JetBlue Lets Family And Friends Earn Frequent Flier Points Together

JetBlue Plane
John Murphy, Flickr

If you’re one of those travelers who flies every now and then but not super often, you’ve probably all but given up hope of ever racking up enough frequent flier points for a free journey. Now jetBlue is giving less frequent travelers a better chance of earning a free flight by letting them pool their reward miles with family or friends.

The airline says its TrueBlue loyalty program will allow a designated group of travelers to accumulate points together. A family who is pooling its points can include a maximum of two adults aged 21 and over and up to five children. But friends who aren’t related can also decide to form a group for the sake of collecting miles. And you don’t have to share all your points either –- family or group members can choose to contribute a percentage of their miles to the group pool. Anyone who is part of the group can then use the points towards an award flight.JetBlue says the new point-sharing option now removes all the obstacles when it comes to redeeming an award flight. The carrier says it doesn’t have any blackout dates and loyalty points don’t expire, meaning families have better chance of accumulating enough miles to make that free trip a reality.

How 12,150 Cups Of Chocolate Pudding Turned Into A Million Frequent Flyer Miles

Guy Who Turned Pudding Into a Lifetime of Free Air Travel Is Still Flying

While you may try to rack up frequent flyer miles from travel, airline-branded credit cards or online shopping, have you ever thought about pudding? One clever traveler turned a Healthy Choice promotion into enough miles to fly the world multiple times.

In 1999, Civil Engineer David Phillips noticed a promotion from Healthy Choice offering 500 American Airlines miles for every 10 product bar codes sent in, with a double bonus for sending them in the first month. Phillips figured out that the promotion would extend to all of their products, and searched his area supermarkets for the best deal. He started with 90-cent cans of soup, and then found a better deal: individual packages of chocolate pudding for 25 cents apiece. He bought every one available, spending a total of $3,140. This gave him 12,150 puddings worth over 1.2 million airline miles.

The story gets sweeter when you hear how he collected the bar codes for redemption. He started by putting his family to work, but they were soon (literally) sick of peeling the pudding lids and eating the stuff. He offered them up to Salvation Army for free, in return for the bar codes. For this, he was also able to get an $800 charitable tax deduction, bringing his investment down to around $2200. Netting over a million miles also gives him lifetime gold elite status on American, giving him an extra boost for accruing miles. His story inspired a similar plot in the movie “Punch Drunk Love.” Phillips continues to take advantage of frequent flyer promotions and deals, and now has over 4 million miles in his accounts.

United’s New Mileage Program Cuts Out Budget Travelers

Luis Argerich, Wikimedia Commons

United Airlines’ new mileage program is set to include a minimum annual spending level, essentially cutting budget travelers out of the perk-earning picture. The new plan forces travelers to spend a set amount of money to get benefits, meaning those who smartly snag deals and rack up miles will no longer garner elite status.

Starting January 2014, those enrolled in United MileagePlus will need to earn a combination of either miles or segments, plus dollars, to get rewards. For example, to reach the first tier, a frequent flier must earn either 25,000 miles or 30 qualifying segments, plus a minimum of $2,500 qualifying dollars. So now, two round-trip flights from the United States to Europe that could have otherwise landed a traveler an upgrade might not qualify any longer, especially if a traveler found a great deal on airfare before booking.

As outlined above, travelers who only hit the road when they find a can’t-miss deal will be hurt most by the new qualifications, leading us to believe that the airline might want to reconsider the MileagePlus program tagline: “the world’s most rewarding loyalty program.”

The Best Airlines For Redeeming Frequent Flier Miles

gTarded, Flickr

If your frequent flier miles are languishing unused in your account because you keep coming up against blackout dates whenever you try to use them, then perhaps it’s time to switch airlines, or maybe even rethink your booking tactics.

A survey by IdeaWorksCompany looked at 25 of the biggest frequent flier programs to figure out which carriers were best when it came to redeeming frequent flier points. The study checked each of the airline’s primary routes to see what level of availability there was for travelers looking to book a flight using their miles.The results? Coming out on top were Southwest Airlines, Air Berlin and GOL, which all showed reward seat availability 100 percent of the time.

Among the big players, United Airlines took out eighth place on the list with 80 percent availability. Other large airlines did worse, with American Airlines making reward seats available about 49 percent of the time, while travelers trying to redeem miles on Delta or US Airways would have been successful only 36 percent of the time.

So why did budget airlines fare so well in the study? According to the company behind the survey, low cost airlines focus on offering short- and medium-haul flights that operate multiple times a day – meaning there are simply more seats to go around. The same principle applies if you’re trying to book a short-haul flight on a major airline, with reward availability hovering around 85 percent for flights under 2,500 miles. It’s the long-haul intercontinental flights with lower seat density that drag the big carriers down the rankings.

Some experts also believe the reason budget airlines keep topping the survey is that fewer business travelers (who tend to dominate frequent flier program enrollment) use them – meaning that when it comes time to claim your reward miles, you don’t have to compete with as many people for your seat.

Frequent flyer applies to 13 credit cards in one day to earn points

There’s a whole pseudo-science on the web regarding the art of earning miles and points by means of credit card applications. Many in the mileage running and hoarding business use credit cards heavily to earn special bonus or signup-miles by applying at certain times or hitting minimum spend limits. With a decent credit score it’s a fairly easy game to play, though I’ll be the first to admit that the full ramifications of cyclically applying-for and canceling credit cards are still unknown. Still, that doesn’t stop many from churning out the applications.

Recently I came across the most outrageous example of this sort of activity from a blogger named Ben from The Man From 1000 Places, who actually applied to thirteen credit cards in one day in order to reap a total of more than 500,000 miles and points. Ten of those applications have currently been approved while another three are still pending. With a score in the high 700’s before the application, Ben expects his credit rating to take a brief hit but return to his normally high rate after 6 months.

With the 500,000 points, a wide variety of travel rewards and upgrades are available to the savvy hoarder. Round trip, business class tickets between North America and Europe, for example, cost 100,000 miles on American Airlines, and though the blogger wont be receiving all of the miles in one specific account he’ll be able to combine several of them.

In order to keep those points, he’ll will need to pay $233 in annual fees and then cancel most of the cards to prevent more annual fees. The only other trackable cost is his credit score. Gary Leff, co-founder of frequent flyer community milepoint.com and author of the ViewFromTheWing blog suggests:

Applying for credit generates a consumer-initiated pull of your credit score, and every time you apply for credit it’s an indication you might NEED that credit, and may be a bigger risk.

In the long-run you might well improve your score by having more available credit that you aren’t utilizing, and over time as the accounts age by having more older accounts. But the short-run effect of several credit pulls and a younger average age of accounts will make a big dent in your score.

If you see your score drop below 750 you’ll begin receiving higher interests rates on major purchases like mortgages, and those costs will likely exceed any benefits you get from signups. So it’s important to stay away from plenty of new card signups leading up to a home purchase or refinance. Individuals with more borderline credit may experience problems with auto loans.

Taking the time to apply for and earn the cards thus might be a decent way to get some extra points, as long as the financial preparations are made and the credit cards are properly disposed of. Hopefully there’s no long term financial impact beyond the credit score.

[Flickr image via Andres Rueda]