Given that almost each airline carrier has it’s own points/miles system, it can seem a daunting task to understand each and everyone. Admittedly, when I started researching this area more in-depth it took me sometime to figure it out, but now that I have invested my time into this dumbfounding topic, I hope I can clear it up for you – the reader.
Creating an account with the airline
Everytime you fly a particular airline, by rule of thumb, have an account with them to accrue points on your flights. Remember to add your frequent flyer/membership number BEFORE you take the flight as adding in points after a flight are a royal pain and waste a lot of time.
This way, everytime you fly an airlines, you get a few points each trip. Additionally, shopping through their portals for clothes/miscellaneous items (as you would on Amazon or Macy’s) will accrue more points (in some cases more than actually flying).
Tracking your points
After a completed flight or transaction, ensure those points are added to your account within 7 business days otherwise you may have to contact customer care to re-instate the points/miles.
Understand airline partnerships and various alliances
Taking two popular examples (there are more), Star Alliance (which includes Air India, United, ANA, Air Canada, etc…) and One World (Qatar, British Airways, American Airlines, etc…) airline partnerships are the largest in the world. Other partnerships might be bilateral like the ones between Alaska Air and Emirates or Delta and Virgin Atlantic amongst others.
It’s best to know the ones relevant to you depending on the flight you either travel often or one’s you wish to fly in the future. In some cases, international travel can earn enough points/miles for a domestic one or in some cases round-trip.
Additionally, the more frequent a flyer you are and depending on your ticket type (basic economy/economy/business/first) you can slowly or quickly gain status with a particular airline. Ideal cases for quickly racking up status with an airline is traveling for work where they pay for your travel but you still get the points and future free upgrades.
Once you reach a certain status with airlines, you can request status matching with other partner airlines too.
What is status matching?
If you have Silver status with British Airways, you may request Emirates for a status match and they might upgrade you to Emirates Silver/Gold. Learn more on how to status match here. Similar rules/concepts apply to hotel statuses too.
What are the additional ways of attaining points/miles?
This is where travel credit cards really come into play. Popular card ecosystems include the Chase UR earning cards, American Express MR point earning cards and Capital One Venture cards. Each ecosystem earns points based on category spends and multipliers as stated for each card.
For example, I cover how the Chase Freedom card earns enough points per quarter to redeem them for a roundtrip ticket in the US.