Flights are one of the most expensive parts of a travel itinerary. I know hotels can be expensive too, but there are alternatives to hotels, you can always find the one that fits your budget. Airlines operate in a range and unless you plan too well in advance, you are not going to get them cheap enough.
Let me tell you that I did my Sri Lanka trip with my frequent flier miles way back in 2005. Since then, every 12-18 months, I do a domestic trip with free flights courtesy my frequent flier miles.
Where can you Earn Air Miles?
- Membership of frequent flier programs of various airlines – This is plain and simple. Register with various airlines and airline alliance programs and every time you fly, you earn some loyalty points on your membership. It takes typically 20 flights to reach a level where you can redeem your miles. Miles typically expire after a year, which means if you are not flying too often you may not be able to redeem miles.
- Review programs that add miles to your account – When you write reviews on portals like TripAdvisor, you get 50-200 miles per review and that gets added to the participating airlines program, if you are a member there.
- Right Choice of Credit Cards – Every time you spend using your credit card, you earn some loyalty points that can be redeemed for many things but for a traveler what is better than Air Miles. However, you need to be careful in choosing your credit cards you use if you want to redeem primarily for your travel needs that include flights & hotels.
In the western world there are many more ways to earn miles but in India these are the three sources that are working well at the moment. So sign up for all the airline programs you travel with.
How to Choose the right Credit Card?
Now the trick lies in your ability to consolidate all the points through all these channels so that you can use them before you lose them to expiry date. Given the options available with limited number of airlines offering frequent flier miles, what you can essentially play around with is the right choice of Credit card program that gives you maximum flexibility to use earn as well as use your miles.Credit cards offered by most banks are tied up with single airline which may not be the airline of choice on account of service or costs, so always choose the one that gives you redemption options across airlines. Let me give you an example – CitiBank PremierMiles Credit Card that comes with options like:
- Redeem miles on 100 airlines across the world – which means you can earn on credit card spend and redeem it on most airline programs you are part of.
- 10,000 miles on first spend – Now if you collect miles; you know that it is not easy to get 10,000 miles in one go. You also get 3000 miles every time you renew your card. With an annual fee of Rs 3000/- this means that your card essentially comes free when you use those miles.
- You can redeem your miles for hotel stays and car rentals besides flights.
- While you earn 4 miles for every Rs 100/- spent using PremierMiles card, you get higher miles, say 10 miles for same amount spent at their own portal www.premiermiles.co.in or when you keep an eye on co-promotions that offer higher miles for partner airlines or e-commerce portals. Yes, that could mean every time you place an order on Flipkart, some miles are added to your account. A good way to consolidate your loyalty earnings. These miles are over and above the miles that you get at your regular airline frequent flier program. With Premier Miles card you can earn miles when booking not just via airlines sites but also via portals like ClearTrip etc.
- The Miles never expire which means you can easily accumulate them till they are redeemable for that dream flight or that dream hotel.
- Freebies like complimentary access to some airport lounges in India can add a layer of comfort to your journey. Access to premium lounges can cost anywhere upwards of Rs 500/-
Cards like CitiBank PremierMiles Credit cards let you earn the miles at one end and give you a vast range of redemption options at the other end. With a little bit of planning you could be financing a part of your next big vacation.