[UPDATE 5/12/2015: You can no longer load your REDcard with a credit card. HOWEVER, you can still load your REDcard with gift cards.
All you have to do is follow Steps 1-5, skip Step 6, and then follow steps 7-8.]
The Target REDcard (frequently referred to as a “Redbird” card due to it’s similarity to Walmart’s Bluebird card) is far and a way the best tool for anyone who wants to:
- Meet a minimum spend requirement on a credit card.
- Pay bills that you can’t usually pay with a credit card (mortgages, student loans, rent, taxes, etc.).
- Or simply earn extra frequent flyer miles and points on your credit card.
Because it’s easy, and most importantly, totally free!
Here’s exactly how to do it:
Step 1: Find a Target that sells REDcards
The first step is actually the hardest, and that’s because at the moment only certain Target stores sell the Prepaid REDcard.
Target is slowly rolling it out to more and more stores, but it’s still in its infancy.
To check which stores currently sell Target Prepaid REDcards, click here.
If a Target near you sells Prepaid REDcards, great! Skip to Step 2.
If you don’t see a store near you listed, I’d call ones in your area and ask if they have them.
Make sure you are asking for the Target Prepaid REDcard. Stress the PREPAID part!
If a Target Near You Doesn’t Have a Prepaid REDcard:
If not, you’ll need some help to getting one. Here’s how to do that:
- 1. Find someone who lives near a Target who will purchase you one.
- 2. When that person goes to Target, have them buy an extra one for you (or many extra for multiple people).
- 3. When it comes time for the person to enter the birthday or social security number, they can either enter your information or enter fake information. It doesn’t matter, because you’ll have to enter your real information when you register it later.
- 4A. Have them send you the temporary card in the mail OR
- 4B. Have them open the REDcard and tell you the card number and the security code on the back.
Step 2: Buy the temporary Target Redcard
When you buy the card at Target, it’ll be a temporary card.
There are a few options, so make sure you get the Prepaid REDcard. It looks like this:
DO NOT BUY A TARGET DEBIT CARD OR TARGET CREDIT CARD! Get the Prepaid REDcard pictured above.
At the register, you’ll go through this process:
- When asked how much you want to load – Make sure to load at least $1. You can load up to $500. Personally, I loaded the max ($500) so I could get more points.
- Hand your driver’s license to the cashier.
- Enter your birthday, social security number and phone number on the keypad.
Step 3: Register Your Temporary Redcard
If you have an existing American Express Bluebird card or Serve account you have to close that before you can register your Redcard. You aren’t allowed to have both.
Take your temporary REDcard home and open it.
Then, go to https://secure.prepaidredcard.com/manage?intlink=us-serve-partner-target-launchmain-uppermanage
Remove the sticker from the front of your temporary REDcard.
Enter the 15 digit card number and 4 digit security code that is on your REDcard. Then enter your birthday.
After that, you’ll be prompted to enter all your information.
If you had someone else buy you a Target REDcard, make sure to enter YOUR information.
You’ll get a confirmation screen saying that your permanent card is on its way.
Step 4: Use Your Temporary REDcard OR Wait For Your Permanent Card
If you want, you can use your temporary card (which only has the money you initially loaded on at Target) wherever American Express is used.
Your temporary Redcard cannot be reloaded, used at ATM’s, or used for online functions like paying bills or sending people checks.
To do all of that, you have to wait until you get your permanent card.
For that reason, I recommend that most people just wait the 4-7 days it takes to get their permanent card in the mail to start using it. This cuts down on any confusion.
If you’ve found this post, then you’re obviously interested in using frequent flyer miles. If you want to make sure you are squeezing all the value you can out of your miles, we created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp specifically for you.
Join hundreds of others who are using their miles to take some of the most amazing trips in the world. On top of that, we offer the one and only $1,000 guarantee. It’s literally completely risk-free!
Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp
Step 5: Get Your Permanent REDcard in the Mail and Activate It
Once your permanent card arrives in the mail, you’ll have to activate it.
You can do it by calling 1-855-306-7395 or by going to target.com/prepaidredcard/activate
Now that it’s activated, it’s time to move on to the good stuff!
Step 6: Load Your REDcard at Target with a Credit Card
This is the easy part. Just take your permanent REDcard to Target and ask them to load it at the cash register. Here’s what’s crazy:
You can load it with a credit card, and it doesn’t cost a thing!
Currently, you can load $2500 per day and $5000 per month.
If you have a credit card that you need to make a minimum spend on, this is a great way to do it. You can knock out $5000 in just two days.
If you’re not trying to make a minimum spend, just pick the credit card whose points you want to earn and use that to load the REDcard.
Make sure you’re picking the type of points that are most valuable (you can see my rankings of the best and worst frequent flyer miles here).
Step 7 (Optional): Load Your REDcard at Target with Gift Cards
Want to get really crazy? You can also use gift cards to load the REDcard.
Why is this important?
Because you can earn even more frequent flyer miles and points!
If you have the Chase Ink Plus card, you’ll earn 5x per $1 spent at office supply stores.
That means that if you buy a $200 Visa gift card at Staples or Office Depot, you’ll earn 1,000 Chase points. Buy the gift card that looks like this:
Then, you can take that gift card and use it to load your Redcard instead of using your credit card to load your REDcard.
