Posted by Todd Smith
How would you like to fly first class anywhere in the world free of charge? Every time I fly internationally, I fly first class in my own fully-reclining seat…FOR FREE. In this lesson, I will teach you the tricks of the trade: how you can accumulate frequent-flyer miles without ever getting on an airplane so that when you actually take a trip, you can fly in luxury and land rested, ready to go.
Did you know you could accumulate airline frequent-flyer miles by selecting credit cards that give you one mile for every dollar you spend? Do you know the best way to use your miles to gain the greatest value?
When I took a trip to Thailand, I traveled for more than 27 hours, including one 16-hour flight. Unlike most people who would dread this type of trip, I had been looking forward to it because I was flying first class. And, unlike first-class seats on domestic flights, international first class provides you with twice the legroom and a reclining seat that opens into a bed.
How I Accumulate Miles
My wife and I have a United Airlines credit card that we use for all our personal purchases. I also have an American Airlines credit card I use for all my business purchases.
Having two cards allows me to easily separate my business and personal expenses and it allows me to collect miles on two airlines, giving me more options when I travel. Both credit cards give us one frequent-flyer mile for every dollar we spend.
The Best Value for Your Miles
Don’t stop reading this because you don’t have any plans to fly internationally for business. How about going on that African safari you’ve always wanted to do? Would you like to visit the Great Wall of China, scuba dive on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, ski in the Swiss Alps, or attend the Olympics?
The best use of your accumulated miles is to fly internationally. Both United and American require 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip coach ticket. From Tampa, I can fly just about anywhere in the U.S. for less than $300, as long as I plan in advance. This means that each mile has a value of just over $0.01 per mile. Both airlines require an average of 135,000-145,000 miles for a first-class international award ticket. If you would pay cash for such a ticket, the fare could be as low as $5000 or as high as $18,000. When I use my accumulated miles for international trips, each mile has a value of over $0.05 per mile–five times the value of a domestic coach seat.
While I almost always fly coach when traveling domestically, flying coach internationally is just an awful experience. It is virtually impossible to sleep in a coach-class seat and if you do, you won’t sleep long. Whether you are traveling internationally for business or pleasure, you don’t want to land feeling exhausted and aching all over.
Compare saving $1500 by redeeming your miles for five domestic coach tickets to using those same miles to fly first class anywhere in the world you’ve dreamed of visiting. If there is someplace on your “Bucket List” you want to go, now would be the time to get your airline credit cards and start saving your miles. Even if it takes you five or more years to save enough miles, it will be well worth it.
The second-best value for your miles is to use them to fly first class to Alaska (redeem 50,000 miles) and the third-best value is first class to Hawaii (80,000 miles).
While my wife and I selected American and United, every airline offers credit cards. There are also credit card companies such as CapitalOne, where you can use your miles on any airline. The downside is they require a lot more miles for both domestic and international trips. My advice is to select a credit card that is offered through a major international airline. Even if they don’t fly where you ultimately want to go, more than likely they will have a partner airline that does.
My last tip is to always book your free tickets as far in advance as you can. The airlines limit the number of seats available per flight for people redeeming miles.
While I realize this lesson was a bit more pragmatic than the others, I hope you will be able to put my recommendations to the test. When you experience what it’s like to sit in first class on an international flight and land refreshed, you will know that little things matter. For the best hotel deals anywhere in the world, go to Hotel Deal Site.
Don’t just use your miles to save money; use them to improve the quality of your life.
Things you were never taught
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.
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