5 Tools for Hacking the Frequent Flyer Mile Game


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Frequent Flyer

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.


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


Guarantee: If you apply these strategies, you’ll earn at least 25,000 frequent flyer miles – enough for a round-trip domestic flight.


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)


Guarantee: With the strategies in this book, you’ll earn at least enough for a $500 flight.



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)


Guarantee: If you don’t like it after 30 days, you’ll get a refund. Also, if after one year you haven’t earned enough points for a free flight, you’ll get a refund.


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)


Guarantee: You’ll earn at least four free plane tickets per year (100,000 miles).


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.

Cost: $197/year

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!


About the Author: Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo; a Canadian who sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 and has been travelling the world in a financially sustainable way ever since. She is an internationally published freelance writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design.


  • I don’t see how people have the time to keep up to date/manage all the ways to travel hack! We’re 50-ish and still slaving away in careers and use one approach to free tickets that’s worked for several years: credit card mileage, including being on the lookout for sign-up bonus offers from the big 3 (Delta, American and United). We pay for a lot with credit cards anyhow, pay our balances in full every month, and it’s a great way to “finance” our airfare. As a couple we’ve managed to use mileage for free tickets to Europe (twice), South America, and New Zealand (all in coach, which suits us fine), plus some domestic travel. We’ve never had trouble getting our seats, and the itinerary we wanted, as long as we did some research and planned a few months in advance. We’re currently sitting on 800,000+ miles among the 3 airlines (and by extension, airline partners), and planning for Australia plus another trip to Europe in the next few years.

    I read a lot of your pieces and am envious of your life Nora, but our one-prong approach is about all I can do to manage work/life/travel…and I can’t imagine finding the time to track deals/get any more out of it than we do.

  • @Angela – I started collecting miles – for years – in exactly the same way as you, with passive credit card accumulation. Then I read an article (by Chris Guillebeau, of Travel Hacking Cartel and Frequent Flyer Master) that discussed a US Airways promotion that was happening.
    I simply did my Christmas shopping online (which, considering I was in Australia at the time was a blessing), through the US Airways online shopping portal. I worked the bonus mile structure to my benefit, and ultimately I booked $8,000 in long-haul business class flights (New Zealand to Madrid to Melbourne) plus a shorter distance economy ticket….all for a net spend of $1,200 – which included taxes.
    After that….I was sold.

    (Here’s a little more information on what I did, and how I enjoyed it: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2010/06/my-business-class-travel-adventures-and-using-frequent-flyer-miles/)

    But let’s get it right; I don’t have time to do all that searching and tracking deals; that’s what things like the Travel Hacking Cartel and Canadian Freeflyers is all about!

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