Category Archives: Free First Class Next Month

Free First Class 2014: United MileagePlus Basics

This is the fourteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the United MileagePlus program.

Why Collect United Miles?

United miles are easy to collect in bunches. There are big sign up bonuses available on a half dozen cards that earn United miles or Ultimate Rewards, which can be transferred to United miles. When the miles are so easy to earn, it makes fancy trips or family trips easier to book.

United is part of the biggest and best alliance–the Star Alliance–with the most award space. I find better award space on United’s partners to most parts of the world than I do on any other airline alliance.

United never collects fuel surcharges on awards. The ability to book flights on all of the Star Alliance without fuel surcharges is incredible. Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines–United’s three major award program competitors–all collect fuel surcharges on some awards.

  • What airlines can you fly with United miles?
  • What are the routing rules for United awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the MileagePlus program?
  • How can you book a United award?

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Free First Class 2014: American Airlines AAdvantage Basics

This is the thirteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I want to give the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. I’ll start with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Why Collect American Airlines Miles?

American Airlines miles are the best miles for ultra-luxury redemptions like Cathay Pacific First Class, Etihad First Class, or Qantas First Class.

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Cathay Pacific First Class booked with American Airlines miles

American Airlines has very cheap off peak awards. If you are willing to go to Europe in the fall, winter, or spring in economy, you can pay only 20,000 miles each way. There are also great off peak economy awards to Japan, Korea, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

American Airlines (and US Airways, which have merged legally but will maintain separate loyalty programs and award charts until early 2015,) has not devalued its award charts for years. United and Delta greatly increased the miles price of premium cabin awards in 2014, but at least for bookings through late 2015, you can lock in American Airlines’ very low prices for business and first class awards, compared to its American competitors.

  • What airlines can you fly with American Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for American Airlines awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the AAdvantage program (off peak awards)?
  • How can you book an American Airlines award?

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Free First Class 2014: Airline Hubs, Alliances, and Search Engines

This is the twelfth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

You can always book awards using one airline’s miles on its own flights or on that airline’s alliance partners.

Below is a list of each alliances’ members and those members’ hubs and codes. Knowing these lists or at least where to find them will make you a much savvier flyer.

Carriers are in alphabetical order except American carriers are listed first. Each entry includes the airlines name and its hubs.

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Free First Class 2014: Airline Mile Redemption Basics

This is the eleventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

The beginners posts on redeeming miles and points are done. The series moves to the more important, and more interesting, question of redeeming miles and points.

I think earning miles is less interesting because it is relatively easy to open the credit cards with the best sign up bonuses and meet their spending requirements. Plus I offer a free service telling you which cards are best to open for your trip goals.

Redeeming miles and points offers so many interesting choices and actually turns your dream trip into a plane ticket or hotel stay. (Of course, you can skip all the posts on redeeming miles and outsource the work to my Award Booking Service for $125 per person.)

I’ve never put in one places all the options for redeeming miles and points, so that beginners can understand where there miles and points can take them.

  • How do you hotel redemptions work?
  • Why do I always plan hotels last when booking a trip with points?
  • What cabins can you book with frequent flyer miles?
  • Why are some miles way better for domestic trips and some way better for international trips?
  • Should you use your miles for awards or upgrades? What’s the difference?
  • What else besides flights can you redeem miles for?
  • What are stopovers, open jaws, and free one ways?

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Free First Class 2014: Don’t Let Your Miles Expire

This is the tenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

The section of the beginners’ guide on earning miles is over, but before I turn to redeeming miles, I want to discuss something crucial that a lot of people muck up:

Don’t let your miles and points expire unused.

What’s the point of earning them if you don’t get to take that dream trip? Too many people have been turned off from the hobby because they let some miles expire and become too frustrated with the whole game to continue. Luckily it’s incredibly easy to keep all of your miles and points safe and ready for your next trip.

  • When do miles and points expire?
  • Will closing a credit card cost you the miles or points you earned?
  • What is my set-it-and-forget-it trick to keep balances active?
  • What service lets you know when your miles are about to expire?

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Free First Class 2014: You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything

This is the ninth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve already talked about the big ways to earn miles:

To me, these represent the best ways to earn the most miles, but you can earn miles doing almost anything.

I’ll highlight a few ways in this post, and the rest I’ll tell you where to find.

  • How can you earn 50,000 miles by opening a brokerage account?
  • What constantly updated forum tells you the best mileage earning opportunities?

