Airline miles: How to double dip on travel savings

ABC7 I-Team Report
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Traveling over the holidays? Before you book that flight, find out how to get the best deals, rack up more airline miles and even double dip in savings.

At a time when many airlines, like Chicago-based United, are scaling back on mileage programs, there are ways to still come out ahead. From special credit cards to secret websites, there are ways to double or even triple points and miles.

The offers are endless with credit cards linked to airline points and miles. But consumers may find when they cash in that they don't have enough for that dream vacation.

"Never let your points expire. It is like throwing cash in the trash can," airline expert Brian Kelly, aka The Points Guy, said. Kelly's number one rule: Don't be loyal to one airline's credit card.

"This year alone we have seen United making a big devaluation in their program, meaning it is going to cost a lot more miles. They have already raised the miles to fly. Even Southwest, the flyer-friendly airline, increased the amounts of points in March," Kelly said.

Kelly recommends playing the field. He has 26 cards earning him miles. Better yet, he said get one credit card that's linked to multiple airlines, letting consumers use the miles like cash. There's also a way to quickly multiply miles.

"Never go to Target.com. Never. Never. Never. Always go to an airline shopping portals," Kelly said. Shopping portals are like secret links to major retailers where consumers get all the airline miles. Many of them can be found at evrewards.com.

For example, American Airlines will give shoppers two miles for every dollar spent at Target, and they don't need to use an American Airlines credit card. So consumers get American miles for the transaction, but if they make the purchase on a United card, they'll bank up miles on both airlines.

"It's double dipping at its finest," Kelly said.

Chicago's Orbitz, said its card allows people to use what it calls "Or-bucks" on hotels without blackout dates. But if for those using miles to book a free flight, Orbitz said the best choices are the week after Thanksgiving or the week after New Year's.

Whatever they do, consumers should beware of wasting miles on lower cost domestic flights.

"You don't want to use maybe 50,000 or 75,000 points for an airline ticket that may only cost you $150," Jeanenne Tornatore, Orbitz, said.

Also, mileage offers from partner airlines may not always show up on an airlines' website, so pick up the phone.

"It is 2014 and you think everything would be online. But even if you have to pay the $25 phone booking fee, if you can get a partner award at half the price of what you see online it can make sense to pay the fee," Kelly said.

Even if you don't use rewards programs there are ways to beat the system: If you're not happy with a flight or if you had a bad experience you can use the power of social media to get re-booked on a cancelled flight or complain; You can also email the airlines to try to get vouchers after a bad experience; The best time to book any flight is at the beginning of the week. The cheapest travel days are Tuesday and Saturday.

Travel Tips:

From Orbitz:
-Usually you are getting the LEAST amount of value if you redeem points for goods or gift cards
-Don't waste miles or points during peak seasons
-Be flexible

From "The Points Guy":
-Don't use miles on cars , hotels
-You can ask credit card companies to waive high annual fees. They may do so to keep your business.
-Don't use miles on cars , hotels
-Add on extra legs or overnights on international flights for the same number of points or miles (Overnight in Paris) on your way to Rome
-Be nice to flight attendants. It may help you get a seat upgrade or free alcohol.
- If you have got a chase credit card Travelocity can actually give you an extra 2 points by clicking through " portals"

Access to Shopping portals to gain miles:
www.Evrewards.com

To track your loyalty programs so you know when all of your miles expire:
www.awardwallet.com

Site which will keep you updated on the latest deals
www.Theflightdeal.com

Set alerts to find award tickets with miles and points:
www.Expertflyer.com

Best Airline Credit Cards to gain "universal points" or travel cash:
-The Chase Sapphire Card earns 2 points per dollar on all travel and has 11 partner airlines.
- The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express can transfer to 31 different airlines.
- The Barclaycard Arrival Plus also offers cash back towards travel.

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