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Frequent Flyer Programs

Frequent flyer programs exist with all the major airlines. Often you can earn frequent flyer miles by using certain credit cards, patronizing certain hotels or rental car companies, or using certain long distance telephone services. Airlines limit the number of tickets they will issue in exchange for frequent flyer miles, either by “blacking out” certain dates or by limiting the number of seats they will award on individual flights. Because of these restrictions, it is best to plan far in advance if you want to cash in your miles for a free flight. In nearly all mileage programs, redeemable miles expire after a certain time if you fail to use them. Read the rules carefully.

The standard award level for a free domestic flight is 25,000 miles, but most airlines make it difficult to get a flight at that level. They may offer such a flight if you go through a convoluted series of flight changes, which often take you out of your way and add significantly to travel time. If you want a more convenient flight, you may often need to redeem extra miles, or pay an extra fee in dollars. Fees to transfer miles between accounts or to purchase extra miles are often prohibitively high. Because of these vexations, in America’s competitive business environment, various credit card and airlines “points” programs advertise no hassle points redemption policies.

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