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How to Get the Biggest Bang For Your Airline-Miles Buck

How to Get the Biggest Bang For Your Airline-Miles Buck

Everyone dreams of racking up great airline mileage points to see the world, but some find the process more difficult than expected. Need help navigating the fine-print confusion to get the most use out of your airline miles? Here are some tips to turn you into a travel master.

Use Miles on Flights with the Best ROI

Get the most return on investment (ROI) out of your miles by critically looking at the best purchase options. The general rule is this: if the ticket costs more than $500, you will usually get a better deal using your miles. If the ticket is less than this, it’s often better to simply pay for it. Blowing 50,000 airline points on a $200 ticket just doesn’t make sense, unless that’s the only flight you can use your miles for before they expire. Using the 50,000 points on a $2,000 flight is a much better spend. If you have more expensive tickets in the future, save your miles for these trips instead.

Points on Upgrades are Smart Buys

Another way to use miles to obtain a higher cost per point value is with upgrades. These give you a much greater dollar value for your points vs than the 1.2 – 1.4 cents per mile average. It is certainly worth utilizing this option on longer flights where the extra leg room and pampering will be more thoroughly enjoyed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you also bank additional miles from the trip. Just be sure to ask about any surcharges or restrictions on the revenue ticket you plan to upgrade.

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Book Very Early, or At the Last Minute

Remember, the best possible prices either go to those who book extremely early (330 days in advance on some airlines) or those who snap up empty seats at the last moment. So, if you are neither a long-term planner or a spontaneous person, you will need to adjust accordingly in either direction if you want to snatch up the best ticket deals. As you accumulate your airline miles on purchased flights, it just makes sense to find the best value per ticket.

Book Through an Agent

Airlines have trained us well to book online. This lowers the amount of employee time spent on customer calls and automates the system so it’s easier for the airline. That said, calling an agent and booking over the phone can be advantageous when trying to redeem miles. Airline representatives have access to information and authority over options that you do not, so it just makes sense to use this to your advantage. Agents can often create options that aren’t available through an online site, and can also exercise their authority to bypass restrictions that limit award availability. Yes, you may pay a surcharge—typically $20—but it’s worth it if you save several hundred dollars on a better ticket or option that you didn’t know was available.

Keep Accounts Active

Hoarding your miles for the most amazing trip to paradise won’t happen if you sit on them so long they expire. Many programs allow you to keep your account active other ways. You can gain miles and add activity to your account with purchases not even related to flying. You can often go to restaurants participating in an airline dining for miles program. You can also earn miles shopping. Over 400 online merchants—Wal-Mart, PETCO, Nike, etc.—participate in airline shopping mall programs. You can get anywhere from 1 to 12 bonus miles for each dollar spent. Also, always give car rental agencies and hotels your frequent flyer number to boost points. You can even grow you mileage account through FTD for sending flowers, or stack up additional mileage bonuses booking cruises or vacations through carrier sites. Are you already an investor with Fidelity Investment or TDAmeritrade? You can earn miles investing through these companies with some airlines. Or, if you are more comfortable investing in real estate, you can earn airline miles through certain banks when you take out a mortgage. If buying a house seems like an extreme way to gain miles, you can tone things down and simply sign up for Netflix to accrue additional points over some nightly movie entertainment. New opportunities to build up miles are out there if you’re willing to invest the research necessary to find them.

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Use Sites to Manage Your Miles

If the thought of shifting through all the fine print to discover which deals work gives you a headache, you can utilize certain sites to explore the options for you. These sites take a deep dive into your frequent flier account to help you understand the best options of your miles. GoMiles.com and AwardWallet.com will warn you if your miles are about to expire and alert you to new deals and promotions. However, don’t expect all airlines to embrace the third-party intrusion, as they feel it threatens the security of your information.

Use the Right Airlines

When it comes to redeeming points, not every airline is equal. It pays to choose airlines that are more friendly to point-redemption opportunities. The Wall Street Journal did a survey of all major carriers and found that the toughest airline to utilize your mileage points was US Airways, followed by Delta. With these companies, you have a 36% chance of actually using your miles the way you intend. Southwest was the clear winner of the survey, with a 95% chance of redeeming points, followed by JetBlue at 89%.

If You Can’t Use Miles:

1) Donate Miles

If your miles are expiring before you use them, consider donating them to others instead of losing them. For example, families have pooled airline points together to send newlyweds on their honeymoon, or parents on an anniversary vacation. The gift of travel is a great present! Who knows—they may return the favor when you need some additional miles in the future.

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If you don’t have a friend or family member to share your miles, you can also donate them to charity. For example, the Fisher House Foundation’s “Hero Miles” program has given more than 40,000 tickets to injured service members and their families, and Mercy Medical Airlift has provided almost 10,000 free flights to patients. The Make-A-Wish Foundation also needs miles to send kids on their desired adventures. These charities, as well as many others, will greatly benefit from your unused mileage points, and you can feel good giving to a worthy cause.

