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mileBlaster frequent flyer tricks & tips

Posted by Jack Costello on February 21, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 29 Comments

Did you need to know how to transfer frequent flyer miles between airlines? Do you need a few miles to get to a free trip? Or do you have some miles that are expiring or you think you will never use?  It may be you can get the points you need, or get rid of the points you don’t need, by transferring them to another program.  The transfer rates are sometimes good, sometimes not good; our chart shows you the gotchas.  Don’t forget to keep track of your miles before they expire, click here!

Think Ahead!

The best strategy is to get a Chase Saphire Preferred Card with 40,000 bonus points and convert those points at 1:1 to top up your airline accounts with a simple call to Chase Saphire. Or get a Starwoods Preferred Guest account and Starwoods credit card, as of this writing, this Starwoods credit card comes with a 10,000 point bonus – you can convert those to 10,000 American AAdvantage or Delta Skymiles miles, or 5,000 United Mileage Plus Miles, with a simple phone call to Starwoods.

Transferring miles through a middleman

You can use Hilton Honors as a middleman to transfer miles across programs, but it is a terrible transfer rate.  Amtrak is good for
Continental points, but its limited. also lets you transfer miles between programs – but they do take a lot of points and cash in the transfer, but they are definitely worth checking out.

Start with miles in Xfer Ratio Middleman Xfer Ratio Turn miles into Gotchas
American Express 1:1  
Alitalia MilMiglia
All Nippon Airlines
British Airways
Flying Blue
Singapore Air KrisFlyer
Virgin America
Virgin Atlantic Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Jack Costello on February 7, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 18 Comments

Upgrade to Business Class to Asia

The best route for using your award miles for upgrade to business class is travelling to or from Asia (including Australia and New Zealand) to the rest of the world.  The reasons are

1.  These are long flights and the extra room and comfort is worth the miles it will cost you.

2.  The business class fares on these routes are very expensive.

But there are better times of the year than others to get that business class upgrade from economy to business class using award miles, and knowing this will help you plan your dream vacation starting and ending with a luxury seat in Business or First Class.

Difficulty Level Getting an upgradable economy fare to Asia (so you can use award points to upgrade to business class)
Easy Late December to Late April
Not too Late April to Mid May
Pretty Mid May to Late AugustEarly December to Mid December
Extremely Mid December

Its no surprise that… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Jack Costello on January 27, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 40 Comments

Whether to spend miles or cash to pay for your ticket, that is the question; we have one quick check to help you decide.  Take the amount the ticket will cost you in cash and divide it by the number of miles you would need to use to redeem it.  If the result if greater than 0.025 use miles.  Otherwise use dollars.  IF CASH / MILES > 0.025  USE MILES  We accounted for fees and the miles you would earn if you spent cash in our formula, provided you can put the miles into a program that is worthwhile to you.  If you can’t put the miles into a worthwhile program, the number to beat changes to 0.027 because while you will earn some miles, they will probably be orphaned and expire without being used for any trips.  Our article on how to get to free trips explains how to easily avoid that.  Want to know how many miles your would earn for paying cash?  Our frequent flyer miles calculator will tell you.

Example 1:  New York to Sydney Australia, depart March 18, 2012 return April 23, 2012   Economy Cash Price $1570  Miles Price 80,000  Cash / Miles = 0.019   Our formula suggests you use cash but it is kind of close, so if you are short on cash or long on miles you can go with miles.  On these long haul flights you may want to fly business class so you can actually use your legs when you arrive at your destination, in our next example lets do the same trip in business class and see what we get.  Generally speaking long haul flights are a good time to use miles.  But use your head,… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Jack Costello on January 23, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 30 Comments

How savvy are you when it comes to collecting and using frequent flyer miles?  

