Segment Searching and Wikipedia
  22. How to Pick the Best Seat with Seat Guru
  23. Setting Kayak Price Alerts to Always Pay the Lowest Price for Flights
  24. Basics of ITA Matrix to Find Cheap Flights and Fuel Surcharge Info
  25. Should You Chase Status?
  26. Cheapskate Lodging with Hotel Promos, Hostels, airbnb, and CouchSurfing
  27. Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels
  28. Cancelling Cards
  29. The End

Here are some other good beginners’ posts and resources while you’re at it:

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This is the twenty-eighth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Most travel credit cards have an annual fee. One of the main questions people email me to ask is whether they should cancel one of their rewards cards before the next annual fee.

Whether you got a card from my list of top current credit cards or from a personalized suggestion during a Free Credit Card Consultation, eventually you’ll probably wonder whether the card is worth keeping through its next annual fee.

I’ll lay out the two-step process you should use to determine which cards to keep and which to cancel.

How do I approach the decision of whether to keep or cancel a card?

This is the twenty-seventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Today I’ll continue the theme of cheap paid travel when you don’t have or don’t want to use points.

This is a topic I love: saving 60% on hotels using Priceline.com. If you aren’t being reimbursed for your hotel expenses, and you have any flexibility over which hotel you can stay in, Priceline.com’s “name your own price” bidding tool can save you hundreds of dollars per stay, so bookmark this post!

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As the commercials say, hotels give their unsold inventory to Priceline to sell at a steep discount to get at least some revenue. We can swoop in and book hotels through Priceline for a fraction of the retail price, but you have to know the system.

  • How does “Name Your Own Price” work?
  • What trick allows us to circumvent the rules and make it work even better for us?
  • What are the drawbacks of using Priceline that you need to know?
  • How have I saved hundreds with the Name Your Own Price tool?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

This is the twenty-sixth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I probably spend fewer nights in hotels than any other miles and points blogger, despite traveling plenty. Why am I down on hotels?

  1. frequent traveler- I spend probably about three to nine months away from my apartment
  2. frugal traveler- $100 a night or more is never going to cut it for more than an occasional splurge
  3. social traveler- hotels are isolating
  4. anti-tourist- I don’t want to spend all my time in a touristy part of town, eating at touristy restaurants, and drinking with other Americans

I pursue a mixed lodging strategy when traveling.

I stay some nights at top-tier, fancy-pants, several-hundred-euros-per-night hotels. I stay the majority of my nights for free with friends or through CouchSurfing, and I round out the rest of my nights cheaply at hostels or through airbnb.

  • What is CouchSurfing?
  • What is airbnb?
  • When do I stay at fancy hotels, and how do I avoid paying for them?
  • Hostels? Really!?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

This is the twenty-fifth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Airlines and hotels offer elite status that rewards frequent travelers who are loyal to a single brand of airline or hotel. These perks can be incredibly valuable, or they can be not worth the time and money taken to earn them.

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Airline status typically comes with better seats and fewer fees. Lower tier elites might get access to those extra-legroom seats in coach and a reduction in some fees. Top tier elites will get upgrades to first class on domestic flights, a few upgrades to business class on international flights, and waivers of change and cancellation fees.

Hotel status comes with freebies like late checkouts, free internet, free breakfast, suite upgrades, access to a club room, and more points per stay.

  • How do you earn hotel status?
  • How do you earn airline status?
  • Is status worth chasing?

This is the twenty-fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I use the ITA Software Matrix for two reasons:

  1. to find cheap flights
  2. to find the fuel surcharges on award tickets.

You can search ITA Matrix for roundtrip paid flights for departures over a 30 day period and trip lengths of your choosing. That makes the ITA Matrix another tool for finding cheap paid flights like Kayak price alerts.

On ITA Matrix, you can see a breakdown of a ticket price into base fare, taxes, and fuel surcharges. This makes ITA Matrix invaluable for estimating the out-of-pocket cost of booking an award ticket when fuel surcharges will be included on the ticket.

  • How does the ITA Matrix’s monthlong search work?
  • How can you find the fuel surcharges included on a paid ticket and why does that matter for award tickets?

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This is the twenty-third post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Over the last few years, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by setting Kayak price alerts to track the price of a plane ticket I need to buy for a few weeks before booking when the price drops.

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Kayak price alerts are an extremely simple tool that everyone should know about to save money on cash tickets for trips you know you need to take.

  • How can you set a Kayak price alert?
  • When should you book a trip with cash versus miles?

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This is the twenty-second post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Today I’ll be explaining a tool I use every time I book a flight or research an award to ensure I get the best seat possible, seatguru.com. SeatGuru is an online compendium of airline seat maps.

Using SeatGuru can be the difference between picking an award routing with a fully flat bed in Business Class versus an angled lie flat seat. It can be the difference between sitting in privacy and sharing an elbow rest with a stranger.

Along the left top of the site, hold your cursor over Browse Airlines. Select from the list.

  • How do you use SeatGuru to snag the best flights and seats?
  • How do you select seats on awards?

This is the twenty-first post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

This is a post about the main process I use every day to search for awards.

In an ideal world, you collect the right frequent flyer miles for the trip you want, go straight to the website of the airline whose miles you have, search for award space, and your dream trip pops up.