But why stop at one?
If you buy $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards from Staples (the amount that you can load on your REDcard each month), you’ll earn 25,000 Chase points per month.
25,000 Chase points are enough for one roundtrip ticket anywhere in North America on United!
Each $200 Visa gift card costs $6.95 to purchase. So, you’re paying $6.95 for 1,000 Chase points.
If you extrapolate that out, you’re paying:
- $173.75 for 25k Chase points – a roundtrip flight in North America
- $417 for 60k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Europe
- $556 for 80k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Australia, NZ, or SE Asia
If you know how to use frequent flyer miles effectively – especially if you are taking advantage of stopovers and open jaws to get 2 vacations for the price of 1– this can be an incredible deal.
Step 8: Use Your Online REDcard Account to Pay Any Bill
Now that you have funds in your REDcard account, you can easily pay any bill you’d like from this account – including things like your mortgage, rent, student loans, or any other big expense that doesn’t normally accept credit cards.
That’s because you’ll be sending a check from your REDcard account, and almost everyone accepts checks!
If you’re struggling to visualize this, just think of your REDcard account as a bank account. It operates in the same way as a regular online checking account – it just happens to be tied to Target.
Here’s how to do it:
- Login to your REDcard account
- Go to Pay & Transfer and hit the Pay Bills button on the dropdown.
- Hit Pay a Bill on the next screen.
- Pick whether you are paying a business or a person (if it’s a mortgage or student loan, they may have your company preloaded in the business part).
- Enter the information. If it’s a person, you won’t have an account number. Hit “Save and Pay”
- On the next screen, enter how much you want to pay, then you’ll hit “review”.
- On the last screen, you’ll have to enter the PIN you set when you registered the card.
- After that, hit “submit” and a check will be sent to whoever you are paying!
Step 9: Repeat Each Month and Rake in Points
Every calendar month, you’ll be able to add $5,000 on your Redcard.
As long as you have a Target near you, this is by far the easiest way to rack up miles and points and it doesn’t cost a cent.
If you did this for a year, you’d have 60k extra points, which is enough for a free roundtrip ticket to Europe!
A Few Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you know where I can get a Target Redcard?
Click here to see where they are sold. If you don’t see a store near you, make sure by calling and asking if they sell Prepaid REDcards.
2. Do you know when all Targets will start selling REDcards?
3. Do you know when or if Targets will stop allowing us to load REDcards with credit cards and gift cards?
Nope, but I imagine they won’t let it go on forever. I’d take advantage of it as much as you can while it’s available. Personally, I’m loading the $5,000 a month max each month.
4. Can someone else buy me a Prepaid REDcard?
Yes. If you know someone who lives near a Target, they can buy you one. Then, have them either send you the temporary card in the mail or give you the card number and security code. After that, you can register it online and get a permanent card sent to your home address.
4. Is buying Target REDcards for other people illegal?
5. If I’m going to buy more than one for other people, what should I say?
I simply told the cashier that I lived in Philadelphia and had driven all the way down to Maryland to get them because we didn’t have them up there yet.
I then said that my friends and family had heard about the REDcard and wanted them as well and that I was buying some for them too.
She totally understood and said she realized that only a few places had the REDcards and that it was nice of me to do that for others.
6. If someone else buys me a REDcard, do I need them to actually send me the temporary card?
No. They could open it up, give you the card number and security code, and you could “register” for your permanent card without ever actually having the temporary one in your possession.
7. How much can I load at a time?
$2,500 per day and $5,000 per month. You can only load $1,000 per swipe of your card, so if you are loading $2,500, you’ll have to ask the cashier to do it three separate times ($1k, $1k, $500).
The Target REDcard is an absolutely amazing way to meet minimum spends, get points for paying bills that you can usually pay with a credit card, or just rack up points very easily.
I highly recommend you start doing it as soon as possible, as there is no telling how long it will last.
And if it sounds a little confusing, trust me, it’s not. As soon as you do it once, you’ll realize how easy it is.
I get it, frequent flyer miles can be complicated and confusing. 2 years ago, I created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp to personally walk you through each and every step. Now, hundreds of people are traveling the world for (almost) free.
You’ll learn everything you need to know in less than one month, and we even have the one and only $1,000 guarantee.
If you thought this post was helpful in explaining a difficult subject, you’ll be blown away by our concise, easy to understand library of video lessons.
Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp now! – and don’t forget, it’s completely risk-free
FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)
None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!
If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:
Budget airlines can be a traveler’s best friend – or worst nightmare. But writing them off because you don’t understand them is a major, major mistake.
Here is our step by step guide to finding and booking budget airlines – and saving yourself a TON of money in the process.
1. Find the Budget Airlines That Fly to Your Destinations.
One of the most difficult things about budget airlines is knowing they exist. There are two easy ways to figure this out:
1. Go to the Low Cost Airlines on Wikipedia. This list has every low cost airline, for every country in the world, broken up by continent. Find the airlines that fly to the area you want to travel to, then check their Wikipedia page for all their destinations. Alternatively, you can also visit their individual websites to check destinations and pricing.
