Here are my annual TOP 10 TIPS for using frequent flyer miles and credit card points –

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# 1 – American and United have the best frequent flyer programs –
Of the big three domestic airlines, AA and UA have websites that are pretty easy to use to find freebie space. They appear to have a lot more “saver award” space that allows for redemption for a reasonable amount of frequent flyer (FF) miles for both domestic and international free tickets than does Delta. DL freebie space is easy to find but often requires twice as many miles as other airlines. Perhaps their planes are so full they don’t have enough empty seats to redeem for freebies.# 2 – Book your free tickets very early or very late –
A lot of airlines open up frequent flyer seat inventory very early (11 months in advance) or very late (7 to 10 days prior to departure).

# 3 – Don’t use miles for upgrades but for free premium class tickets –
It is a much better deal to use your miles for free tickets and not for upgrades. Most airlines today charge a very high number of miles plus cash to upgrade a seat domestically and internationally. You are much better off simply using all miles for a freebie premium seat ticket than messing with buying a ticket and then using miles and cash to upgrade and in some cases not being able to confirm your upgrade until the day before travel.

# 4 – Use your miles for international business and first class –
This is how you get the biggest bang for your buck. It is pretty easy math. Saver award space (low season) takes about 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip ticket ($400 value or 1.6 cents per mile). International economy class to Europe is 60,000 miles ($1200 value or 2 cents per mile). International business class is 90,000 miles ($4500 value or 5 cents per mile) and international first class is about 140,000 miles ($9000 value or 6.4 cents per mile). You can easily see the value in your miles is using them for international business and first class seats.

# 5 – Airline partners often have easier and cheaper freebie tickets than the major U.S. Airlines –
United, American, and Delta all belong to airline alliances that allow you to redeem airline miles on multiple airlines. There are 28 airlines in the Star Alliance with United Airlines. It is often much easier and a lot cheaper to find a premium (business or first class) freebie seat on a United partner airline like Lufthansa, ANA, Korean Air, and Asiana than on United Airlines. You are still using UA miles, just flying on a partner airline.

# 6 – Beware of airline fuel surcharges on free tickets –
Three cheers for AA, DL, and UA as they don’t charge fuel surcharges on freebie tickets. International airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways can charge $1000 or more in fuel surcharge fees on free tickets.

# 7 – The best credit card with the easiest to use points is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card (SPG) –
This is my favorite as you can redeem for hotel room nights as low as 2400 points a night (5 cents a point) at Starwood hotels like Westin, Sheraton, and Four Points. You can also use your SPG points and transfer them into airline miles. Here is the best part. For every 20,000 points converted to airline miles, you get an extra 5000 miles. So 20,000 points = 25,000 airline miles. This card may be going away as Marriott has purchased Starwood and I am afraid this great card will soon be history.

# 8 – I put the majority of my credit card miles into Air Canada’s Aeroplan –
Air Canada is a member with United Airlines in the Star Alliance so I can use my Aeroplan miles to redeem for UA tickets. Sometimes I can find UA tickets cheaper on the Aeroplan site than on the United.com. This makes no sense but it happens a lot. I also seem to be able to redeem miles for premium seats on foreign airlines much easier and cheaper on Aeroplan than at United.com.

# 9 – Secure your airline tickets first when planning a vacation using FF miles – 
The more flexible you are the easier it becomes to find freebie seats using your FF miles. Always start your vacation planning by securing your freebie airline tickets. It is much easier building your hotel stays around your freebie tickets than the other way around.

# 10 – Complimentary upgrades are fast going the way of the dinosaur –
Airlines are dramatically lowering the price of first and business class seats in certain markets to try to get people to buy the seats rather than have all the premium seats filled with non-revenue complimentary upgrade customers. The airlines have figured out in the past that they might sell 4 out of 20 seats in first or business class and the rest were given as complimentary upgrades to their best customers. Now they are trying to lower the price of premium service so that people actually pay for the premium service.

BONUS – #11 – Executive Travel has a program to help you get the most out of your miles and credit card points – 
Points Simplified is Executive Travel’s newest service that uses your airline, hotel, and credit card points to book you the best deal for the least amount of points. We specialize in helping you use your frequent flyer miles and points (air, credit card, hotel) to find international business class tickets and upgrades as well as coach airline seats around the world. We also can help you convert your credit card points to maximize your points for any type of air, hotel or car travel. Our experts make using your points easy. Visit www.PointsSimplified.com for more information.

Our private “Boat & Bike” tour to the Netherlands is filling! –
Our first and very popular “Boat & Bike” tour is taking off in August and will ride along the Danube river, and an awesome journey through four European countries. Our second tour – the “Tulip and Windmills Cycling Tour” – is already half full. This trip is the ultimate European “Boat & Bike” tour to a cycling paradise, the Netherlands. We travel May 1-11, 2019 and our journey begins with three exciting days in Amsterdam, followed by eight fantastic days on board our privately chartered boat. An exclusive group of 24 travelers are welcomed, so do not hesitate to secure your spot. You ride at your own pace, and we have secured e-bikes for those who wish to join us at a more laid back speed. Read all the tour details HERE and reach out to our friendly Group Department for more information. Call 402-435-8888 today.

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