Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Sign Up for Loyalty Programs


This is the 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously The Definitive Guide to Cheap Luxury Travel.

In just a few days, you’ll be earning hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles, and you need a place to put them. Below are the bare minimum programs you need to be a member of as a US-based flyer, and as you get more involved with the miles game, you’ll probably sign up for more.

By signing up for these programs, you’ll be able to take advantage of most major miles promotions, and you’ll be able to fly domestically and internationally for pennies.

Each one should just take a moment to sign up for, and don’t skip any even if you’ve never flown the airline. Trust me that they all have a lot of value. For instance, you might not expect that British Airways is often the best program for US domestic flights.

If you already have an account, then try to sign into it, so you can figure out your account number and password. Write down your user name or number and passwords all in one place, we’ll need them again very soon.

If you fly any other carriers like Virgin America or JetBlue, you should also sign up for their programs, but if you don’t fly them, you can stick to the eight listed airlines. If you’re an avid couchsurfer, you can skip signing up for the hotels.


AirTran (recently bought by Southwest, so joining unlocks a trick with Southwest points)

American Airlines

British Airways

Delta Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines (if you had a Continental Onepass account, United automatically rolled that into a Mileage Plus account)

US Airways


Club Carlson



IHG Rewards Club



Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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  1. Thanks for all your work. Do you also tell us if the airlines have transfer of points specials?. I have to move points. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for all you do. I’ve really learned a lot from your site since I found it about 1 month ago.

    I have a quick question about loyalty programs- In certain hotel programs, there is the option to earn airline miles instead of hotel points. I understand that transferring points to miles is generally not a good idea because of transfer rates, but what about earning miles directly from stays? Seems like it would be a better rate than transferring?

    Also, if I have my earnings pref set to miles in, say, Marriott rewards, and I apply for the Marriott card with 50K points…does this mean those points instead become miles in my selected partner airline? Thanks again!