2. If you know where you’re flying out of (i.e. Chiang Mai), type the name of that airport into Wikipedia and see a list of all the airlines that fly in and out of that location.
Some of the most common budget airlines:
- USA – Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airways
- Europe – EasyJet, Ryan Air
- Asia – AirAsia, Malindo Air, Firefly
- Australia – JetStar
2. Check the Fees
Now that you have a list of budget airlines that will work for you, start comparing the prices. One of the reasons budget airlines are cheaper is because they charge fees for certain things.
Every budget airline will clearly state these fees and often dedicate a page on their website itemizing each fee.
Be sure to check the fees and add it into the total cost of your flight to weigh whether the flight is actually the cheapest option.
The most common additional fees include:
- Checked Baggage
- Chosing your seat
- Credit card processiong fee (This is the only one they won’t usually mention until the end)
Expert tip: Be aware that checking your bag at the gate will cost about twice as much as purchasing the checked bag beforehand online. So if you know you’re going to check a bag, buy it in advance. Or, you could travel in just a carryon.
3. Visit ITA Matrix to Compare Prices
Now that you know the exact price of flying on the low cost carrier, check ITA Matrix to compare the prices for the regular airlines.
Now that you have a good idea of what it will cost for a budget airline vs. a normal airline, you can choose the option that is best for you.
If the low cost carrier is substantially cheaper, AWESOME! You have just travel hacked yourself a better flight.
If the costs are similar than consider if the small savings are worth the extra inconveniences.
Now that you know how to find tickets with budget airlines, there are a few more things you should know when flying with these carriers.
1. Budget airlines often fly into alternate airports
Make sure to double and triple check the name of the airport that your budget airline is flying into. Oftentimes, these airlines fly into a separate terminal or even a different, usually smaller, airport.
Make sure that you plan accordingly, especially if you have another flight to catch with a different airline.
2. A tip for getting your tickets even cheaper
You can drastically reduce the cost of your ticket by flying through a hub airport. First check the main hub (headquarters) for the budget airline. For example, Air Asia’s hub is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you route your flights through KL then you can usually save quite a bit of cash.
Note: If you do enact this strategy, be aware that you are purchasing two separate tickets. This means you will have to exit the airport via customs, pick up any bags you may have checked and check in again at that airport. Leave plenty of time to get through customs, and through security again. However, usually these small inconveniences are well worth the savings!
3. The best time to book budget airline tickets
Budget airlines often run sales. If a sale is running when you are searching for tickets then jump on it while you can!
Other budget airlines work on a tiered structure (such as SkyMark in Japan). These airlines will open their flights 60 days (or more) before the flight and the cheapest tickets go first.
In most cases, we have noticed that the sooner you book tickets on low cost carriers the better. However, sometimes you can luck out even at the last minute so it is always worth checking.
You might be wondering if all this extra work is really worth it?
After 40+ flights on budget airlines, we would say, unequivocally, YES!
Budget airlines are not nearly as bad as people make them out to be, and you can save TON of money by following this guideline when booking your next flight.
Have you traveled on a budget airline before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
The world’s most popular sport.
Its biggest tournament.
And its most passionate country.
Add it all up, and you’ve got a nonstop party.
Unfortunately, for those looking to sample a little joga bonito as well as a Carnaval atmosphere, you’ve also got one of the most difficult to get and most expensive plane tickets in the world.
So how did I score 2 direct flight plane tickets from New York to Rio for $2.50 each?
By following a system that is simple but unknown to most of the general public.
It’s the “secret” that is the key to allowing you to travel anywhere in the world for under $100, whether it be Brazil or Budapest--a secret I’ve used to travel to over 25 countries for less than two tanks of gas!
Earn Frequent Flyer Miles…WITHOUT FLYING
When people hear “frequent flyer miles,” most tune out the rest.
“Frequent flyer miles are only for people who fly all the time. I don’t fly enough, and so I’ll never earn a free ticket.”
Sadly, most people believe that they can only earn frequent flyer miles through flying.
Because of this, they wrongfully assume they’ll never earn enough for a free flight, and never pursue the idea.
Dreams of free travel dashed.
There are actually tons of ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying.
In fact, I’ve earned over 2 million frequent flyer miles in the last 3 years, and less than 1% (yes, 1%) of them have been from flying.
The quickest way to earn a large number of frequent flyer miles is to get a good travel credit card.
If you’re responsible with your credit, you can take advantage of the perks by getting the large sign-up bonuses that credit cards offer!
By getting just one card, you could have enough miles for a round-trip ticket to Europe or South America.
Skeptical? Here’s the proof:
Understanding Which Miles to Earn
Not all miles are created equal, and so it’s important to figure out which miles are best for getting you where you want to go.
If you want a general overview of which miles are the best, check out my rankings here.
For flying to South America, I knew that British Airways miles were great to use. So while I could have used American Airlines miles or United miles to go to Brazil, I chose BA because they charged the lowest fees.
Understanding the Rules of Using Miles
After you’ve collected the miles, it’s important to know a few basics about using them. This is the spot where most people give up, but in reality, a few simple rules go a long way.
A common misconception is that you can only use an airline’s miles to fly with that specific airline.
