A free airline flight is one of the original and most popular credit card rewards, but those “free” flights have become expensive. Airlines seem to have limited the number of reward seats, so it requires more points to redeem that free flight.

Making the most of frequent flyer miles requires managing your account, protecting miles from expiration, using the card for payment and redeeming the miles efficiently.

Here are some tips to using the miles you accumulate on your airline credit card:

1. Book in Advance

Just because you have the points does not mean that you will get the ticket you want when you want to fly. Some airlines have limitations on “free seats.” Airlines have also reduced the overall number of flights and they use smaller planes to fill up each flight.

The best chance to get the flight you want is to book far in advance. It increases your chances of getting the flight you want with the least number of points or miles. Some airlines charge a fee for awards booked too close to the departure date. US Airways charges a non-refundable quick-ticketing fee of $75.

2. Beware of Higher Interest Rates and Annual Fees

Airline credit cards can be attractive if you pay off your balance each month and don’t have to pay interest charges. These airline cards typically charge higher interest rates and annual fees than non-airline cards to offset the cost of rewards.

3. Accrued Miles Can Expire

Expiration policies vary by frequent flyer program. Some miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Others never expire. United has one of the strictest mileage policies. Any member who does not have account activity on their card for 18 consecutive months could lose his or her membership and forfeit all miles. Keeping an account active may be as simple as buying lunch on the card or a song on iTunes.

4. Pay Attention to Fees and Surcharges

Free flights secured with airline credit cards can save a lot of money but this does not protect you from fees and surcharges. British Airways offers a 50,000 point promotion programs after the first purchase with their airline credit cards, enough to go to Europe.

But consumers can be surprised by the fees that you may have to pay that accompany the free trip to Europe. Fees and surcharges can add hundreds of dollars to a roundtrip ticket because international flights require more fuel and airlines can charge a higher fuel surcharge.

5. Pick an Airline Credit Card and Stick to It

A consumer should pick an airline credit card and use that exclusively so you build up as many points as possible. Some additional perks may come your way. Elite or premium frequent flyer membership levels sometimes reward members with priority check-in, security and seating privileges, extra mileage bonuses, and upgrades.

Continental Airlines OnePass® Plus Card

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Capital One® Business Platinum with Preferred No Hassle Miles<sup>SM</sup> ” border=”0″></a></p>
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By |September 7th, 2011|Credit News|1 Comment