There are many ways to accumulate frequent flyer miles. The two most common ways are 1) applying for credit cards and meeting the minimum spend for welcome bonuses and 2) gasp….actually flying “butt-in-seat.”
#1 is easy and simple. #2 Albeit a bit more painful, the process is also simple…you fly somewhere and the airline “rewards” you with miles that can be used for a future “free” flight.
But have you ever flown somewhere, looked at your frequent flyer account (after the flight) and thought “I flew roundtrip from Los Angeles to New York and was on that plane for hours for 1,187 frequent flyer miles!? That’s 1/10000thof the miles I need for a free flight! I’ll never get a free flight at this rate!”
One of the biggest challenges in collecting miles (via butt-in-seat flying) is knowing how to maximize the amount of miles you will receive. It’s something a lot of people struggle with but I have a technique that will save you time and eliminate all the headache.
Let’s start with the basics. Most major airlines have partner airlines. Some airlines are part of an alliance (e.g. Delta Airlines/Skyteam Alliance), while other airlines (e.g. Alaska Airlines) aren’t part of a formal alliance but have individually, negotiated contracts with other airlines.
Alliances and partnerships are important because they allow you to earn and redeem miles on partner airlines. For example, you can fly on Delta Airlines and credit the miles to your Air France Flying Blue frequent flyer profile because Air France is in the SkyTeam Alliance too.
But here’s a HUGE secret…the amount of miles that you’re going to receive from flying are different depending on what carrier you credit them to.
I love examples so let’s dive in…
SCENARIO: You are flying one-way from Rome, Italy (FCO) to Los Angeles (LAX). You bought a business class ticket (Fare Class: J) on Alitalia Airlines. What is your next step?
A. You don’t attach any frequent flyer number to the reservation because you assume this is going to be the only time you fly on Alitalia.
B. You start a frequent flyer profile on Alitalia so you can credit your miles to Alitalia
C. You recognize that Alitalia is a partner in SkyTeam Alliance so you visit WhereToCredit.com to determine where you can accumulate the most miles in an efficient and effective manner.
Given that you are reading a miles and points blog, I hope you did not choose A!
BUT WHAT IS WHERETOCREDIT.COM?
Everyone’s travel goals are different so this process will vary from person-to-person. But understanding which miles you would like to earn can really assist in your future travel.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
When you buy a plane ticket, your ticket has an associated fare class, represented by a letter of the alphabet, with it. Most people simply take note that they bought an economy, premium economy, business, or first class ticket and overlook the fare class. However, taking note of the fare class is extremely important because it determines how many miles you will receive.
Airlines don’t always place your fare class in an obvious location but here’s an example. As you can see, the fare class for this Delta business class flight will be “I.”
All airlines have earning charts based on your fare class, however, they are extremely confusing. This is where “Where To Credit” comes in. It’s an online tool that consolidates all that information for easy reference.
There are a few different ways to use the website, so feel free to tinker with it, but I want to focus on, perhaps, the most powerful tool.
On the home page you will see this…
The aspect that we are most interested in is the “calculator.” After selecting the calculator, you add your origin and destination airport, the airline carrier, and your fare class and the calculator approximates what you’d earn on each partner.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE
Recently, I flew from Rome, Italy (FCO) to Los Angeles (LAX) in business class (Fare Class: J) on Alitalia. I entered my information into the “calculator” to determine where I should credit my miles…
…and these were the results…
In my case, I could’ve credited the flight to Aeromexico and received ~20,000 miles but I don’t have plans to use Aeromexico or any of it’s partners anytime soon so it may not be the best option.
I could’ve also credited the miles to Delta but the amount of miles required for a redemption on Delta (or it’s partners) can be mind-boggling crazy so I passed on that option.
Although Etihad recently killed one of the “TOP 10 International Sweet Spots” in their award chart, I have plans to fly business class on Royal Air Maroc (RAM) which will cost 44,000 Etihad miles. Per the chart above, if I credited this flight to Etihad, I would have approximately half of the miles I need for my business class award ticket on Royal Air Maroc.
Again, everyone’s travel plans are different. I credited my miles to Etihad but, perhaps, Korean may have been a better fit if you had flown FCO-LAX.
HOW DO I CREDIT MY FLIGHTS TO A PARTNER?
That’s the simple part. All you need is a frequent flyer account with the airline that you want to credit it to and attach that frequent flyer number to the trip. For example, when I flew Rome to Los Anglese, although I was flying on Alitalia, I placed my Etihad frequent flyer number in the frequent flyer number box during the booking process (on the computer). However, when I arrive at the airport check-in, I ALWAYS ask the front-desk representative if my frequent flyer number is attached to the reservation. Having to contact the airline afterwards to credit those miles is stressful and sometimes will not result in a favorable outcome.
This topic is a bit more advanced but I wrote this article to highlight how earning is not equal across the board. If you and I bought the same ticket on the same flight for the same price, the amount of miles that each of us receive could be considerably different thus the “amount” we pay for future flights would be very different.
I have found ‘Where to Credit’ to be fairly accurate.
Typically, my strategy is to think about future travel plans, and how the miles that I will earn from flying could possibly support those plans. In this example, just because I CAN credit the miles to Aeromexico, doesn’t mean I SHOULD.
Unfortunately, for those in the USA, it’s all about money. American, United and Delta award miles on their own flights based on how much money you paid for the ticket. Remember those 1,187 miles at the beginning of this article? Yeah, that’s a result of paying for the cheapest economy ticket. If you fly on the US3 and earn miles on these airlines, you’ll see exactly how many miles you’ll earn when booking your ticket.
Note: You will notice that ‘wheretocredit’ will return a result of 0 miles if, say, you bought a Delta ticket and you’re searching to see how many miles you will receive if you credit it to Delta. Again, it’s based on how much you spent. However, if you buy a Delta flight but plan to credit it to a partner, ‘wheretocredit’ is the answer.
How do you determine where to credit your miles?