For example, most people believe that if they have British Airways miles, they can only fly with British Airways.
Because of an awesome thing called airline alliances, it is actually much better than that.
British Airways is part of the Oneworld Alliance, meaning that you can use BA miles to fly on any of the other 15 airlines in the Oneworld alliance.
To get to Brazil, I flew on AA, which is a Oneworld partner that has direct flights between New York and Rio.
With airline alliances (the other major one is Star Alliance), you can use your miles to fly practically anywhere in the world.
The 330 Day Rule
When you use frequent flyer miles to book a ticket, there is less availability than if you were to purchase that ticket.
If a plane has roughly 300 seats, they may open up 1/3 of them for people who wish to book award tickets (tickets “bought” with miles).
This means that knowing when to book is imperative.
Airlines will open their seats up for availability 330 days in advance.
If you’re trying to get a seat during a busy time, such as Christmas or the World Cup, you NEED to look as early as possible.
Knowing this, I got online exactly 330 days before the date I wanted to travel (June 12, 2014) and booked my tickets from New York to Rio.
When I checked later that evening all the tickets were already sold out!
The 6 Week Rule
If you miss out on an early ticket, more will get released sporadically, so keep checking.
However, the biggest number of seats get released about 6 weeks before the flight date.
This is when airlines look at their flight, realize most people have already bought a ticket if they want one, and release the remaining seats for people using miles.
Keep a close eye on tickets around the 6 week window. You’ll most likely see more seats open up, even for major events like the World Cup.
Where to Look and How to Book
Because the airline industry operates in the Stone Age, you may not always be able to see availability online.
For flights to Brazil, I was able to book the ticket online, but if you search online and don’t see anything, don’t give up.
Instead, call up the airline whose miles you are using and have the agents check availability for you. They often see things you aren’t able to search for online.
A great tool that is a bit more complicated but incredibly handy is Award Nexus. This is the weapon of choice of most frequent flyer experts for finding hidden availability.
If you have yet to start using frequent flyer miles, now is the time to start. You can literally fly anywhere in the world for less than $100.
Start by getting a good travel credit card (click here for my recommendations). Once you earn the miles, make sure to look for seats 330 days out, if possible.
Continuously check back for availability, and be aware that a large bunch of tickets may appear 6 weeks prior to the departure date.
And lastly, make sure to use all the tools at your disposal to find availability. Check online, call if you need to, and dig in to Award Nexus.
Start now and we’ll both be flying to Brazil on $5 tickets for the 2016 Olympics!
Want to travel to your dream destination for under $100? Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be in the air in no time!
Has anyone else been able to use miles to get amazing deals to major world events? Let us know your biggest score in the comments below!
Frequent flyer miles have the ability to turn ordinary people into travel superheroes, allowing them to jet set around the world to their favorite destinations for almost free.
Paris, Sydney, Rome…take your pick.
Unfortunately, they are also one of the most misunderstood topics out there. Most of society wrongly believes the myths that surround frequent flyer miles.
But now, it’s time to debunk those myths and pull the veil of secrecy off frequent flyer miles so that more people can start traveling more and spending less!
#1. Frequent Flyer Miles Can Only be Earned Through Flying
This may seem ludicrous to anyone who has started earning frequent flyer miles, but this is exactly what I thought for the first 28 years of my life, and was the reason I never paid any attention to them before 3 years ago.
It’s also the #1 reason that 90% of people don’t take advantage of these wonderful opportunities.
They believe that large amounts of frequent flyer miles can only be accrued by people who travel all the time, and since they don’t travel all the time, there is no point in figuring them out.
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
In the last two years, I’ve accumulated over 2 million frequent flyer miles, and only 8,000 have come from flying. That’s right, less than 0.5%.
So how did I earn all these miles? There are many ways:
Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Credit card signup bonuses are far and away fastest way to earn large chunks of frequent flyer miles. The best cards will offer you 50,000 miles or more as a sign up, which is already enough for 2 roundtrip ticket in the US and almost enough to fly to Europe.
As long as you keep your credit score high, you’ll be able to take advantage of these opportunities over and over again.
You can also earn miles by using your credit card instead of paying cash or debit. Standard cards offer you 1 mile for every $1 you spend, but some of the better cards, like the Barclays Arriva card, offer 2x points per $1 spent.
By using an online shopping portal, you can often earn huge bonuses for purchases from all types of brands.
For example, I was able to earn 10x points per $1 spent from Nike the other day.
Instead of going to the store and earning 100 points for $10o worth of Nike apparel, I went through the Chase Ultimate Reward Mall shopping portal and earned 1,000 points for the same $100.
Why run out to the store when you can sit in your pajamas and with one mouse click, order what you need.
And if you’re worried about the process being difficult, don’t be. I’ve created a 3 minute video tutorial to show you just how easy it is.
Throughout the year, there will be various promotions that pop up, both big and small.
Usually, they only take a few minutes to complete, like a survey or a game, and can net you between a few hundred to a thousand miles a piece.
This is a nice, easy way to supplement the large chunks you get from credit card bonuses, spending, and online shopping.
And while flying obviously isn’t the ONLY way to earn frequent flyer miles, you should make sure that you are earning them if you do fly.