1.  Do you collect miles in just one loyalty program per alliance?  (The alliances are Oneworld, Star and Skyteam.   If Yes, give yourself 10 points for each alliance in which you have only one loyalty program in which you deposit your points.  No?  Then you are splitting up your miles – redeemable and elite – and you will have several small accounts instead of a few big ones.  Several small accounts = not enough miles to take a trip or gain elite status in any one of them.  Few big accounts = big pile of points for redemption and elite qualifying status.  When you go to redeem miles, you can’t combine different loyalty program accounts.  You can take the miles from any alliance partner and use them to redeem a ticket or upgrade on a partner.  That is the key is to pick one program per alliance, and when you fly one of that program’s alliance partners’, put the miles into the program you picked.  For example, I put all my miles for Star Alliance into United Mileage Plus.  If I fly a partner of theirs like US Airways, I put the miles into Mileage Plus.  That gives me more redeemable and elite miles.  Need to know how many redeemable and elite miles you will get on a partner for a given trip?  Use our handy miles calculator in mileBlaster  (and if you did that, give yourself another 2 points.)  It figures out for any airline what program you should put your miles into, based on your miles totals in mileBlaster.  What to do if you have multiple programs in one alliance?  … Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Jack Costello on January 4, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 36 Comments

An extremely effective – and delicious – way to get to your free travel goals is by signing up for the mileage dining programs on United Mileage Plus, AAdvantage and other major programs (see below for a more complete listing.)  These programs allow you to accrue miles by eating in the participating restaurants and using the program credit card.  The reward is five times the miles you would have normally earned, with some bonuses and promotions at up to 10 times, which adds up very quickly.  If you spend $200 per month in dining at these restaurants you can rack up 10,00o to 20,000 miles a year.  The lists of participating restaurants is very large and you will see restaurants over the broad range of cousines and prices.

United Mileage Plus Dining

AAdvantage Dining

SkyMiles Dining

Posted by Jack Costello on January 4, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 29 Comments

1)  Believing the airline.  Airlines are not as interested in letting you redeem miles as they are in having you pay cash.  Seats are earmarked for award travel, but they are not always obvious.  If you want that saver award but don’t find any available, first check the airline alliance partners Star Alliance, Skyteam, and OneWorld (Hint, if you want a United seat, check the All Nippon Airways website for the United seat you want – they may not show it on United)   Call back, ask them to check partners, move things by a day or two in either direction.  Volunteer for one more connection, etc.  Then decide if paying double or trip miles is worth it – it might be, but make sure you know all your options!

2)  Not realizing the value of miles.  If you find “saver” level seats you can fly in north america for 25,000 miles.  That means DC to New York, but it also means Miami to Alaska.  Miles are the same…but the price certainly isn’t.  When you’re looking at an award, do a little math:  take the price (in cents) and divide it by the number of miles they want for the same ticket.  Why redeem 25,000 miles for a $200 ticket when you could redeem it in the future for a $1,200 ticket?  We believe that you should get at minimum 2.5 cents in value from a mile (25,000 miles = $375)  I wrote a whole post about it right here

3)  Overseas redemptions are worth more.  An overseas flight is longer and more uncomfortable than a domestic flight, and usually the perks on the flight are better to compensate for the long journey – particularly since those are the big profit routes and they want to get your business and get it again.  So trading in your miles for an overseas flight will get you more intangibles in return.

4)  The airlines give you all your options.  When you call for an award, 99% of the time you will only be offered what the agent sees on the first screen.  Ask them to scroll down.  Ask them to consider partners.  Ask them to consider multiple connections, and you might be shocked what you get.  I can’t speak to non Star Alliance, but I’ve been shocked when I called United, Continental, and US Airways.  I was once offered Washington National to Charlotte to Chicago to London on United…..a bit of prodding got me Washington Dulles to London nonstop on Virgin Atlantic.  Same price.  Ask ask ask if that’s the best they can do.  Many agents are lazy, pressed for time, or just uninformed.  The more you ask, the more you might get.

5)  All agents are the same.  This, to me, is the biggest.  Just because a phone agent tells you something is your option for using your miles does not mean it’s right.  If you don’t like it…put it on hold if they let you.  Then, call back.  You’ll be amazed the answers you get from other agents.  This relates to number 4 above, but not all agents are as interested, have the same skills, and are willing to go the extra mile.  Always, however, put things on hold if they let you.  THey might be giving you the best option, but if you suspect you can do better…call back!  You might be shocked!

