Frequent flyer miles -- the more you fly, the more you get.
But racking up enough miles to redeem them for actual tickets can take years of flying, years of, as it's called, B.I.S. -- "butt in seat." Unless you know a few tricks that can earn you miles faster.
For example, did you know you can get miles by the millions without ever getting on a plane?
Money-saving travel expert Rick Ingersoll started the "Frugal Travel Guy" blog to offer tips to the common man. He hosts conferences for frequent flyer mile hobbyists that attract upwards of 500 people. In the past year, Ingersoll said he and his wife were able to fly to several places on tickets paid with his millions of miles.
"This year we have gone to Greece," he said. "From Savannah to Athens and then down to a little island, flew over to Dubrovnik in Croatia spent some time there, then up to split also in Croatia, then up to Amsterdam and back all in business class."
Total flight cost: 120,000 frequent flyer miles apiece plus $60 apiece in taxes.
Trick #1: Apply For Credit Cards With Bonus Miles, If You're Eligible:
But those miles are nothing to folks like Ingersoll, who is a frequent flyer millionaire many times over. The first trick he recommends is to cash in on credit card bonuses. Several banks now offer new credit card holders sign-up bonuses of 20,000, 40,000 and sometimes 70,000 miles or points.
According to Ingersoll, the more credit cards you sign up for, the more points you get, though most cards require you spend at least a few thousand dollars first. While this may sound like something will wreck your credit score, Ingersoll said that's not the case.
"Every time you apply for a credit card, they do what is called an inquiry on your credit report," he explained. "It costs between 2 to 5 points on your score. It is not a big hit on your score."
However, Ingersoll cautions that people with shaky credit, who cannot pay in full on a monthly basis or who are applying for a mortgage in the near future, should NOT be playing this game.
Trick #2: "Mileage Runs"
It's a method for people who have the time to get on a plane and just fly around over a weekend.
"One day I flew from Austin to Dallas to Orange County, California, left the airport and then spent five hours with my relatives. Then got back on a plane flew to O'Hare, then Frankfurt, Germany, sat in the lounge for about an hour and then Frankfurt back to O'Hare back to Austin," said Bob Dashman, one of Ingersoll's conference participants.
Trick #3: "Mattress Runs"
For hotel-hoppers, it's called "Mattress Runs." Lots of hotel chains offer points that can be converted into airline miles or free hotel nights. Of course, this also can get extreme when people like Win Schaeffer, another conference participant, hear about the Hampton Inn in Orlando, Fla., offering a bonus for each separate stay in a short period of time.
"I take my son to Disney World, we hop from hotel to hotel every night: 13 days, 13 stays," he said.