Tag Archives: Star Alliance

Why I started collecting miles and points

Hello everyone! Frequent Flyer Collector has invited me to be an guest contributor/blogger to this site.  So I’ll tell you a little about me and why I started this travel hobby.  I started aggressively collecting miles last year, and I like to think I’m one of the friends that originally inspired Mr. Collector (aka jfoo) to join the game.  I’ve done a lot of business travel over the years, and after many years I accumulated about 200,000 frequent flyer miles from flying, spread across several programs (American, Delta, Continental, etc).  I hardly ever used them, because they seemed pretty useless.  Airlines would advertise that you can get a free domestic ticket for 25,000 miles, but there seemed to hardly ever be availability, at least not when I wanted to travel.   Eventually the airlines started offering “saver awards” for 25,000 miles (with very limited availability), and “standard” awards for 50,000 miles which had better availability (anywhere in continental USA).  OK, so at least a standard award might be available when I want to travel, but that would take about ten cross-country round-trips to earn enough miles for ONE free ticket.  And that is only if the ten trips are all on the same airline!  I can usually get a domestic round-trip for $400 or less, so I valued the miles at less than one cent each.

But sometime in about 2010, I finally realized the real value of collecting miles.  Their greatest value is booking premium travel (first or business class) overseas.  First some background information:  If you buy a ticket from the USA to Asia, you probably will pay about $1000-$1500 round-trip for economy class, $5000-$8000 for business class, and $10000-$15000 for first class.   As much as I enjoy premium class travel, that is way more than I can afford to pay for a vacation.  So I’d typically pay around $1000 for a very miserable 18-hour trip to Asia, thinking I could never afford to sit up front with the rich people.  But very occasionally, my status as a very frequent traveler got me upgraded, and that turned a miserable overseas flight into a very enjoyable flight, with a big, comfortable seat that reclines like a bed (in case I want to sleep), awesome food and drinks, interesting people to talk to, and a much more quiet, relaxing environment.  I just wished I could always sit up there!

Now if you want to use miles to book an award ticket to Asia, on United that costs 65,000 miles in economy, 120,000 in business class, or 140,000 in first class (round trip).  Of course availability of saver awards to Asia (or anywhere) on United is pretty limited, but at these levels, but if you COULD book saver awards at these levels, the frequent flyer miles are worth as much as 10 cents each.  But eventually I realized that you actually can get awards at this level, because United miles can be used to book tickets on any of United Airlines “partner” airlines!  So if traveling to Asia, even if United does not have award seats on United flights, you can use United miles to travel to Asia on Asiana, Singapore Air, Thai Airways, Al Nippon Airways (ANA), Air China, Continental, or any of United’s 26 Star Alliance partners.  With so many options, there is almost always at least one airline that has premium award seats available when you want to travel.

Of course, it would take a lot of traveling to earn that many miles just from flying.  Suddenly, those credit cards offering bonuses of 50,000 miles, 75,000 miles, or even 100,000 miles just for signing up seemed a lot more valuable.  And when you can apply for several credit cards in one day, you can quickly get enough miles to earn a free ticket overseas that would other wise cost $5000 or $10,000 or more!  And with so many credit cards out there offering bonuses, you can do this over and over again!    It does take some work to find the best credit card deals, to learn how and when to apply for credit cards,  and to learn how to use the rewards, but I think it is well worth it.  Of course, reading this blog will drastically reduce the amount of work to find this information, because you can learn a lot from the research we’ve already done and the experiences we will share.

Well that’s enough for now.  You’ll be hearing from me here in the future, so stay tuned.