Posted by Jack Costello on January 3, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 34 Comments

Okay, so you’ve saved all those frequent flyer miles – now you want to use them.  But it seems like you can never get the destination you want when you want it, especially in school vacation weeks and other high season periods.  Here are the four best ways to get the trip you want and when you want it.

1.  Look for your trip up to one year in advance.  The airline seats for many programs become available one year prior to the travel date, so set your calendar and call to make your booking early on that day.  Check the exact date for your program, the phone number for every program tracked in mileBlaster is right on the account details page.  Most major programs allow you to book your award travel online, and you can set alerts on some of these systems, for the rest make a note in your electronic calendar.

2.  Try to be a bit flexible on your travel dates and look for a range of travel dates.  Take that a little further, and be flexible about going to that super destination in its off peak season.  Not necessarily full off peak, but a month or so off can be a significant discount.  Certain vacations will not fit this approach like snow skiing, but you can tour Europe in Spring or Autumn and avoid the summer crowds, and you’ll find more ticket and rooms available.  This and the previous tip are especially true when traveling in groups of two or more.

3.  Try looking for the award from an alliance partner’s site.  United and other airlines suppress some of their award inventory on their own sites for control reasons, however that content is available unfiltered on their Star alliance partner’s site ANA

4.  Try the “search alliance partner” checkbox available on the major program sites like United Mileage Plus,  American AAdvantage and Delta Skymiles.  This will allow you to redeem your miles for travel with the program partner, especially handy when you are traveling somewhere that your loyalty program’s primary program does not travel to.  This broadens the inventory available to you.

5.  There are online tools available to those willing to venture into the world of cryptic codes used to identify seat types, but if you can get past that these tools provide a way to sort through all the available inventory and find the seats you want.  Then you can call the program and speak with an agent to redeem your seats, these sites only find the seats.


Posted by Jack Costello on December 5, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 21 Comments

Airlines have been adding a slew of nickel-and-dime fees over the past few years. Not only are we paying for peanuts these days, but we can’t even check bags without paying.

Thankfully there are a few credit card “back doors” to save you money and avoid the fee onslaught.

Some credit cards will just waive bag fees altogether if you buy your flight with them, and others will put you on the fast track to Elite status, earning you waived bag fees and access to luxury lounges with free food, drinks, and wifi.

Posted by Jack Costello on December 5, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 32 Comments

First and Business class are expensive – you would never want to pay the list price out of your own pocket.  But if you could do it for pennies on the dollar it would be a no brainer – lots of extra room, better service and a much more relaxing journey. You must look for first class upgrades, and they can be in some surprising places.

1. Check-in Online at Earliest Opportunity

At exactly 24-hours before your flight leaves, jump online and check-in for your flight; that’s when cheap first class upgrades are sometimes available. If you see any, know that they won’t last long, so if you like what you see, take advantage of it.

The reason airlines offer these at this stage of the game is simply because the seats are going begging, and they’d rather make a little something off them than nothing.

2. Stop at the Airline’s Kiosk in the Terminal

It doesn’t matter if you’ve already checked-in online, do it again (save time by using the kiosk, instead of going to the counter). Maybe they didn’t have upgrades available online, or maybe they were too expensive – but by the time you get to the airport, all that may have changed. Take another look. At this point, the airlines may be starting to get a little desperate.

3. Watch for Anxious Gate Agents

You might see this next time you’re waiting at the gate for an international flight -  a gate agent approaching individual passengers, and showing them a figure written down on .. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Jack Costello on December 5, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 43 Comments

Its the worst – you saved your miles for that big trip, and one day you go to use them for that dream trip and BOOM! they have expired – time ran out.  If its happened to you I don’t need to tell you how it feels.  How do you keep that from happening?  Reset the expiration clock with these three easy steps.

1.  Track your miles – use our free online miles tracker!

Forewarned is forearmed.  We alert you six, three and one month before your mile are due to expire, automatically via email.  Our emails even tell you how you can keep your miles from expiring -

2.  Do one of these things with your frequent flyer account

  • Earn more miles by taking a flight, staying in a hotel or renting a car with one of the providers partnered with that program – most programs have 30 or 40 partners.  Our free calculator shows you all the partnerships between airlines.
  • Redeem some of your miles for an award trip
  • Buy something small in the online malls from these programs – you can get a magazine subscription for 2000 miles.  We have the links to all the programs here. This is a cheap way to keep your miles.

