Using frequent flyer miles doesn’t mean it’s free

My hometown of Nashville recently gained a non-stop flight to London Heathrow on British Airways which is nice in so many ways and many folks may think that’s a great way to redeem their frequent flyer miles…but is it really?

Let’s say you have 60,000 American AAdvantage miles and are ready to splurge on a trip to London. You log into your AAdvantage account on, plug in dates that will work for you, check the Redeem miles box and hit Search.

The website returns the full week of results.

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Equifax Hacked – How You Can See If You’re Affected

Earlier today we learned that credit giant Equifax had been hacked leaving 143 million people vulnerable to identity theft as social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, etc. were exposed.  Greg at Frequent Miler had this post about how to see if you’re impacted so I thought I’d pass the info along.

First, visit this Equifax link and enter the data shown below:

Then Greg and his wife both got this box displayed:

He takes that to mean their data is safe.  When he clicked the ENROLL button he was taken to a page similar to this:

Unfortunately for me, I did not get the second box above but went straight to this third box.  I don’t know if that means my data was affected or not but I will be monitoring it closely and visiting the FAQ site mentioned in the link to find out more as soon as I’m allowed..

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Thoughts on #LeggingsGate

By now you’ve probably heard that two teenage girls were prevented from boarding a United flight on Sunday morning because they were wearing leggings.  As facts unfolded it came out that they were flying on an employee’s “buddy pass” which allows them to fly for free on a space-available basis.  When a person flies on a pass, they are subject to extra rules, including a dress code that is stricter than for the general public.  It doesn’t matter whether or not the person agrees with the rules, if they want to fly free (or very cheaply) they must follow the rules and these girls did not.

Some commenters think this is entirely sexist as the male adult traveling with them, also on a pass (presumably one of the girls’ father) was wearing shorts and he would have been allowed to board.  But shorts (for either gender – but not short shorts) are expressly permitted so that was not an issue.  The girls changed clothes and were permitted aboard a later flight.

Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly has a great summation of the events.
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Flying Into/Out Of ASE – Aspen, Colorado

The tiny Aspen airport is so convenient.  It was just over 8 miles from the Top of the Village condos in Snowmass where my group stayed on our recent trip.  It’s only 3.5 miles from downtown Aspen. So, so convenient.


Of course there’s a catch. Continue reading

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Points and Miles: Where to Start? What to Expect?

2015-06-20 Where to start
Friends know I love to travel and I’m starting to get questions about how I can take such nice vacations each year. When I reply that I use miles and points to help defray my expenses, of course then they want to know how I can accumulate those points if I’m spending them for travel. I explain about using credit cards both for the sign-up bonuses and for strategic spending to earn those points. Then the inevitable question comes: which card should they get first? The answer? It depends.

It sounds like a cop-out but it is truly the best answer because the best card for someone just starting out in this game depends on how they want to use their points and miles. Is your goal domestic travel or premium cabin international travel? Will you be traveling solo or as a couple or a family? Do you live near an airline’s hub or is your city serviced by an airport with limited service? All of these are things to consider what card is right for you.

But the most important factor is: where do I want my points and miles to take me? The different airline alliances have different strengths in different parts of the world, so accumulating points with a destination in mind is crucial. Once you can answer that question, you’ll have a good place to start.

Setting Expectations

Once people start accumulating miles their expectation becomes “I can fly any time, anywhere for free!” – and that’s not realistic. I try to coach people that when using frequent flyer miles (more-so than hotel points) a person will need to be flexible in at least one of these three categories:

  • Date/Times
  • Routing
  • Destination

If a person is locked into a certain destination on certain dates and is only willing to fly non-stop, they’ll almost certainly find themselves disappointed when they can’t use their miles. I run into this frequently myself. I love to go skiing and am in a ski club. The club sets the dates and the destinations. Many times we fly to smaller mountain airports that have only a few flights per day. So quite I often I must decide whether to pay cash or use the same number of miles on a regional jet flight in economy that could otherwise be spent on a business-class trip to Europe.

Decisions can be further complicated depending on whether or not there’s a traveling companion who’s paying cash. What if the flights with award availability are much more expensive that the flights one would choose when paying cash?

All these factors should be considered when determining whether to use points and miles or cash for a trip.

If you’re wondering where to start, drop me an email and tell me where you’d like to go, what credit cards you have now and I’ll be happy to offer suggestions on the best cards to use to get you to your destination. Email:

(Note: if you don’t currently pay off your credit cards in full each month, this game is not for you. The interest incurred will offset the value of the points and miles earned.)

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