Not long ago, I was planning a trip to visit some friends in Colorado. I had some extra Delta miles, so I checked out the availability for a long weekend in October. Round-trip tickets cost 10,000 miles or $275 in cash.
That works out to a value of 2.75 cents per mile, which is great. The problem was that I only had 8,500 miles in my account.
To complicate things, I wanted to book my flight as soon as possible because I was coordinating the trip with several other people who were also going to fly in from other parts of the country. The sooner I figured out what I was doing, the sooner they could book their own flights. Plus, I was afraid the saver redemption rate of 10,000 miles would disappear if I waited too long.
What do you do if you only need a few thousand more miles in order to book an award flight? I had enough points in my American Express Membership Rewards account, so I just transferred them to Delta SkyMiles. It was quick and easy.
There are, in fact, a lot of ways to quickly boost your miles. I’ve put together a list of ideas in case you find yourself in a similar situation and only need a few more miles to get an award flight.
Get a Rewards Credit Card
Let’s start with the basics: get a rewards credit card. If you already have one, think about getting another one. This will help you in a few ways. First of all, you’re likely to get a sign-up bonus worth tens of thousands of points.
How big the bonus is depends on the card you get. Some of them, like the Chase Sapphire card, will give you a generous 50,000 points. Others, like the Amex Gold and Green cards, don’t even offer a bonus. Choose wisely.
Typically you’ll have to spend a certain amount of money within three months to get the bonus. That amount varies, but it’s usually between $1,000 and $5,000. If you need the points or miles fast, try to find a card with lower minimum spend that you can reach within the first month. Or even one that does not require minimum spend though the annual fee is not generally waived on these cards.
You’ll also earn miles or points for every purchase you make with the card. Some cards are better for this than others, like the Chase Freedom or Amex Premier Rewards Gold cards. The Chase card, for instance, offers upwards of five points per dollar spent on certain types of purchases.
There are a lot of cards out there, and choosing the right one can be hard. If you’re focused on getting a few more miles for your next trip, consider a co-branded airline card, or a card that’s part of a rewards program that lets you transfer points to frequent flyer partners.
If you already have some miles with a specific airline, transferring points from one of the big credit card rewards programs is an easy way to top up that balance. The three programs that allow you to do that are American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
Be sure to choose a credit card rewards program that will allow you to transfer points to the carrier you want. Below are the transfer partners for each of the programs.
|Membership Rewards||Ultimate Rewards||ThankYou|
|Aeromexico||Air France KLM||Air France KLM|
|Air Canada||British Airways||Cathay Pacific|
|Air France KLM||Korean Air||Etihad|
|Alitalia||Singapore Airlines||EVA Air|
|British Airways||United||Malaysia Airlines|
|Cathay Pacific||Virgin Atlantic||Qantas|
|EL AL||Singapore Airlines|
You might be wondering if you can transfer your miles between carriers. For instance, can you get your Delta miles to Alaska Airlines? This is theoretically possible if you use a third party exchange or trade website, but you’ll always pay a lot of extra miles in the process. In short, you’ll lose so much of the value of your miles that you might as well leave them where they are.
Make a Big Purchase
If you have an awards credit card, consider making a big purchase or two. If you’ve been holding off on buying something, like new luggage for your big trip, get it now.
Better yet, buy something that falls into one of your card’s bonus earning categories. If you get double points for dining out, now might be a good time to splurge on a fancy meal at your favorite restaurant. And if you have a Chase Freedom or Ink Plus card and spend only $300 in a quintuple earning category, then you’ll get an easy 1,500 points.
Plan your purchases wisely and you’ll have enough for your award flight in no time.
Hit the Airline Shopping Portals
The three big U.S. carriers — Delta, United and American—all have online shopping portals associated with their frequent flyer programs. You can buy everything from flowers and clothing to cell phones, TVs and computers. And you’ll get miles while you do it.
If you buy through those sites, you’ll get a certain number of miles per dollar you spend, depending on the vendor. Be sure to pay with a rewards credit card so you can double dip and get points from the card as well.
These sites often run short-lived promotions that offer a lot of miles per dollar spent. Sometimes you’ll also get special discounts and perks, like free delivery. Check them out and see if there’s something for you.
Keep a Look Out for Special Airline Offers
Airlines often run special promotions that can earn you a lot of extra miles. Look for special offers on the frequent flyer program’s webpage.
You can earn bonus miles for everything from booking a cruise, renting a car, reserving a hotel room and flying on featured routes to switching energy providers, joining a wine club and going to a gym. Consider booking the hotel or rental car for your trip in advance and then using the miles you earn for your flight.
Generally speaking, buying miles is a bad idea. Airlines charge a lot for miles, driving down their value. Sometimes, though, they’ll run special deals offering bonus miles when you buy a certain number of miles.
To make sure you’re not paying too much, calculate how much the miles are worth for the redemption you want. In my case, I’m getting 2.75 cents per mile for my award flight to Colorado. If I have to spend more than that to buy miles, it’s not worth it.