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Free First Class 2014: Manufactured Spending

This is the eighth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

One of the major ways to earn more frequent flyer miles is to “manufacture spending,” which is buying cash-like things with credit cards and then cashing them out.

Manufacturing spending increases the amount of money you spend on credit cards, which means you can clear more sign up and category bonuses.

Manufacturing spending is risky and advanced. I very rarely manufacture spending, and I only manufacture enough to clear mega sign up bonuses I couldn’t otherwise clear on cards with high minimum spending requirements.

I’ll run through a few of the major recent opportunities like Amazon Payments, Bluebird, Gift Cards with PINs, and Kiva and point you in the right direction to learn more ways to manufacture spending.

  • What are the main ways to manufacture spending?
  • What are the risks?

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Free First Class 2014: Shopping Portals

This is the seventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Most major airline and credit card loyalty program have a shopping portal. For instance, google “United shopping” and the first link is to the United Mileage Plus shopping portal.

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Shopping portals allow you to earn huge amounts of miles by making your normal online purchases through your favorite online stores. Just by starting at the portal and using its link to your favorite online retailer, you can get extra miles for your purchases.

The process for earning miles from portals is simple.

  • How do portals work?
  • How can you earn miles by shopping online exactly as you already do?

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Free First Class 2014: Earn Miles from Flying

This is the sixth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

The last few posts were about earning miles from credit cards, which is how I earn 90% of my miles. Folks who fly frequently for business or the occasional paid ticket for vacation should know the basics of earning miles from flying.

There are five takeaways that I want to impart so that you know

  • when you earn miles from flying
  • how many miles you earn from flying
  • and what choices you need to make about where to credit the miles earned

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Free First Class 2014: Transferable Points Basics

This is the fifth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Transferable points programs are loyalty programs that allow a person to earn points that can be transferred to several different airline or hotel programs. The three most important transferable points programs are:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (MR)
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints

Transferable points are extremely valuable for the two types of flexibility they offer.

  1. All three major transferable points programs have partners in all three airline alliance, which means you can book award space on over 60 airlines if you have Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or Starpoints.
  2. You can use one transferable points account to top off several normal airline or hotel accounts that are just short of dream redemptions. These top offs are the highest value use of points since they take you from not having a dream redemption to having one.

I focus a lot on earning transferable points, and I am very happy when clients of my Award Booking Service come to me with transferable points.

  • How can you earn each type of transferable points?
  • What are the transfer partners for each type of transferable points?
  • What are my four strategies to maximize transferable points?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: Best Current Credit Card Offers

This is the fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

There are currently some huge sign up bonuses that folks new to the miles game can pick up.

I’ve categorized some of the best offers below, but before applying for any cards, I recommend checking out my Introduction to Travel Credit Cards from yesterday.

I also recommend getting a Free Credit Card Consultation instead of picking cards on your own. It breaks my heart when people come to my Award Booking Service with the wrong miles for the trip they want. There’s no reason to Make the Biggest Mistake in Our Hobby.

  • What are the best cards for beginners?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: Introduction to Travel Credit Cards

This is the third post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

If you’re new to miles and points, you could easily open credit cards today with sign up bonuses totaling more than half a million miles and points.

There are other ways to earn miles and points, but none is as easy, quick, and cheap as opening up travel rewards cards. I’ve earned over 90% of my lifetime miles and points from credit cards, mostly from their sign up bonuses.

A startling amount of fun I’ve had in life has been the direct result of trips taken with miles earned from opening a credit card and meeting its minimum spending requirement. I don’t want to over-sell credit cards, but I don’t want to under-sell them either. They are the bread and butter of this hobby.

Today’s post will be one of the longest of the entire Free First Class Next Month 2014 series because I want the entire introduction to travel credit cards to be in one place.

  • How do travel credit cards affect your credit score?
  • How can you get three free credit reports per year?
  • What are the three things I look for in a credit card?
  • How do I double my miles with business cards?
  • How long do I hold my credit cards?
  • What about annual fees?
  • Will you ever run out of credit card bonuses to get?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet

This is the second post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

In just a few days, you’ll be earning hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles, and you need a place to put and track them. Below are the bare minimum airline and hotel programs that Americans should be members of, and as you get more involved with the miles game, you’ll probably sign up for more.

By signing up for these programs, you’ll be able to take advantage of most major miles promotions, and you’ll be able to fly domestically and internationally for pennies.

Each program should just take a moment to sign up for, so don’t skip any even if you’ve never flown the airline. Trust me that they all have a lot of value. For instance, you might not expect that British Airways is often the best program for domestic flights within the United States.