All you need to do is sign up for a free frequent flyer account with whatever airline you are flying with and give them your number when buying the ticket or when checking in.
#2. Every Mile You Earn Means That is a Mile You Can Fly
Another common mistake people make is thinking that if they earn 50,000 miles then they can fly 50,000 miles.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as lucrative as that (but it’s still pretty good). Most airline’s frequent flyer programs operate on a zone-based award chart with fixed pricing.
For example, if you are flying from North America to Europe on American Airlines, you’ll pay 60,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket.
It doesn’t matter whether you are flying a relatively short flight like New York to London or a much lengthier one like San Francisco to Istanbul.
Because they both are going from the North American zone to the Europe zone, they will both cost 60k roundtrip in economy.
A zone based award chart allows you to get some tremendous value from your frequent flyer miles by using them for flights that normally would cost a lot to purchase, such as flights to obscure cities or flights that are longer in length.
#3. Frequent Flyer Miles Earn You a Completely Free Ticket
They say that nothing in life is free, and while this is true with frequent flyer miles, it can certainly come close.
When you use frequent flyer miles to get a ticket, you don’t pay the “price” of the ticket, but you are still responsible for paying the taxes and fees.
The amount of taxes and fees can vary wildly depending on what airline’s miles you are using and what airlines you are flying on.
This is why it’s imperative that you learn how to avoid the fuel surcharge that some airlines tack on, which can cost you up to $700.
But once you learn to avoid the fuel surcharge, you can book tickets like one of my most recent trips, a $2.50 ticket to Rio for the World Cup!
No, it’s not free…but I’ll take it!
#4. Frequent Flyer Miles Are Hard To Use
I absolutely love hearing this because it couldn’t be more untrue.
If you’ve met me, you know I’m not a genius, and if you haven’t, take my word for it.
Three years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about frequent flyer miles.
I had zero frequent flyer miles to my name.
And now, I’ve been able to not only earn 2 million miles for myself, but also help others earn well over 100 million miles!
That equates to a lot of travel!
But just because they aren’t hard, doesn’t mean that they are super easy at first glance.
Airlines make frequent flyer miles seem complicated and difficult because it’s in their best interest for people NOT to redeem them.
The less miles people actually redeem, the less money the airline pays out.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there that pull the veil of the world of frequent flyer miles and help people to get started immediately.
If you’re looking for all the information you need, jam packed in to one concise and convenient place, you’ll want to check out the Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles, which is specifically designed to give you the tools you need to start earning and using frequent flyer miles in less than 3 hours.
That’s a really small price to pay for a lifetime of free travel!
#5. It’s Impossible To Find an Available Seat With Frequent Flyer Miles
While many people have never given frequent flyer miles a chance, there are a number of people who have tried to use frequent flyer miles before and then given up.
And the most common excuse I hear is that they can never find availability.
The simple reason: They can’t find availability because they are looking in the wrong spot!
Admittedly, finding award ticket availability is the hardest part of the whole process, and is the reason that courses such as Frequent Flyer Bootcamp exist.
Frequent Flyer Bootcamp is geared toward people who know how to earn frequent flyer miles, but don’t know the best ways to use them.
And one of the most integral parts of this is figuring out where to look for award ticket availability.
Most people assume that whatever airline they have miles with, they can go to that airline’s website and search for availability.
I have American Airlines miles, so I go to AA.com and search. If nothing shows up, then there’s nothing available.
But they are missing the crucial element of partner airlines, which allows you to fly on many more airlines than just the airline whose miles you have.
For example, if you have AA miles, you’re able to fly on any of the 13 members of the OneWorld alliance because AA is a member of that alliance. And you won’t find all of the partner availability showing up if you simply search on AA.com.
Instead, to see all partner availability for OneWorld, you’ll have to search on Qantas.com.
If you want to find availability on Star Alliance, you can use United.com or ANA.com.
For even more convenience and searching power, you can consider using a paid service like Award Nexus.
#6. All Frequent Flyer Miles Are Created Equal
Simply put, frequent flyer miles are a currency. Just like other currencies out there, some are more valuable than others.
If someone offered you 1,000 US Dollars or 1,000 Japanese Yen, you’d check to see which one is worth more (Hint: It’s the US dollars by a 100:1 ratio).
The same theory holds true with frequent flyer miles. Just because one credit card offers 50,000 Amex points doesn’t mean it has the same value as another credit card that offers 50,000 Chase points.
Or 50,000 American Airlines miles.
Or 50,000 United miles.
In fact, the differences between how much they are worth can vary greatly.
This is because each airline has their own set of rules, which determines a number of things.
You want to check for:
So when you first start earning frequent flyer miles, don’t just look at how many you are earning.
Look at what type you are earning, and make sure to focus your efforts on the best ones.
In order to help you do this, I’ve created a list of the best frequent flyer miles to earn.
After you know what you want to earn, look for the credit cards that will allow you to earn those miles.
Frequent flyer miles are an absolutely wonderful tool that will allow you to literally travel the world for almost free.
Don’t be scared of figuring them out, because with just a few hours of “studying”, you’ll be given a pay off that lasts a life time.