2) Trade Miles

While the exchange rate is fairly high, you can exchange miles for gift cards to companies such as Amazon or Starbucks. You can also trade your miles from one airline for points with a different carrier.

3) Use Miles for Hotels and Car Rentals

While the frequent, elite traveler will see much better deals than the average flier, you can spend your expiring miles for hotels and car rentals, as well as other travel needs. Again, it pays to research your best options for redeeming these miles.

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The possibilities of utilizing airlines miles are numerous and differ greatly depending on the program and carrier. However, taking a bit of time to do a deep dive into the opportunities and savings offered will help you become quite the travel-savvy flyer. After all, saving money while flying first class to your dream vacation is a great reward for a bit of extra airline mileage research and points management.

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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

Imagine receiving a regular supply of free samples through your letterbox?

These free samples by mail could include things such as cleaning products, cosmetics and packaged food.

Free samples are a great way to try out some of the latest products. One week you may have a new toothpaste to try – the next week you may be snacking on a delicious chocolate cookie sample.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. And by requesting free samples by mail (I’ll show you how shortly), you’ll have not just variety – but fun too!

Tell Me More About Getting Free Samples Sent to My Door!

So, it looks like I’ve caught your interest. That’s great news!

Just before I introduce you to 10 places where you can get free samples by mail, let me clarify a couple of things.

Firstly, all the places I’ll talk about are currently active in sending out free samples to consumers. (In other words, no links to out-of-date or dead pages!)

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Secondly, location is key. If you live in North America, then you’ll have a wide selection of places to sign up to. In other locations (for example, Africa, Asia and Europe), you’ll have fewer choices – but free samples by mail are still a possibility.

Lastly, to whet your appetite for the freebies, here’s a short list of product examples:

  • Pet food.
  • Beauty products.
  • T-shirts.
  • Greeting cards.
  • Wallets.
  • Snack bars.
  • Vitamins.

Free Samples by Mail… Tell Me Where to Get Them!

It’s now time to share my recommendations for the best sites to claim free samples from.

Let’s start with…

#1 SampleSource

    This company sends out boxes of 6-12 free samples about four times a year. Products include baby wipes, cereals and tissues. Register with SampleSource to be notified of the availability of their free samples. (Canada and U.S. only.)

    #2 Influenster

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      As their name suggests, Influenster wants to send free samples to you in exchange for you sharing about the products on your social media accounts. Once you’ve become a member (join for free!), they’ll send you a box of free goodies every few months. The more you share pictures and reviews of the products – the more free samples they’ll send you! (All major territories.)

      #3 PINCHme

        This organization will send you free samples in the hope that you’ll then go out and buy the equivalent full-size products. To receive regular boxes of free food, drink and cosmetic samples (and sometimes coupons), then sign up and create your profile. (U.S. only.)

        #4 House Party

          Thinking of throwing a house party? If yes, then be sure to sign up with this company. They’ll send you a box of ‘themed’ products and services that you can hand out at your party. Register with House Party. Wait for the fun freebies to be mailed to you. And then start sending out your party invites! (Worldwide.)

          #5 YoFreeSamples

            This site is a great resource for a whole host of free samples that can be mailed directly to your door (with no survey requirements!). You’ll find anything from books to perfume, with new offers listed daily. Head over to their site to see what’s currently available. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

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            #6 Magic Freebies

              The U.K.’s most popular freebie site. Register for their email newsletter, and they’ll send you a daily email with eight free sample offers. These include products such as disposable razors, dog bowls, and even fake tan! So, what are you waiting for? (U.K. only.)

              #7 SweetFreeStuff

                Since 2002, this simple site has been linking to the best free sample offers currently available. To get started, sign up to their daily email newsletter, which contains links to the latest offers. As well as free samples, SweetFreeStuff also gives information on coupons and deals. (Worldwide.)

                #8 Sample A Day

                  Would you like to receive a notification of a new free sample every day? Well, that’s the promise from this site. They claim to thoroughly research all offers, ensuring there are no catches or hidden surveys! From baby products to socks, this site is sure to have something for you. Registration is super-easy. Simply enter your email address. (Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                  #9 Pretty Thrifty

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                    This site specializes in free beauty products, but also lets you claim free samples such as energy drinks, snack bars, and even magazine subscriptions. Pretty Thrifty has more than 85,000 followers on social media, so clearly knows how to attract free sample hunters. One thing that makes Pretty Thrifty stand out from most of their competitors, is that their email newsletter is available in daily, weekly and monthly formats. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

                    #10 CrazyFree

                      My final tip for getting the best free samples by mail, is Australian company CrazyFree. Their funky website offers big brand free sample offers, which currently include items such as Dolce & Gabbana perfume, Coke Zero, and Happy Dog pet food. To claim the offers, select the free samples you would like, and then complete their registration form. (Australia, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                      Receiving regular free samples by mail is a fabulous way of testing out the latest products on the market (and some that aren’t even on the market yet!)

                      You’ll impress your friends and family with all the free stuff you’ll be receiving. And take it from me… it’s a fun, free and rewarding hobby.

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