3.  Get a program credit card and use it

Every time you use your program credit card, the earned miles reset the expiration clock.  Here are the best offers 

Posted by Jack Costello on November 12, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 1 Comment

I’m going on vacation to Hawaii next week – for free! That’s right, airfare Boston to Maui round trip, and 7 nights at the Kaanapali Shores Hotel – FREE! And we are sitting in Economy Plus because I earned elite status by collecting my miles using mileBlaster. Would you like to get a vacation for free? Or perhaps get upgraded to business class while only paying for a coach ticket? You can do all that by collecting frequent flyer miles – and mileBlaster has made collecting very easy.

If you’ve never collected miles we tell you all about it, with links to the programs to make it easy to join and understand. If you already collect miles we hope you will like the service we created to alert you before your miles expire and tell you about cheap and easy ways to keep them from expiring. Everyone wants to get more miles – and we at mileBlaster have every extra miles bonus on the planet so you can get extra miles for your flights, hotel stays and car rentals. And if you sign up for one of the frequent flyer miles cards the bonuses are so big you will instantly get a free plan ticket. After signing up you are going to earn you miles for every dollar you spend.
How to get the flight?

How did my girlfriend and I got a free vacation? She uses an American Express Travel Rewards Platinum Business credit card for her business for buying supplies. You can get one by signing into our travel center with a huge miles bonus – after you sign into the mileage tool just click on the “bonus” button in the mileage tool and scroll to American Express and look at their credit cards. I collect United Mileage Plus miles – by flying with United Airlines and their partners like US Air. But when I fly US Air I put the miles into United’s Mileage Plus program. Those miles also counted as elite miles so I earned elite status which lets me sit in Economy Plus for the price of the economy ticket. And I deliberately look for miles bonuses on United and their partners that will rack up my award miles faster. And I have a United Mileage Plus Visa Card, so every dollar I spend is another mile in my account. MileBlaster and Travelgrove make it easy to do, just sign into our travel center and use our miles calculator to see how many miles you will earn with different airlines in the program where you keep your miles. Sounds familiar? If you are already a frequent flyer, you will surely appreciate how easy our mileage tool makes organizing and optimizing your miles in one place.


Posted by Jack Costello on December 5, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 19 Comments

1.  Consolidate your miles into as few programs as possible with airline and hotel partnerships for earned miles and limited time bonuses

2.  Get miles for credit card sign-up and spending

3.  Book way ahead for the free seat(s) and room(s)

1  Consolidate airline and hotel loyalty programs

You want to consolidate your miles into one loyalty program per partnership group.  The biggest partnerships you probably have heard of – Star Alliance, Oneworld and Skyteam.  Each of these alliances has about 20 airline members, and if you fly one of the airlines in the alliance you can put your miles into any of the partner’s loyalty programs – and then redeem those miles for air travel on any of the partners.  Pretty nice!  The trick is to pick one loyalty program from each alliance that will be the one that you put your miles into, because you are not allowed to combine balances from different loyalty programs when you go to cash in your miles for a free ticket.  Most of the airlines have additional partners that are not part of the alliance.  (All these miles also count towards elite status, which I’ll talk about in another post.)  What is an easy way to see all the partners for any air program?  Sign into our mile tracking app and click the bonus tab, then scroll to the bottom to see all the partners.  Which program should you keep your miles in amongst the partners?  If you already have miles in one program then the choice is already made for you, but if you don’t, then you should pick a program that is associated with an airline you are likely to fly more often – or if you think you will fly enough to get to elite status on an airline, pick that one.  Don’t forget that all the major hotel chains let you rack up miles when you stay with them if you choose to do so, usually between 200 and 500 miles per night.  And the BIGGEST SECRET is the limited time bonuses that the airlines and hotels offer – those are all listed in our miletracking app under the bonus tab.  Just click on the button to register for the bonus, which is always free – but you must register for it to get it!

