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One of our friends is about to fly roughly 16,000 miles round-trip for work. As most of us would be, he is pretty new to having work trips that involve that amount of long-haul travel. When I heard about his trip I immediately asked him if he was all set up to get all the miles for his trip. I sounded crazy, as always. Despite my crazy sounding question, he told me that he wasn’t getting the miles because he wasn’t the one paying for the trip, the company was. My heart both sank and jumped at the same time. Sank because so many people have this misconception, and jumped because this was a chance for him to earn miles that he wasn’t expecting.
With frequent flier miles on airlines, it’s not about who is footing the bill, it’s about whose booty is flying in the seat. The booty in the seat is the one that can earn the miles, regardless of who paid for the ticket. Exceptions when you would not earn miles would be if you were on a private plane (how sad), you were already flying on a frequent flier ticket that someone redeemed their miles for, or you were on a fare that was purchased through Priceline/Hotwire or a similar service that does not display the flight details until after you purchased. As long as you don’t fall into one of those categories, the miles should be yours!
Once you have determined that your flight is eligible for miles (i.e., not one of the ones mentioned above), register for frequent flier numbers on the airlines you will be flying on. In the case of my friend, he was flying American Airlines and then connecting to Turkish Airways. Well, the American Airlines flight was straight-forward enough, but he pointed out that he does not plan to frequent Turkish Airways, so miles with them would be pretty worthless to him. This is another misconception out there. Most airlines partner with other airlines. In this case, Continental/United are partners with Turkish Airlines. Here is a list of some of United’s partners taken from their website.
Miles on Continental/United would be potentially beneficial for him in the future. So, he needs to register for a Continental or United frequent flier number and then provide that number when he checks in for his Turkish Airways flight. Unfortunately, American Airlines and Turkish Airlines are not partners, so he will need two different frequent flier numbers for the flights and some of his miles will go into one account (American Airlines miles for the American Airlines flights) and some will go in another account (Continental or United miles for the Turkish Airlines flight). Miles are still miles though, and getting them is better than missing out on them.
All in all, he should net approximately 16,000 miles for this trip alone. That is 64% of the way to a free 25,000 mile domestic round-trip ticket. (or at least would be if they were all the same account). If he has to take this trip again, he should have enough to book a free flight. He could also take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses that would add more than enough miles to either of his accounts for a free flight. The current United Mileage Plus bonus is 25,000 miles for signing up and making one purchase, plus another 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user, plus a $50 statement credit after the first purchase, plus the annual fee waived for the first year. Killer deal!
Or, if he wanted to top off his American Airlines frequent flier account he could apply for an American Airlines AAdvantage Citi American Express card. It awards 30,000 miles after spending $750 on the card. It also waives the annual fee for the first year. Of course, after getting the sign-up bonuses you can continue earning miles on either card for each dollar spent.
The important point to take away from this is to remember that you don’t usually have to be the one paying the bill to earn miles on airline flights. You also can utilize partnerships to earn miles on airlines that you don’t typically fly. Just do a little searching around on the airline’s website to see who all they partner with and provide the preferred airline’s frequent flier number either when booking the flight or checking in for the flight. You can also sometimes get credit retroactively, so save your flight info just in case.
We wish safe travels to our friend, and we hope this helps get him (and you) hooked in the points game!
This is Little C saying, “Oooooooooooow, Mama, he wasn’t gonna earn miles on his flight!”