We all know the military runs on RUMINT (Rumor Intelligence) which is often not true. This happens
quite frequently when discussing frequent flyer miles as most people can’t believe you would be able to do all that I do for free. To be fair, there was a time in the 80’s and 90’s that the Government claimed that the miles were theirs, but as they had no
way to enforce or monitor their use, they finally gave up that line around the year 2000.
As a young officer, I found a good technique when someone would say something was not allowed, was to say “show me the reg”. The regulation in this case is the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) which is the bible for all travel for both military and
civilian personnel in DoD.
Here is the language straight from the JTR:
U1200 NON-REIMBURSABLE EXPENSES
1. A traveler on official business traveling at GOV’T expense on agency (APP A1)
funds may keep promotional material (including frequent traveler benefits such as points or miles,
upgrades, or access to carrier clubs or facilities) for personal use.
The promotional material must be obtained under the same terms as those offered
to the general public and must be at no additional GOV’T cost. Examples include
vendor-provided complimentary upgrades to rooms or transportation
accommodations and upgrades ‘purchased’ using frequent traveler benefits and/or
personal unreimbursed funds.
That should make things crystal clear that everything that I am passing along to you is legal and you should take advantage of it. If people were passing out $100 bills on the street, would you take one? Then let me teach you how to get hundreds of dollars worth of free travel.
So how to start?
There are frequent traveler program for airlines, hotels, and even
rental car agencies. Just like each DoD service does things similarly, but different, the various programs are similar
but different. Selection of which programs you want to join will primarily be based upon where you are
stationed. You want to try to concentrate your mileage/ points earnings on one or two programs in each
category. Concentrating your earnings will both allow you to earn enough to reach a spending level for an award and
show that program that you are a good customer (known as elite). Elite customers get things for free and free
is the best price to pay.
Where to start?
There are websites, books, and blogs that can teach you everything from the basics to really advanced tricks to getting extra benefits. For books, I suggest starting with “Mileage Pro – The Insider’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs — Randy Petersen and Tim
Winship” written by two of the leaders in frequent flyer tips and tricks. This book is a great starting point since it lays out all the basics in a logical fashion.
Just jumping into the websites below can make you feel totally lost.
On the web, the two best sites that I visit are www.milepoint.com and www.flyertalk.com. If you like to read blogs like this one, www.boardingarea.com has the biggest collection that I know of. If you like podcasts, www.upgrd.com will give you quite a few of those to listen to.
So study up and gather your questions for next time and we’ll move on to some more advanced topics.