During the B-school admissions process and your career after you’ve earned your MBA you’re likely to rack up quite a few miles traveling, so it makes sense to get the most out of those miles through travel loyalty programs. Whether you’re a frequent flyer novice or PuddingGuy himself, here are a few tips that will help you get the most from your miles.
- Learn the art of the transfer: just because you earned miles or points on one program doesn’t mean you have to use them there. Sites like points.com or flyertalk.com have tools to tell you how to get the best transfer deal. For example, 5000 American Express Membership Rewards points transfer directly into 6500 Hilton HHonors points, but if you transfer those into an airline reward program (most have a 1:1 ration with Hilton), you can transfer the 5000 airline miles into Hilton at a 1:2 rate to net 10000 Hilton HHonors points!
- Mileage runs: most frequent flyer programs have elite tiers (Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc), with certain benefits given to elite members. The typical benefits include bonus miles earned (usually a multiple of actual miles flown), more flexibility when redeeming awards, and of course bragging rights in your circle of friends. Achieving elite status usually requires a certain number of miles flown per year. If you find yourself slightly short of the mileage requirement, it may be worth it to make a “mileage run” (a trip taken specifically to meet a mileage requirement) to make up the difference. If a roundtrip coast to coast flight can boost you to the next elite tier (or a roundtrip flight to visit a school on the opposite coast!), you should consider it if the mileage bonus in the next year is more than the cost of the flight.
- Intermediary programs: you may fly on Alaska Airlines exclusively, but does that mean you should get the Alaska Airlines Visa? Maybe not. Using what you learned about transferring miles and points, let’s say you did some research online and discovered a hotel loyalty program called Starwood Preferred Guest. You would also know that Starwood gives you a 5000 point bonus for every 20000 points you earn, which transfer 1:1 to any airline’s frequent flyer program. Even if you never stay in a Starwood-branded hotel (which you should, since they are so nice!), consider the Starwood Card from American Express because it is the fastest way to earn free flights, as strange as that sounds.
This is just a brief introduction to the art and science of travel loyalty programs but the possibilities are endless. Do your research and find the deals that make sense for you and give you the most bang for your buck…after all, it’s just plain good business sense!