Learn to Use Points Like a Pro and You Can Book Luxury Travel For Free


3. Alliance Partners are golden. Kelly says one of the best ways to use frequent flyer miles is to understand and take advantage of the relationships between alliance partners and non-alliance partners. For example, you can book Etihad, the luxurious airline of the United Arab Emirates, using American Airlines miles, and there's often availability even though Etihad isn't in American's OneWorld alliance. On the other hand, if you looked up awards deals to the Middle East on AmericanAirlines.com, you'd find availability on British Airways. BA IS a OneWorld partner, but Kelly says, in this example, its flights cost you more miles and fees for a route that's often less direct. This is one of Kelly's more complicated concepts, but the savings are huge, and he himself explains it best, so read more here.

4. Layovers can be a GOOD thing. Say you've always wanted to go to Asia and Australia. Since they're on the other side of the globe, those are pricey tickets. BUT you can get two for the price of one by going to both on the same trip. For example, many airlines –such as US Airways-- will let you stop over for several days in Asia on the way to Australia. All this on a free award ticket! And get this: Kelly points out that a business class trip to Australia is 110,000 miles, while to Asia it's 120,000 miles, so you're actually getting two trips for less than the price of one! I'm proud to say that even though I'm not known as "The Points Gal," I did this once years ago. My husband and I wanted to go to Hong Kong and Thailand. We learned we could book a trip to Thailand with a stopover of as long as a month in Hong Kong –for no extra money or points!

5. Buying miles can be a good deal. Many airlines now let you combine miles and cash for trips. People like to grumble that there's no such thing as a free trip anymore, but consider this: Kelly has done the math and that 110,000-mile trip to Australia could cost as little as $2,275.50 if you combine cash and points. By contrast, a regular cash ticket would cost well over $6,000.

6. Upgrades are not the best use of miles.* There's long been an attitude that the best use of points is for upgrades –probably because booking actual tickets for points can seem challenging. However, Kelly says it's mostly a myth these days because many airlines now charge huge fees on business or first class tickets upgraded with points. However, like any good airline advertisement, this tip contains an important asterisk* in it. Kelly says one airline, British Airways, is an exception. Apparently, BA offers generous upgrade opportunities that are inexpensive whether you're paying with cash or points.

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