Budgeting on the Fly: Get the Most From Your Miles


As the economy continues on its rollercoaster ride and gas prices remain at record highs, airlines are looking for ways to save money. Increasing the amount of frequent flyer miles required for a free trip is just one of many recent hurdles consumers face when booking flights.

The good news is, many mileage programs allow their members to use points for more than simply purchasing flights. Most of the programs allow points to be used for upgrades, rental cars, hotels, and select merchandise as well as for donations.
Here’s a look at some of the nation’s most popular mileage programs:


American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR): AAdvantage

Upgrades- Passengers on American Airlines and other oneworld airlines can use miles to upgrade previously purchased tickets. Upgrade an economy ticket within the U.S. for 5,000 miles, or go from business class to first class on a domestic flight for 15,000 miles.

Rental Cars- AAdvantage members can put miles towards a number of car rentals at Alamo, Avis, Budget and National. At Alamo deals include a two-day weekday rental of a midsize or full-size car for 10,000 miles, or a three-day weekend SUV rental for 17,500 miles. Avis offers a free day rental of a compact or midsize car for 8,000 miles and a free day rental for premium cars, standard SUVs, mini vans or convertibles for 9,500 miles. Budget has a free day for compact cars for 7,000 miles, a free day for midsize cars for 7,500, and a free day for full-size, premium, standard SUV, mini van and convertible cars for 8,000 miles. And, National’s deals include a two-day mid or full-size weekday rental for 12,000 miles and a three-day weekend SUV rental for 19,000 miles.

Hotels- Marriot Hotels (Stock Quote: MAR) offer a number of opportunities for AAdvantage members. Some of these include a $250 spa credit or two rounds of golf for 35,000 miles, a premier one night stay for 47,500 miles, a worldwide one night stay for 80,000, and a premier villa seven night stay for 350,000 miles.

American Airlines Vacations- AAdvantage, members can purchase AAVacations packages with miles as well. The program allows for members to pay for the entire trip with miles, or put as little as 500 miles toward the cost of the hotel and/or activities.
Exchanges- Members can exchange their AAdvantage points for Club Rewards Points from Diner’s Club as well as Hilton (Stock Quote: HLT) HHonors Points.

For more information on places and ways to earn points check out AAdvantage Partners and Mileage Program.

Delta Air Lines (Stock Quote= DAL): SkyMiles

Upgrades- Passengers can use SkyMiles to upgrade previously purchased tickets. A domestic coach upgrade costs 5,000 miles.
Subscriptions- SkyMiles members can use their miles to purchase subscriptions for over 30 publications. For example, a one-year subscription to Lucky costs 500 miles, to Money costs 800 miles, and to Sports Illustrated costs 1,400 miles, and to The Economist costs 3,200 miles.

Merchandise- SkyMiles offers members access to the exclusive Medallion Marketplace, where miles can purchase hotel and condominium stays, brand name merchandise, tickets to Broadway shows, and more.
Donate- Delta members can use their miles for good by donating them to a number of participating charities. Some of these include the American Red Cross, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Conservation Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and UNICEF.

For more information on places and ways to earn SkyMiles, visit Ways to Get Miles.

Continental Airlines (Stock Quote= CAL): OnePass

Upgrades- OnePass members can use their miles to upgrade previously purchased tickets. A domestic economy upgrade costs 5,000 miles, while upgrading from a select economy ticket within the U.S. costs 15,000.
Subscriptions- OnePass members can purchase over subscriptions to over 25 publications with their frequent flyer miles. Some of the choices include Details for 500 miles, Forbes for 1,200 miles, Essence for 800 miles, Wine Spectator for 1,000 miles and the Wall Street Journal for 3,300 miles.

Merchandise- OnePass members can redeem their miles for discounts up to 50% on a variety of brand name merchandise.
Donate- Continental Members can donate their miles through a number of participating organizations including the March of Dimes, Dream Foundation, CAREFORCE, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Make-A-Wish Foundation International, AmeriCares, and the Fisher House Foundation.

For more information on places and ways to earn OnePass miles, visit Earn Miles.

United Airlines: Mileage Plus

Upgrades- An economy ticket upgrade within the U.S. costs 8,000 miles, while upgrading from a select United business ticket within the U.S. costs 15,000.

Rental Cars- Mileage Plus members can put their miles towards car rentals at Avis, Alamo, Hertz and National. At Avis a two-day compact to midsize rental costs 12,500 miles. At Alamo a two-day compact or full size rental costs 11,500 miles, and an SUV costs 18,000 miles. At Hertz (Stock Quote: HTZ) members can get a two-day midsize rental for 16,500 miles, or a two-day weekend rental for 10,500 miles. And, at National they can get a two day rental of a compact to full-size car for 13,500 miles or a weekend rental for 8,500 miles.
Hotels- Mileage Plus members can also use their flyer miles towards a number of hotels including Hyatt, Marriott and Radisson. At Hyatt hotels members can purchase a premier certificate one night stay for 21,000 miles or get $100 off a two-night stay for 2,500 miles. At Marriott hotels, a premier certificate one-night stay costs 40,500. And, at Radisson hotels members can get a one domestic night stay for 14,500 miles or a global night stay for 28,000 miles.

Subscriptions- United Airlines members can purchase newspaper subscriptions by using their miles. There are newspapers that participate all over the country so, members can visit the website, enter their zip code and choose which publication they would like to receive. The Wall Street Journal, for example, costs 3,300 miles each year.
Merchandise- Mileage Plus members can purchase flowers and gifts from FTD.com with their flyer miles. The site offers a selection of fresh flowers, chocolates, spa sets, wine baskets and more

Donate- United Airlines members can donate their miles to a number of participating charities including the Special Olympics, Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Orbis International, Guide Dogs of America, and the American Cancer Society.

For more information on places and ways to earn Mileage Plus miles, visit Earn Miles In the Air and On the Ground.

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