Airlines use frequent flyer miles to give away seats they don’t expect to sell otherwise, though, which means your ideal itinerary might not have award space if it’s at a popular time on a popular route. In fact, no itineraries with award space may show up on your search.

Just because nothing shows up on an airline search engine doesn’t mean no award itinerary is available.

When a simple search produces no result, you need to move on to segment-by-segment searching.

The idea is that just typing where you live and where you want to go into an airline’s award search engine may not reveal Saver award space even when there is a legal, possible award. Searching segment-by-segment, starting with the hardest segment can yield itineraries that the search engine missed.

In this post I’ll give a step-by-step example of how I used segment-by-segment searching to find award space between San Francisco and London when united.com didn’t show any award space.

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  • What are the six simple steps to search segment-by-segment?
  • What popular non-travel website is your secret weapon in segment-by-segment searching?

This is the twentieth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics of several international airline programs which are transfer partners of one or more of the following types of points:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
  • Citi ThankYou Points

I think of these international airlines programs as niche programs. Most of their redemption options are terrible because of fuel surcharges, but a few redemptions with each program are great because of no fuel surcharges or a super cheap miles price.

Know the great options in each program to save yourself miles and cash by maximizing these programs:

  • Singapore KrisFlyer (UR, MR, SPG, and TY)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (MR, SPG)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (SPG, also the only one of these programs that offers a big 50k sign up bonus on an American credit card every few months)
  • ANA Mileage Club (MR, SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (MR, SPG)
  • Korean SkyPass (UR, SPG)

Why Collect These Miles?

Most of these programs have a sweet spot that lets you book the same flights for fewer miles than if you used United or Delta miles. For instance, pay 30,000 Singapore miles each way in First Class between the continental United States and Hawaii instead of 40,000 United miles.

Korean, Singapore, and Lufthansa miles allow the booking of mind-blowing First Class products you can’t book with Delta and United miles.

  • What airlines can you fly with these miles?
  • What are the routing rules for these awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special deals in each program?
  • What about fuel surcharges?

This is the nineteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin America Elevate programs. I’m taking all three together because they are similar programs.

Why Collect Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points?

All three types of airline points can save you big on your next domestic trip or near international trip.

All three types of points can access every flight on their respective airlines with no blackouts.

  • What airlines can you fly with Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue points, and Elevate points?
  • What are the special features of each program?
  • How can you book Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue, and Elevate awards?

This is the eighteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program.

Why Collect Alaska Airlines Miles?

Alaska Airlines miles are great for booking Emirates First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class. These are two ultra-luxury cabins, and Emirates First Class is not part of any airline alliance. Check out my trip report!

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Emirates First Class Suite

Collecting Alaska Airlines miles is easy. Both the personal and business cards from Bank of America are churnable, meaning you can get the same bonus over and over.

Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances.

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  • What airlines can you fly with Alaska Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Alaska Airlines awards?
  • What are the special features of the Mileage Plan program?
  • How can you book an Alaska Airlines award?

This is the seventeenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the British Airways Avios program.

Why Collect British Airways Avios?

British Airways Avios are very often the best miles to book short, direct, economy flights.

I like international First Class as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii or Hong Kong to Tokyo or Chicago to Dallas.

British Airways Avios are completely different than the other major types of miles like United and American miles.

While most major airline miles are region-based, Avios are distance-based.

Different equals more valuable when it comes to miles because it opens up different types of high value awards.

  • What airlines can you fly with British Airways miles?
  • What are the routing rules for British Airways awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the Avios program?
  • How can you book a British Airways award?

This is the sixteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the US Airways Dividend Miles program.

Why Collect US Airways Miles?

US Airways has the best award chart. Seriously, check out how much cheaper it is than its competitors.

The award chart probably won’t see any major changes until Dividend Miles integrates with AAdvantage in 2015.

US Airways has the laxest routing rules. Route basically however you want from point A to point B to point C to have the most exciting and cheapest combination of stopover and destination.

Collecting US Airways miles now is easy. Right now you can get The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase. Check out all the places you can go with just that sign up bonus.

US Airways miles have access to amazing luxury products like Cathay Pacific First Class. Check out my trip report!

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US Airways miles will become American Airlines miles in 2015. If you’re collecting American Airlines miles, and you want more, get US Airways miles now and enjoy their conversion to American Airlines miles next year.

  • What airlines can you fly with US Airways miles?
  • What are the routing rules for US Airways awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the Dividend Miles program?
  • How can you book a US Airways award?

This is the fifteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Delta SkyMiles program.

Why Collect Delta Miles?

Because they exist. It is no secret that Delta miles are less valuable than American Airlines, United, and US Airways miles.

  • Delta releases less award space than its competitors
  • SkyTeam, Delta’s alliance, is the least interesting alliance
  • Delta’s award chart is more expensive overall than all three of its competitors
  • You cannot book one way awards for half the price of roundtrips with Delta miles
  • You cannot book international First Class with Delta miles

But worth less does not mean worthless. Delta miles can be used to get to all six inhabited continents, and Delta miles are often the best to get to Australia in a flat bed.

  • What airlines can you fly with Delta miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Delta awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the SkyMiles program?
  • How can you book a Delta award?

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