2.  Miles for credit card sign-up and spending – sign up when they offer the big bonuses

Its no secret that the credit card market is very competitive – so the credit card companies offer credit cards where for every dollar you spend, you get miles.  The trick is to wait until the program in which you want to get miles is offering a huge sign up bonus.  They don’t always offer the bonus, so you want to wait to get the card until they do.  And there is no reason why you can’t cancel a card you got a year or two ago, then get another one, if they are offering another sign up bonus!  Usually a good bonus is about 25,000 miles, enough for one free round trip ticket on most loyalty programs.

3.  Book reward travel as far in advance as you can

Each airplane offers a pre-set, small number of free seats for frequent flyer rewards.  So to get that free seat, it helps you to book as far in advance as possible, before someone else gets the seat.  The seats are usually made available exactly 365 days before the day of the flight, so you can look for the ticket as far as one year in advance and if you know you want it, book it!

Posted by Jack Costello on December 5, 2011 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 21 Comments

1.  Sign up for credit cards that award you miles or points for your purchases

2.  Pay your monthly bills like utility, rent, phone, etc. using your miles credit card

3.  Pay one time bills like taxes with your miles credit card

Hey we all want to get more free travel, but how can you really rack up the miles quickly?  Well, how big is your monthly spend for things like utilities, groceries, phone bill?  Could be thousands of dollars, right?  Well that can be thousands of miles a month, and in a year you could rack up enough to pay for your hotel and airfare!  We use our credit cards for gas and department store purchases, but did you ever think of paying your monthly phone and utilities bills with your credit cards?  Go through your monthly banking statement and see how many of those purchases could be reassigned to your card.  Rent can even be paid with a credit card, if you live in a property managed by a company that accepts credit card payments.  Why let all those dollars go to waste without getting part of all of a free vacation out of it every year!  Even the US Government will let you pay your taxes with a credit card, and as unhappy an event as that is, at least you can smile if you know you just earned a free trip.

Take a look at these cards, and by the way the huge signing bonuses that they each have, and pick one to pay your bills with, pick one and then translate your monthly phone, light and water bills to free travel.

Posted by Jack Costello on November 21, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks with 21 Comments

Earn up to 5x miles per dollar spent on your gift shopping at frequent flyer program online malls

Did you know that many of the loyalty programs tracked in mileBlaster have online malls that allow you to earn up to 5 times or more miles and points per dollar spent on with limited time offers on specific items, like 5x AeroPlan miles for UnderArmor?  Buy a few gifts for the people on your holiday shopping list, earn hundreds or thousands of miles!  We’ve made a convenient list of the malls here for you.  Many of them have limited time offers for holiday shopping.  Maybe with your holiday shopping you can top up your account enough to redeem your miles for your winter getaway.

American AAdvantage
Amtrak Guest Rewards
Avianca LifeMiles
British Airways
Choice Privileges 
Delta Skymiles
Etihad Guest
Frontier EalryReturns
Hawaiian Miles
Hilton HHoners 
Marriott Rewards
IHG Priority Club (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental)
United/Continental MileagePlus
US AirWays Dividend Miles
Virgin America Elevate
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Posted by Jack Costello on August 17, 2012 in Frequent flyer miles tricks, Uncategorized with 33 Comments

Bonus Mile Promos for Back to School Shopping

Since back to school shopping is here, many airline rewards malls have bumped up their rewards rates at popular back to school retailers. We’ve taken a closer look at these deals, however, to analyze how to best maximize bonus miles with back to school purchases.

American Airlines AAdvantage Shopping

Although airline carriers’ online malls tend to give less points and perks than credit card points programs, such as Chase Read the rest of this entry »

  • Recent Post

  • with mileBlaster you can...
    • stop your frequent flyer miles expiration - get alerts before your miles expire with easy ways to keep them so you can get your award trips!
    • track your frequent flyer miles and points to your award travel goals
    • reward yourself - get extra reward bonuses for your trip
    • get to your free airline trips and hotel stays faster
    • calculate the award and elite miles you will earn for your trip