Gary (View from the Wing) is one of the most experienced bloggers on Boarding Area and wrote a great piece that I thought particularly applies to my fellow veterans. He wrote about some non-mainstream FF programs that are very important to have in your bandolier of miles and points programs. The reason that I think his advice particularly applies to military members is the fact that we end up living in many of the countries that these programs are based in. When I lived in Korea, I had a Korean Air account and when living in Dubai had an Emirates account. If you get stationed overseas, don’t hesitate to sign up for the local program provided you’re not stationed in Moldova (three flights gets you a free goat!) …. I had a hard time there coming up with a country that we don’t have anyone stationed in!
I especially appreciate Gary’s view that the Alaska Air Mileage Plan Program is one of the most valuable to have. The wife and I both have six figures in each of our accounts even though my largest account is with UA (seven figures in that one). The point is that doing this, even with smaller amounts of miles, gives you much more flexibility with arranging the award flight that suits your needs. Between UA’s Mileage Plus and AS’ Mileage Plan, there are almost no airlines that I can’t book a flight on to suit mine and my family’s needs. Sure I have a bunch of miles on other program’s too, having recently picked up 100,000 bonus miles from the Citi AA Card. These I don’t hesitate to use, but it is much easier when you have a couple of large accounts that apply to many scenarios rather than having to hunt between programs.
This is part of the strategy of getting Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, or other non-affiliated programs. My only problem with those is trying to accumulate a lot of miles in these since , after the CC bonus, the only way to get them is by charging up your credit card. While you can bump this up somewhat with manufactured spending, that is a lot of work to get a few thousand miles. My strategy is simply to get enough miles in each one, say 60,000 miles, in order to use for those special flights or hotel stays that you really need for a special situation.
One thing that I think Gary downplays too much is the number of programs he recommends that have a fuel surcharge with their award tickets. This is often hundreds of dollars that are added to your award ticket and really take away from the term “free”. Do some research before you get too deep into a particular program.
I will say that one of the programs he mentions that I need to venture into that I haven’t yet is British Airways Avios. The beauty of this program is that you basically pay per mile for an award. These miles are great for a short hop rather than spending the full 25,000 miles in a normal program. This also means that you only need to accumulate a few thousand miles in order to get something out of this program rather than building it up to big numbers.
Here is Gary’s full post here. And be sure to take notes!