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A travel hacker usually wants to earn miles when they pay to fly (or, even better, when somebody else is paying!). These miles usually have two separate purposes: qualifying for elite status and earning redeemable miles. If you don’t really care about elite status, then the value of your redeemable miles is all that matters. Due to the advent of airline alliances and other partnerships, you can earn miles by flying on partner airlines. So, shouldn’t you try to earn the most valuable miles when flying?
Of course this leads to a veritable alphabet soup. Programme A lets you earn 100% of miles flown in fare class B, whilst Programme B offers 25% of miles flown in fare class O. A nightmare…
Luckily, somebody has put together a useful resource that you can find at www.wheretocredit.com. It lets you compare the highest mileage earning rates depending on your airline and your ticketed fare class. Since it is now easy to figure out how many miles you can earn in a variety of airline programmes, why wouldn’t you choose to earn:
- for the same earning ratio, the most valuable miles?
- with different earning ratios, the programme offering substantially more miles for the same flight?
There are too many variables to make a blanket statement, but the next time you buy a paid ticket, perhaps it is worth crediting your flight to an “exotic” frequent flyer programme.
Instead of earning Avios, why not consider Alaska Mileage Plan?
- 85K Alaska miles will get you a no-surcharge return return in Business Class to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. (BA will charge 150-180K plus surcharges)
- 100K Alaska miles will get you a no-surcharge return in Business Class to North America on American Airlines, including a stopover and U.S. domestic connections. (BA will charge 100-150K plus surcharges)
Instead of earning Flying Club miles, why not consider ANA Mileage Club or Singapore Krisflyer?
- It is notoriously difficult to spend Flying Club miles on partners, and you can only really manage 1p of value by flying on Economy rewards
- 68K ANA miles for a return in Business Class to the Middle East / India on Etihad (Virgin will charge 75-95K plus surcharges to Dubai or Delhi for Upper Class)
- Krisflyer is the only way to access Singapore Airlines premium cabins, but as a Membership Rewards partner you can easily top up a Krisflyer account
Instead of signing up for Skywards, why not consider Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank?
- JAL has a great reward chart. You can fly on any single Oneworld partner to many Asian destinations for 80-110K miles (return) in Business or 115-160K miles (return) in First Class. (Skywards will charge 150-160K (Business) or 225-240K (First) with a connection in Dubai)
Perhaps the latest InsideFlyer contributor Dr. Redeye can explain the virtues of Qatar Privilege Club but I definitely wouldn’t rush to earn Avios when I could choose from:
- Asiana Club – wouldn’t you love to have outspoken Qatari CEO Al-Baker indirectly pay for your reward flight on Etihad?!?
- American Airlines AAdvantage – ditto…
- JAL Mileage Bank
In the days before I took travel hacking seriously, I had a few long haul flights to Asia for business. Since Air France was the cheapest I had to connect in Paris. But rather than earn valuable Alaska miles I believe I earned some meagre Flying Blue or Delta miles that eventually got me a one-way domestic flight in the U.S. Lesson learned… Besides Alaska Mileage Plan, you could also choose JAL Mileage Bank.
If you hate paying surcharges, or end up positioning out of your way to use your Avios on Air Berlin or Iberia, why not stop to think. Rather than earn Avios or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on your flights, why not earn some “exotic” miles and become an advanced travel hacker? After all, you’ll never really struggle to earn Avios at home…