Flight Tickets

Frequent Flyer Programs

The frequent flyer program is an incentive program operated by an airline to reward customers for their continued loyalty. As a flyer, you earn one mile for each mile that you fly on a particular airline. The concept behind frequent flyer programs is that the airlines want their passengers to become loyal customers. It is much more costly for the airlines to get new customers than it is to retain the ones they already have.

Today more than 85 million people participate, making frequent flyer programs the most pervasive and successful marketing programs ever developed and in the process, the frequent flyer mile has attained the status of a universal currency.

When mileage programs started two decades ago, you could only earn miles by flying. Today, there are about 1000 ways to get frequent flyer miles without ever leaving the ground.

How much is a mile worth?

A frequent flier mile is generally worth between one and two cents. So if you were flying a route that is less than 500 miles for which most programs award you a flat 500 miles your earnings would have a value of $5 to $10. International flights, which are approx 3,000 miles or more would net you $25 to $75 worth of miles.

What is the cost of joining Frequent Flier Programs?

There is no cost to join. Once you've signed up, you will receive a member guide (including the program Terms & Conditions) and a card with your name and membership number. You can enroll over the phone, via the Internet, or by mail. In the first two cases, you will receive a membership number immediately, your account will be activated, and you can earn miles for a flight later that same day. When enrolling via mail, it can take up to two months to receive your membership card and handbook.

How to Choose a Program and Enroll

Most airlines offer several ways to earn miles on the ground, including partnership agreements with car rental companies and hotel chains, credit cards, or other little gimmicks like ordering flowers. Some of these are good deals. others are not worth it.

Air Canada, Aeroplan (Star Alliance)

Air France/KLM, Flying Blue (SkyTeam)

Alaska Airlines, Mileage Plan

American Airlines, AAdvantage (Oneworld)

ANA, Mileage Club (Star Alliance)

British Airways, Executive Club (Oneworld)

Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles (Oneworld)

Delta Air Lines, SkyMiles (SkyTeam)

  • List of airline partners
  • Delta is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Emirates, Skywards

  • Award calculator
  • List of partners (toward the bottom of the page)
  • Emirates is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Etihad, Etihad Guest

Frontier Airlines, Early Returns

Hawaiian Airlines, HawaiianMiles

JetBlue, TrueBlue

Korean Air, SkyPass (SkyTeam)

Lufthansa, Miles & More (Star Alliance)

Qantas, Frequent Flyer (Oneworld)

Qatar, Privilege Club (Oneworld)

Singapore, KrisFlyer (Star Alliance)

Southwest, Rapid Rewards

United, MileagePlus (Star Alliance)

Virgin America, Elevate

  • Points have a fixed value.
  • List of partners
  • Virgin America is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Virgin Atlantic, Flying Club

Since the frequent business traveler represents the biggest group of profiable sales for the airlines, they are rewarded with an even greater system of upgrades. This is called the "elite" awards program. It involves three tiers: silver, gold and platinum. The elite status is often a special package of benefits given to an airline's best customers -- business travellers -- the ones using it most frequently.

Presently, there are several airline alliances as well as airline partner programs. You can also earn "miles" or "points" for other travel and non-travel transactions. Travel transactions can include hotel stays, rental cars, and more. Non travel related awards include credit card purchases, long-distance telephone services, even mortgages and even stock trades.... Finally, shopping at certain stores also provides an opportunity to "rack up" those miles.

The key to getting the best deal anywhere is to start doing your sums so you can make informed choices.
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