Frequent Flyer Miles – is collecting even worth it?

I have been reading a lot different opinions on collecting frequent flyer miles and the different airline programs in the last times. Is collecting worth it? What’s the best program for me? What can I do with my miles? I want to give some answers and tips for you.

When should I start collecting miles?

For sure business travelers who travel often and mostly with the same or partnered airlines are most likely to collect miles and to benefit from it. You actually don’t have to be flying monthly for the miles to pay off but flying several times a year is the base to collecting miles. I am traveling frequently, the biggest part are private trips but collecting miles has never brought me to a frequent traveler level on any airline or program yet. I will tell the reason for that later in that article.
But nonetheless, you can also collect miles on your private vacation trips. Nowadays even some airlines that are mostly flying to vacation destinations are offering frequent flyer programs (for example: Air Berlin with Topbonus, Transavia with Flying Blue, Tunisair with Fidelys or Condor with Miles & More). Unfortunately it is still not possible to collect miles on a lot of smaller and charter airlines. So called network carrier, such as Lufthansa, American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas or ANA are the airlines offering you to collect miles within their network (even including some partner airlines) and give you the best chance to collect a lot of miles as they are offering a large variety of destinations.
So it’s never too late to join a frequent flyer program, but you should choose:

Which one is the best for me?

Today there are hundreds of frequent flyer programs offered by many airlines, most offering the same or similar benefits for their frequent flyers. For sure there is no sense in joining the frequent flyer program of all airlines you have ever been flying with as this will most unlikely make you become a frequent flyer or a higher status on any of them. The best is to make a small choice like one or two which are covering a couple of airlines you are frequently flying with as they are the home carrier of your country or flying to destinations you travel to a lot. The best option are programs that are covering more airlines than just one such as Miles and More (covering most Star Alliance members), Flying Blue (covering many Skyteam Alliance Airlines) or British Airways Executive Club (covering most Oneworld Alliance members). Beside collecting miles for your flights, most programs are giving you the chance to collect miles for hotel stays or car rentals with their partner companies but in many cases these miles are just award miles that are not helping you to climb up to a higher level, but let you earn points for future free flights, upgrades or other awards.

What is the difference between “award miles” and “status miles”?

The difference is quite easy to explain, as status miles are the ones helping you to get to a higher status such as frequent flyer with more benefits while award miles are not helping to increase your status but will be added to your total and that can be redeemed for awards, extra services or free flights. Status miles are the ones you collect while flying, award miles are mostly collected through partner companies such as hotels, car rental companies or shops.

What can I redeem my miles for?

There is a wide range of different possibilities to redeem your collected miles, some of the most common ones are: free flights, upgrades to a higher class or non-monetary awards. But be careful: with most programs (not all), award miles expire after a few years if unused, so don’t save miles for too long!

When is collecting miles not making sense?

Collecting frequent flyer miles is not always making sense. The best example are if you want to fly to a destination that is served by several airlines and the one you are collecting miles from is not one of the cheapest. Why would you pay 100 bucks more just to get a few miles or to get nearer to the next status level? If that is exception it might be worth it to pay the extra money, but if that happens quite often and you fly with a lot of different airlines as you choose by price it is not really worth booking a more expensive airline just for the miles. For sure that is what the airlines want you to do, but if you fly often and pay a lot more just to collect more miles, you might just get back less in the end than you have paid before.

My conclusion: collecting miles can be worth it, but it depends on your way of booking. Are you flying with the same airlines frequently or are you choosing your flight by price and try a lot of different airlines due to this? In the first case it makes sense, in the second case it doesn’t. Me I am actually loving to fly, I fly as often as possible but I choose my flight by price so that I always have some miles on the accounts of my dedicated frequent flyer programs but have never made it to be a frequent flyer on any of them (and I doubt I’ll be one day). Being a frequent flyer on any program brings you some advantages, but if you pay extra for them as you have to choose the more expensive flight sometimes you might be better off with buying a premium ticket (Premium Economy or Business Class) from time to time and it might even save you some money.

I hope I was able to give you some ideas of different ways to collect miles and gave some advice on if you should collect miles when flying next time. As always, you can contact us by commenting below or just dropping an e-mail to thealterlookout@freenet.de in case you have any questions or suggestions.
Also don’t forget to follow our Twitter ( http://www.twitter.com/thealterlookout ) and Instagram ( http://www.instagram.com/thealterlookout ) to be always up to date about our blog posts and to see some pictures even while we are travelling.

Hendrik

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