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  • There are a number of things you should know before starting to collect air miles.
  • The best place to start is by choosing one of the three main alliances and flying only with their partners.
  • You can also get a co-branded credit card, open a checking account, and book hotels and car rentals through your frequent flyer platform.

The world of air miles can seem incredibly complicated to those on those outside — but the upgrades and lounge access certainly have their appeal.

Luckily, the experts from travel search platform HolidayPirates have put together a guide on how to to do things right.

Here are 4 things you need to know before you start collecting air miles…

1. You won’t get enough miles for a free flight just by flying.

Unless you’re a really frequent traveller, that is. “However, the good news is that there are ways to collect a large number of miles, without even stepping onto a plane,” according to HolidayPirates.

2. Most airlines belong to three main alliances.

“Each airline has its own frequent flyer programme, but once you settle on one, you can collect with all the members (airlines and others) of the alliance for your chosen one,” HolidayPirates explained.

Here are the main ones:

Star Alliance: The biggest one, with 28 airlines including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, United, All Nippon Airways, Air China, Lot, SAS, and Air New Zealand.

SkyTeam: Works with 20 airlines such as Air France/KLM, Delta, China Southern, China Eastern, Aerolineas Argentinas, and Aeromexico.

Oneworld: The smallest alliance of the three, with only 14 airlines. Members include British Airways, Iberia, American Airlines, Qantas, Latam, airberlin, and Japan Airlines.

3. There’s a difference between ‘status miles’ and ‘award miles’

plaza premium t5 lounge Plaza Premium / Head for Points

There’s a big difference between status miles and award miles.

“Status miles can only be collected by actually flying with a certain airline — once you have achieved a certain status, you can use advantages such as fast lane, business check-in, access to the lounge, additional luggage, and much more,” according to HolidayPirates, who added that this status typically expires after a year.

“In contrast, award miles can be used to get free flights or upgrades and generally expire after 12 to 36 months — sometimes they have no expiration date — depending on the chosen frequent flyer program. You can collect award miles by flying with the airline, but also by using partner offers such as credit cards, hotel stays or car rentals.

“You can normally find a full list of the partners on the frequent flyer programme’s website.”

4. If you earn a ‘free flight,’ you won’t always be able to choose the destination

“Most of the time, you will have to pick a destination out of a small list of offered flights.”

…And here’s exactly what you need to do to start collecting:

1. Fly only with alliance partners.

British Airways plane Rebius / Shutterstock.com

Once you have decided on a frequent flyer program with a certain airline, try to find out which other airlines are part of your chosen alliance and ensure that where possible, you book flights with these airlines.

“The amount of miles you can receive will depend on the distance to your destination and your booking class (economy or business),” HolidayPirates said.

“It’s more likely that you will receive a higher amount of miles when you book at a more expensive rate, or when you are flying greater distances.

“Remember that the distance isn’t calculated by the physical distance travelled, but by the direct way from the departing to the landing airport. You can easily check the distance on websites such as gcmap.com.”

2. Get a co-branded credit card

One of the easiest ways to boost your mile count is to get a co-branded credit card.

“Most credit cards offer a big welcome bonus and, in addition, you can get from one to three miles for each euro spent with the credit card,” according to HolidayPirates.

“This enables you to pay for your everyday purchases with the credit card and collect miles with things you would’ve bought anyway. The more you spend, the quicker you will accumulate air miles.

“Remember that in most cases, when applying for a credit card, you must be a resident in the country in which you want to carry out your banking operations. Also, be sure to check the terms and conditions before applying for any credit card. Most cards are free for the first year, but require you to pay a fee in the second year, the amount of which often depends on the conditions provided by the bank.”

3. Open up a checking account

Another easy way to gain miles quickly is to open a new bank account.

“Many banks have special offers for miles collectors, often giving away several thousand miles when you open an account. In some cases, banks will offer more miles if you have a certain income per month, or if you refer a friend and they also open a current account.

“The rules are the same as with the co-branded credit card — you must be a resident in the country where you want to open up your current account. Before opening an account, always make sure to check the terms and conditions, as sometimes there might be account management fees.”

4. Get a newspaper or magazine subscription

“Check out with which newspapers or magazines your chosen program partners with and consider subscribing to the magazine or newspaper for a year. Usually, you can get a great deal of air miles by signing up for just one year.

“Be careful to note down the period of notice required for cancelling your subscription, [as] in many cases the magazine or newspaper may automatically renew your contract without providing you with further air miles. In this instance, if you want to earn more miles, once your subscription has ended, look for another magazine or newspaper that your chosen program partners with.”

5. Book hotel stays and car rentals

champagne in hotel room marla dawn studio / Shutterstock

Almost every frequent flyer program partners with hotels and car rentals, and you should try and book your overnight stays and vehicles through their platforms in order to earn the most miles possible.

“Often, it’s possible to find special offers where you are able to earn a larger amount of miles than usual in return for your booking. In some cases, you may also find that when you book through your frequent flyer program’s website, you are able to get better quality rooms at a hotel, or a better choice of vehicle at the car rental company, making frequent flyer programs great value for money.”

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