If you’re ready to start (and why wouldn’t you be?), the first step is to figure out the best miles for you to earn. Then use all the tools at your disposal, from credit card sign ups to online shopping.
You’ll be rolling in frequent flyer miles in no time, and you’ll never pay for a flight again!
I wandered aimlessly down alleyways so small my shoulders practically touched both sides. I meandered over canals filled with gondolas, amazed that a city could be built in such a way and that it had stood, practically untouched, for so long.
Venice, where getting lost is the ultimate joy.
3 days later, I was staring at Michaelangelo’s David, climbing to the top of one of Europe’s most amazing cathedrals, and eating my body weight in gelato.
Florence, a city where every street corner is filled with unimaginable beauty.
3 days after that, I was standing in the underground tunnels of the Colosseum, imagining the roar of the crowd and the spectacles that once took place there, and spending my nights staring at the perfect symmetry of the Pantheon.
Rome, an entire world worth of history compacted in to one city.
For many people, a trip to Italy is right at the top of their to-do list, and with good reason. It’s an absolutely amazing country.
But for me, the trip happened much more spontaneously.
And much, much more cheaply.
I was able to fly direct, from Newark Airport to Milan, for $125. Roundtrip. With no hidden fees.
Just $125 TOTAL!
How about when I mention that last year, I flew from New York to Madrid for $225 total.
And while I pride myself on my ability to use frequent flyer miles to travel cheaply all over the world, these trips are something that ANYONE can do.
No magic formulas or tricks.
Just something called a mistake fare.
What is a Mistake Fare?
As you probably guessed, a mistake fare is just what the name implies.
It’s an airline ticket that, for various reasons, has popped up and is priced out for MUCH CHEAPER than it should be.
It’s different than a promotion, sale or off-peak ticket in that this is, you guessed it, an actual mistake.
Why Do Mistake Fares Happen?
Mistake fares can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a technical glitch on an airline’s website.
The $125 ticket to Italy happened because a Norwegian website that sells airline tickets wasn’t including the “fuel surcharge” portion of the ticket in the final price, and so everything was showing up as $500-700 less that it should have been.
The $225 ticket to Madrid happened because a Japanese website was inadvertently giving a discount to every ticket purchased on their website, not just the tickets from Japan to Spain like the original promotion called for.
The important point isn’t really WHY it happens (although nerds like me may be interested) but how to find them and what to do when it does happen.
How to Find Mistake Fares
There are two main ways to learn about mistake fares. One is very easy, and the other is a bit more difficult.
The easy way is to follow the amazing folks at The Flight Deal.
Since they’re much smarter than I am, they’ve figured out a way to build some algorithm that constantly spits out good deals on airfares.
I don’t understand it, don’t pretend to understand it, and am just happy they exist!
Each day, they’ll post a bunch of good deals on airfares. It’s important to realize that most of these are NOT mistake fares, just decent prices for regular flights.
However, when a mistake fare does pop up, they are almost always one of the first people to know about it, and they’ll post it to their site.
I’d highly recommend you check their site out regularly, even for good prices on “normal” tickets and follow them on Twitter.
The other way to find mistake fares is through Flyertalk, the largest online forum for mileage
geeks enthusiasts. The “mileage run” forum is where mistake fares are posted.
Warning: It may take a while to understand the “language” of the forum.
If you’re interested, press on. If not, take the easy way.
In addition, every single time I hear about a mistake fare, I’ll make sure to tweet it out and put it on Facebook. Come follow me via Instagram or like Extra Pack of Peanuts on Facebook.
That way, you’ll never miss a mistake fare again!
What To Do When You Hear About a Mistake Fare
Book first, ask questions later.
Yes, it sounds impulsive, and it certainly is, but that’s how you score these types of deals.
Mistake fares do not last long, and sometimes get pulled within a matter of hours.
Once a website sees a major influx in tickets being booked, they’ll get suspicious, and with just a little bit of snooping, will figure out something is wrong. Then, they’ll correct the situation.
If you sit around figuring things out too long, you’ll miss out.
The $225 ticket to Madrid lasted about 10 hours, as did the $125 ticket to Milan.
Also, most airlines will allow a 24-hour window for cancellations, so you are left with an “escape clause” should you book and figure out that you really can’t make the trip.
So take a few minutes (but just a few), figure out whether you can feasibly take advantage of the mistake fare being offered, and then book.
Will My Mistake Fare Ticket Be Honored?
Ah, the golden question.
In the past, many mistake fares were not honored, and tickets were canceled. The people who booked the tickets would get upset, but really, there was no real pressure to honor the tickets.
But now, thanks to the world of social media, airlines, and websites are under much more scrutiny when it comes to honoring these mistake fares. The backlash is incredible, and now people have an open forum for voicing their displeasure.
Thanks to that, almost all of the mistake fares in the past two years have been honored.
So while it’s impossible to say with certainty that each and every mistake fare will be honored, there is probably a good chance that it will.
What Should I Do After I Book a Mistake Fare?
Wait. Take a few deep breaths. Attempt to temper your excitement (which is easier said than done).
And NEVER book your accommodations or make any other plans for the trip until you’re 100% sure they will be honored.