If you already have an account, then try to sign into it, so you can figure out your account number and password. Write down your user name or number and passwords all in one place because you’ll add them into your new Award Wallet account today.

  • What airlines and hotel programs should you join today?
  • What is Award Wallet and why should you join it?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

This is the first post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Frequent flyer miles are your ticket to travel more, better, and cheaper.

Mastering frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and credit card programs truly is life changing, so I am revising and updating my Free First Class Next Month series for beginners, which I first ran in March 2012.

Frequent flyer miles from travel credit cards have allowed me to visit nearly 50 countries at the age of 27, with enough miles left over to go anywhere in the world tomorrow if I wanted to. I pay less for these trips than you probably did for your last vacation, and I’m usually flying in Business or First Class.

First Class

When I say “First Class,” I’m not talking about those slightly wider seats at the front of the plane you see as you board your flight to Cleveland. International First Class means your own fully flat bed in your own enclosed suite while being waited on and served fine foods and wine.

My suite in Emirates First Class. My personal mini-bar pops up. The seat turns into a flat bed, and a few minutes after taking the photo, I took a shower eight miles high.

I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing because my techniques are very easy to repeat. For instance, MileValue’s Rookie Alli went from having no frequent flyer miles to flying in a fully flat bed internationally in just four months.

She used to fly economy like you.

Luxury is attainable with frequent flyer miles, and it usually costs far less than a paid ticket. I flew in Cathay Pacific First Class for the miles I had gotten for opening one credit card plus $43 out of pocket. Do you have $43?

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More Travel

I know for many people luxury travel is not the goal. They just want to get their family on vacation or to visit grandparents, and they don’t have the money in the budget for these trips. These techniques can also help a family travel for peanuts. I recently described how a family of four could fly to Europe for only $274 total!

What’s the catch? You’ll have to learn a few things and open the right credit cards.

In this series, I’m going to be showing you the tricks that experts use to fly in First Class anywhere in the world for pennies. By next month, you’ll be a pro at earning frequent flier miles for doing things you already do and redeeming them for dream first-class vacations you thought you could never afford.

In addition to frequent flyer miles, I’ll be teaching you about how to find incredibly cheap cash fares and hotels, so that you’ve got a full arsenal of ways to travel cheap or free.

If you have two minutes a day, you can enjoy Free First Class Next Month! Bookmark this page, and check back tomorrow when we take the first step to Free First Class Next Month. Or better yet, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts

Forward those emails to your friends, so they can also learn and become your travel companions.

For those who can’t wait until tomorrow, here is a link to every post in the last series. This series will follow roughly the same topics.

Free First Class Next Month: Table of Contents

  1. The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points (Introduction)
  2. Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet
  3. Introduction to Travel Credit Cards
  4. Best Current Credit Card Offers
  5. Transferable Points Program Basics
  6. Earning Miles from Flying
  7. Shopping Portals
  8. Manufactured Spending
  9. You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything
  10. Don’t Let Your Miles Expire
  11. Airline Mile and Hotel Point Redemption Basics
  12. Airline Hubs, Alliances, and Award Search Engines
  13. Basics of Redeeming American Airlines Miles
  14. Basics of Redeeming United Miles
  15. Basics of Redeeming Delta Miles
  16. Basics of Redeeming US Airways Miles
  17. Basics of Redeeming British Airways Avios
  18. Basics of Redeeming Alaska Airlines Miles
  19. Basics of Redeeming Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Frontier Miles
  20. Basics of Redeeming Singapore, Aeroplan, Flying Blue, ANA, Lufthansa, and Korean Miles
  21. How to Book Complicated Awards with Segment-by-Segment Searching and Wikipedia
  22. How to Pick the Best Seat with Seat Guru and Trip Reports
  23. How to Find Cheap Flights and Mistake Fares with the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Deals Forum
  24. Basics of ITA Matrix to Find Cheap Flights and Fuel Surcharge Info
  25. Status
  26. Cheapskate Lodging with Hotel Promos, Hostels, airbnb, and CouchSurfing
  27. Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels
  28. Cancelling Cards
  29. The End

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: How to Use SeatGuru to Pick the Best Seat and Flight

This is the twenty-second post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously How to Use Wikipedia and Kayak for Award Searches.

Today I’ll be explaining a tool I use every time I book a flight or research an award to ensure I get the best seat possible, seatguru.com. SeatGuru is an online compendium of airline seat maps.

Along the left top of the site, hold your cursor over Browse Airlines. Select from the list.

How do you use SeatGuru to snag the best flights and seats?

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