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Using Air Mile Reward Programs to Reduce Travel Costs

Chances are, if you've ever flown in an airplane, stayed in a hotel, or rented a car, you've heard about air mile reward programs. Businesses and people who frequently travel can greatly reduce their travel costs simply by participating in air mile reward programs and then redeeming their points.

How do Air Mile Reward Programs Work?
Also called frequent flyer programs, these programs typically allow specific airline customers enrolled in the program to collect points, or "miles," for each flight. Generally, the longer the flight, the more miles are accrued. These miles add up, and once a certain number of miles are obtained, travelers can redeem their points for a number of things, such as free airplane tickets or access to travel lounges.
While it used to be you could only redeem your miles with a certain airline, many airlines have joined forces, allowing their customers to use their frequent flyer miles on a number of different airlines.

Most air mile reward miles expire after a certain period of time, generally three years. Some companies also put expirations on miles if they remain active for a certain period of time.

Where Can I Use My Miles?
Air reward program miles aren't just for airplanes anymore. Many programs will allow you to redeem your miles at hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, even movie theaters and spas.

In addition, it's possible to obtain air miles in ways other than flying. Credit card companies, hotels, and restaurants also offer points, so they can accrue as well as be redeemed in all aspects of travel, from flying to driving to eating to spending the night in a hotel.

Using Air Mile Reward Programs to Reduce Travel Costs
If you travel frequently, either for pleasure or business, and you're enrolled in a frequent flyer program, it is advantageous for you to use your points whenever possible. And if you travel but aren't enrolled in a program, it's a good idea to do so, as these miles basically translate to free or reduced travel.

It takes about 20,000 miles for a domestic round-trip flight, but you don't have to have tens of thousands of dollars to save money. In fact, some people prefer to use their miles on things other than flights, as the rules associated with redeeming frequent flyer miles for flights are steep (rules such as blackout dates and required 320-day advance purchases make it difficult to secure the flight you want when you want).

However, you can reduce your travel costs by opting to redeem your points for such things as hotels (which also, by the way, earn you points - some as much as 10 points per dollar spent, so 1000 points on a one-night stay in a $100 hotel), restaurants, theme park passes, cruises, spas, and golf clubs. These perks often come at point values significantly lower than what it would take to redeems a flight, yet the savings would be comparable.

Air mile reward programs are a great way to cut travel costs. They're easy to earn and easy to use, so travelers would be wise to take advantage of them as much as they can.

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