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Getting the most out of your Frequent Flyer Miles

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The trouble with travel rewards is that few of us have the time or the patience to navigate the labyrinth of rules, regulations and offers to find the best deals available. Following these simple rules will help you get the most out of your frequent flyer rewards program.

The top rules for frequent flyer programs

Target one airline. If you don't fly often, it might be time to switch to a different airline program if you want to take your family on vacation this year. There are some programs that still have travel awards at 20,000 miles, and some programs even have some awards at 17,500 miles if you have a credit card associated with the frequent flyer program. ** Plan ahead.** You can get the best deals if your travel dates are flexible. The days that offer the best opportunities for award travel are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday within the U.S.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for trips to Asia and Europe; and Tuesday and Wednesday for the Caribbean. Weekends tend to be the most restrictive.

Earn more miles. You don't have to get on a plane to rack up frequent flyer miles. Thirty percent to 60 percent of frequent flyer members' total miles and points come from program partners such as credit cards, hotels and rental car companies. The secret to frequent flyer programs is to make each action you take earn you miles. For those who pay attention to the details, the next trip could be free.

Reward yourself. With many airlines putting expiration dates on their miles and changing the rules of their programs, you can no longer be sure those miles will be there when you decide to use them. Redeem rewards often, keeping just enough miles on hand to use as upgrades on your next paid vacation flight. Never put off redeeming tomorrow what you can redeem today.

And for those of you that would like to help the relief effort in Japan, American Airlines will offer bonus miles to members of its AAdvantage rewards program who donate to the American Red Cross' Japan earthquake/tsunami relief program. Members who donate $50 will receive 250 bonus miles; $100 or more, 500 bonus miles.


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