Have you wondered what it’s like to fly in business class or first class…mused about the lounges, the special treatment, and peered curiously beyond that first class curtain? Or have you had a taste of the higher echelons of air travel, and do you want more? (Of course you do).
If you hack the frequent flyer mile game, you can fly in style – often for less than the price of flying in economy.
And by the time you’re finished reading this article, you’ll have your choice of the best 5 tools to launch your flight to frequent flyer mile stardom.
LEVEL 1: E-BOOKS
Here are two e-books that can help you up the frequent flyer mile learning curve. Canadians be warned: in both cases the optimal audience for these books are US residents – largely because US airlines and retailers offer the most programs – from specific credit cards, to dining programs, to retail opportunities.
But never fear; these are still useful tools, as they provide excellent overviews of the frequent flyer mile game, and many useful resources. Canada is second to the US in terms of frequent flyer mile opportunities; there’s a lot out there for us.
Frequent Flyer Master
Frequent Flyer Master was written a few years ago (although I believe it has been updated since) by frequent flyer mile guru Chris Guillebeau, who recently completed his mission to visit every country in the world – you can bet he did it on frequent flyer miles, almost exclusively in business or first class. Most of his hotels along the way were also subsidized with frequent flyer miles.
Guillebeau covers the strategies and tools required to hack the frequent flyer mile game for maximum mileage, and provides a good overview of the frequent flyer mile system. I didn’t finish this book with a huge number of takeaway action points (especially in comparison to the book below), but I did learn a lot about the frequent flyer mile game.
Pages: 39, Cost: $49
The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles
Although Chris Guillebeau has dominated the frequent flyer education niche for a few years (as you’ll see from his Travel Hacking Cartel below), there are some new kids on the block, and Travis Sherry’s Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s beefy, and packed with educational advice, practical tips, links. I’ve been hacking frequent flyer miles for a few years, and I learned a ton reading this book – which is suitable for both novice and experienced hackers. It’s the most comprehensive frequent flyer resource book I’ve read.
Pages: 68, Cost: from $49 (higher-priced options include additional resources and coaching sessions)
LEVEL 2: SUBSCRIPTION PROGRAMS
The problem with e-books, is once you’ve finished reading them, you’re unleashed into the big bad world of frequent flyer miles and left to fend for yourself; this is where many people flounder. Where do you find the deals? Do you have time to troll the littered frequent flyer mile forums for opportunities? How do you begin?
Enter: subscription programs. There’s just enough hand-holding to get you on your feet and collecting frequent flyer miles with minimal effort.
Canadian Free Flyers
You read it right: Canadian Free Flyers is a frequent flyer mile resource dedicated entirely to Canadians! Once you sign up, you’ll receive an email series educating you on the principles and strategies of the frequent flyer mile game, and you can browse the member-only online tutorials and reference pages, which are regularly updated.
What makes this program worth its salt are the real-time deal alerts; as soon as an opportunity for Canadians to earn frequent flyer miles becomes available (with Canadian or international programs), you’ll get an email. It could be a Facebook promotion earning you 500 easy ones, a credit card offering a 40,000 mile bonus, an airline promotion, a hotel deal, and more.
Cost: from $27 quarterly (higher-cost options include credit reports, additional tutorials, and personal coaching)
Travel Hacking Cartel
If I was ambivalent about Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master, I’m much more enthusiastic about the Travel Hacking Cartel. You might say it’s Canadian Free Flyer’s big brother, since the Cartel has been around for a couple of years and pioneered the real-time deal alert concept in this niche.
Similar to Canadian Free Flyers, Travel Hacking Cartel membership grants you access to member-only online tutorials and videos, as well as real-time deal alerts. Again this service has more of a US slant, but Guillebeau extends his guarantee to everybody, and claims that about half the deals out there are internationally accessible.
Cost: from $15/month (higher-priced options include access to more tutorials and deal alerts that include hotels and premium/first class deals)
First Class Flyer
First Class Flyer is not exclusively about frequent flyer miles, although they do represent a good chunk; instead, it focuses on strategies for flying in business and first class.
It’s a monthly pdf newsletter with email updates that take you to the newsroom – which announces the latest deals and tricks.
Budget travellers beware: you can find some smashing deals here, but it’s not all about flying for free; it’s about flying in first class for less than the ticket price. 60% off a $10,000 ticket price still means forking out $4,000 to fly overseas. (But you’ll do it in style).
These jam-packed newsletters will fill your head with ideas, but most of the research and flight options originate mainly in the US. They do throw some tips at their international subscribers, and technically many of their sophisticated strategies can be applied to international flights – but it will take some digging on your part.
First Class Flyer’s best customer is a regular flyer who can take advantage of last-minute deals and has the cash to back their first class flying ambitions.
Do you have any experience with frequent flyer miles, or have you used any of the resources above? Please let us know in the comments!