With mistake fares, it can take a while to get a confirmed ticket.
For the $125 ticket to Milan, I waited an agonizing 36 hours before I got a confirmation email.
For the $225 trip to Madrid, it was 2 days of Alitalia Airlines saying “no we aren’t honoring these” until they finally relented and confirmed the tickets.
If you’re feeling obsessive, you can constantly refresh the Flyertalk thread about your specific mistake fare and live and die with each new piece of speculation.
Or you can be much more sane, go about your daily life, and just wait to see what happens.
How Will I Know If My Ticket is Confirmed
Each airline is different, but in almost all instances, you’ll receive an email.
If you get an email with an actual ticket number, then you’re probably good to go. Just make sure to double-check either by calling the airline or by reading the thread on Flyertalk.
Will I Get Bumped From My Flight Or Be Treated Badly By the Staff Because I Got a Mistake Fare?
No one will be able to tell from your ticket that you got a mistake fare. It’ll be the exact same as anyone who paid for a regular ticket.
So no need to worry about any bad blood with the airline or their staff.
Is Buying a Mistake Fare Illegal?
No, not at all. Buying a mistake fare ticket is perfectly legal. Whether they choose to honor it or not is their choice, but you’ve done nothing wrong.
How Often Do Mistake Fares Happen?
There’s no rhyme or reason to mistake fares, and they can happen at any time.
Because of this, I’d recommend three things:
Happy (almost free) travels!
What mistake fares have you taken advantage of? What are the craziest ones you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments below.
To read more about our trip to Italy, and our best cheap travel tricks, check out these posts:
When many people first start earning frequent flyer miles, they make the mistake of focusing on the NUMBER of miles they are earning instead of the type of miles they are earning.
But here’s the problem:
Not all frequent flyer miles are created equal.
Not by a long shot!
Some are great all around.
Some are good in some instances but bad in others.
Some are super flexible but don’t offer the same value per point.
And some, well, they just generally suck (but are still better than nothing)!
If you’re unsure what types of miles you should be earning, here’s your primer.
Each type will have the pros and cons listed and then be given a score of 0-10 so you can judge them relative to each other.
1. Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
- Transferable to multiple airline partners, including United and Southwest.
- Transferable to multiple hotel partners, with the best value being Hyatt.
- Easy to earn since there are many good sign up bonuses
- Chase Ink Bold [This card is no longer available from Chase]
- Chase Ink Plus
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Freedom
- Possibility of “paying with points” for flights with no award availability.
- Ability to use for car rentals, hotels, or flights.
- Instant transfers to partners.
Score: 10 out of 10.
These are far and away my favorite points to accumulate since they are flexible, easy to earn a bunch of, and transfer instantly.
Your best value usually comes by transferring to United because United miles are great (keep reading for the United breakdown below) and then using for international travel.
Almost all my daily spending is done on a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Bold so that I can earn more Chase points.
2. Starwood Preferred Guest Points
- Transfers to TONS of airlines, with the best in most cases being American Airlines and USAirways.
- Every time you transfer 20k SPG points, you’ll receive 25k miles, a 25% bonus.
- SPG points can be used at Starwood hotels with their Cash+Points option, allowing you to stretch your points.
- SPG points have fewer options than Chase points for a big welcome offer/bonus.
- SPG personal card
- SPG business card
- SPG’s best transfer partners, AA and USAirways, are a little more restrictive than United.
- Transfers are not instantaneous and can take up to a week (better plan ahead)!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
The two keys to SPG are they that they transfer to AA, a great airline program to have miles in, and that they offer a 25% bonus.
60k SPG automatically becomes 75k airline miles, which is an amazing perk!
The major downside is that it is harder to get a large amount of miles through the welcome offer/bonus and that they don’t transfer instantly.
SPG points are a great way to diversify your mileage portfolio, and the SPG cards make good everyday spend cards, especially if you are looking for AA miles.
3. United Miles
- United miles never charge a fuel surcharge on their flights.
- United allows one-way tickets.
- They allow stopovers and open-jaws (meaning you can get 2 or 3 vacations for the price of 1)!
- Chase points transfer to United, meaning it’s easy to earn a bunch of United miles quickly.
- United is a member of the largest airline alliance and oftentimes has the best award availability.
- It’s easy to book all partner airline awards online at United’s website.
- Unlike Chase and SPG points, United miles can’t be transferred and must be used solely on United.
Score: 8.5 out of 10.
As far as airline frequent flyer miles go, United is the gold standard.
The big keys are that you can earn them quickly, they allow international stopovers and open jaws and they never have a fuel surcharge.
United miles are BY FAR the most hassle free airline miles you can earn.
I earn Chase points as much as I can, and almost always end up transferring them to United.
Then, I’ll put together a crazy itinerary with stopovers and open jaws and get amazing value out of them!
4. American Airlines Miles
Score: 7.5 out of 10
The major advantage AA has over United is their off-peak award chart, which I urge everyone to take advantage of.
The value is unheard of!
The major drawback is that AA miles have a fuel surcharge on them when you fly on British Airways, which makes it very difficult to use them to fly to Europe.
And for most people, Europe is high on their list!
Still, AA miles are a great complement to United miles.
Having both means that if you can’t find space with one airline, you still have a shot with the other.
- DOES NOT allow one-way tickets
- A little more difficult to earn large amounts of USAirways miles
- Barclays USAirways card
- SPG Amex personal
- SPG Amex business
- USAirways online system does not allow you to book partner flights, so you’ll have to call in each time.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
USAirways is like a little brother to United.
It has some of the great features, like never charging a fuel surcharge and allowing stopovers and open jaws, but also has one major drawback:
Not allowing one way tickets.
This cuts down dramatically on your flexibility, not just in how you have to travel but in the amount of points you need to have.
With USAirways, if you want to travel to Europe, you NEED to have 60k miles because you have to fly roundtrip.
Whereas with AA and United, if you only have 30k in each program, you could mix and match.
Fly over with United, fly back with AA or vice versa.
And since earning USAirways miles isn’t as easy as earning United miles or AA miles, you can oftentimes get stuck with an amount that is hard to do anything with.
This can especially be the case with people looking for more than 1 or 2 tickets, since you’ll need a boatload of USAirways miles to get a family of four roundtrip.
Still, USAirways offers great perks, and I urge everyone to take advantage of their stopovers and open jaw rules.
- Every seat can be an award seat, so as long as their is a seat on the plane, you can book with your SW points.
- No fuel surcharges or taxes when using points.
- The ability to earn the SW Companion Pass if you get 110k points in a year.
- SW points are easy to earn through sign up bonuses
- Chase Southwest personal card
- Chase Southwest business card
- Chase points transfer to Southwest
- No checked baggage fees
- One-ways are allowed.
- Southwest and AirTran only fly domestically in the US and to a few spots in the Caribbean and Mexico.
- No separate first class or business class cabins.
- No stopovers.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
Southwest is the most difficult to rank because it is totally dependent on your travel habits.
If you only fly domestically, then Southwest may be at the very top of the list.
But for people who need to fly internationally or only fly business or first class, Southwest points are meaningless.
Their program as a whole has many more pros than cons, with the ability to earn the Companion Pass and the anytime award seats being the major benefits.
If you are someone who flies domestically, even if it’s only occasionally, getting Southwest points is a must.
7. American Express points
Score: 5 out of 10.
Amex points used to be the king of the castle, but my, how the mighty have fallen.
While the quantity of transfer partners, the quickness of the transfer, and the bonuses they offer are all great, the major issue is the quality of transfer partners.
It’s just not that good.
There are 6 transfer partners that make sense, but all are very situation specific and have major holes.
And this makes Amex points much harder to use than Chase points or SPG points, and therefore, much less valuable.
My recommendation would be to earn Amex points when there is a good offer out there, and then when you see a lucrative transfer bonus, jump on it!
8. British Airways Avios Points
- Very good in a few specific instances, like these 5 trips, when you don’t have to pay fuel surcharge.
- No close in booking fee.
- Easy to earn large amounts since all 3 points (Chase, Amex, SPG) transfer to British Airways.
- Also has a decent sign up bonus for their own credit card.
- Chase British Airways credit card
- Great for short hop flights since they charge per distance flown.
- Most award flights incur a HUGE fuel surcharge.
- BA’s website is very difficult to book with.
- Very bad to use to fly to Europe (ironically), due to huge fuel surcharge.
- Charges per distance flown, so very bad for long international itineraries.
Score: 4 out of 10
These are the trickiest to use and most situation specific miles out there.
And it’s because of this inflexibility that they are rated so low.
They can offer INCREDIBLE value if you use them to fly domestically within the US, from the East coast to the Caribbean, to South America, or from the West coast to Hawaii.
However, for any other type of international trips, they’ll charge a massive fuel surcharge and you’ll be stuck paying $400+.
Definitely learn what they are good for, use them for those types of trips, and avoid the fuel surcharges.
9. Delta miles
- Only airline to allow stopovers on domestic award tickets.
- Won’t charge a fuel surcharge if you originate in the United States.
- VERY, VERY little availability.
- Does NOT allow one-way tickets.
- Hefty fuel surcharges if you originate outside of the US.
Score: 1 out of 10
Having miles is no good if you can never find availability, and this is Delta falls flat on it’s face.
The few good things Delta does, like allowing stopovers on domestic tickets, is overshadowed by the fact that it is EXTREMELY difficult to find availability with Delta.
It’s so difficult, that I personally have never earned 1 single Delta mile.
In fact, they are often referred to as “SkyPesos” because of how little value they have.
And if you’re someone who has been collecting Delta miles, I urge you to flee!
Start earning miles that are much more valuable, like United or American Airlines.
Not all miles are created equal.
Don’t just pay attention to the number of miles you have, but more importantly, focus on the TYPE of miles you have.
They are all dramatically different, each with their own good points and bad points.
The sooner you figure out what miles work best for you, the better off you’ll be when it comes to using them for what we all want:
Personally, I focus most of my energy on earning Chase points, which I then convert to United miles.
Then, to a lesser extent, SPG points, which I usually transfer AA.
How would you rank the different frequent flyer miles out there? What’s your favorite, and why?
Let’s open up a lively discussion in the comments below!