Become a Frequent Flyer Master and Earn a Free Flight Every Year

By Nora Dunn on 4 December 2009 (Updated 3 April 2010) 10 comments

Ssshh: don’t bother me. I’m busy doing my Christmas shopping and accumulating enough frequent flyer miles to pay for two overseas flights — in business class.

I’ve just finished reading Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master. This e-book professes to give you the tools to attain free travel anywhere, and features a “one free plane ticket” guarantee: with a small investment of your time practicing some of the tips in this e-book, you can earn enough frequent flyer miles to take at least one free trip a year.

Background

Just in case you don’t know who Chris Guillebeau is, one of his claims to fame is that he is on a mission to visit every country in the world by April 2013. He visits approximately 25 countries per year, and as at the writing of this post is at 122 of 192 countries.

Because he isn’t independently wealthy, he affords this habit by virtue of hacking frequent flyer mile programs. He finds the loopholes and dives through them in a successful quest for hundreds of thousands of miles and elite status each year. He walks the talk.

Premise

Frequent Flyer Master emphasizes that much of the frequent flyer mileage industry is based on lack of information. Most people have no idea of the how their miles can best provide for their travel needs and goals, and they end up unwittingly overspending. Airlines benefit from the thousands of people who have a few hundred or thousand frequent flyer miles stashed away with no real intention of using (or even understanding) them.

If you buy this e-book it is assumed that you are taking the accumulation of frequent flyer miles somewhat seriously, and are looking for viable strategies to do so. To that end, Guillebeau suggests you set some specific travel goals. Frequent flyer miles are some of the most underutilized benefits out there; if you take the time and effort to accumulate them, make sure you have a plan to redeem them too.

You don’t have to be as ambitious as Guillebeau and see every country; even the goal of a free flight to Hawaii can get you started (that’s how I started collecting, passively, many years ago. Who knew my reward ticket to Hawaii would end up being one-way).

Structure

  • Introduction
  • Strategy (which includes a history of the industry, basics of frequent flyer miles today, and general strategies)
  • Tactics: Earning Miles (including both passive and active strategies, ongoing promotions, and special deals)
  • Tactics: Redeeming Miles (with hints and troubleshooting tips)
  • Miscellaneous Notes and Tips
  • Questions & Answers
  • Reader Stories

This e-book (like many) also includes a few extras (reports, interviews, audio/videos, etc) that are just as weighty as the book in terms of material and value. But hands down the highest value perk to owning this e-book is the ongoing updates from Guillebeau identifying new frequent flyer promotions and how to hack your way into hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of miles. (I’m not kidding about the opening paragraph: I’m in the throes of earning a cool 250,000 miles just by doing some strategic Christmas Shopping, as a result of his latest update).

Limitations

If you aren’t a U.S. Citizen (or resident), many of the deals and offers won’t apply to you. As Guillebeau says, many of the best airline reward programs belong to U.S. airlines, which are among the worst for service. (He advocates maximizing your miles by using them to fly with the world alliance airlines to which the U.S. airlines belong).

Canadians will have a moderately better time than others, since some of the U.S. airlines have Canadian branches that are in competition with Air Canada.

Guillebeau attempts to combat this limitation by providing regular updates to his Frequent Flyer Master subscribers with opportunities that can be enjoyed by anyone from anywhere.

Highlights

Without giving away the meat of this e-book, here are some random frequent flyer mile hints and strategies that I found added value:

  • Guillebeau gives a helpful rule for determining the per-mile value of your frequent flyer miles, so you can evaluate various offers for their value. Not all frequent flyer mile offers are created equal.
     
  • Use Those Miles! You may be hoarding miles in an effort to either save for a big travel goal, or simply a rainy day. Unfortunately it might leave you in the lurch if the airline adjusts the value of their miles (and in so doing, de-values the miles), and your hard work at accumulation is somewhat negated.
     
  • Trading in your frequent flyer miles for long haul business and first class travel usually represents the best deal for your miles, by far. And when on a long haul trip, flying in something other than economy can make all the difference to how you feel when you disembark.
     
  • Other tickets worth booking with frequent flyer miles include cross-country flights and trips to more obscure places, not serviced by discount airlines.
     
  • There is a discussion about buying and selling your miles, with evaluative criteria for each.
     
  • The three main tactics for earning miles include flying, credit card spending, and non-travel activity (like shopping).
     
  • Accumulation is only half the battle. Redeeming your miles is another exercise in knowing what you can get, where you can get it, and how to get the best value.

As a passive frequent flyer junkie (who uses little more than a credit card rewards program to accumulate miles), this e-book has inspired me. With a little bit of effort, I can earn a huge number of miles, and (hopefully) I won’t have to worry about paying for another long-haul flight again. Oh yeah — and I’m flying first class all the way, baby.

Frequent Flyer Master, by Chris Guillebeau

Pages: 40

Cost: $49 ($79 when combined with Travel Ninja - about travel hacking strategies)

Includes: A 20 minute audio download, a 4-part report on using Priceline, and free updates with valuable travel hacking opportunities

If you want to know more about Chris Guillebeau’s books, I reviewed another one of his (called The Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself ) in another Wise Bread article about making money, traveling, and changing your life.

…And just in case you thought that this is a new phenomenon, or that Guillebeau takes his frequent flyer miles way too seriously, check out this brilliant 20 minute documentary called Frequent Flyer. It portraits the frequent flyer mile industry, its people, and the world of airplanes and airports that make it all happen.

Frequent Flyer from Gabriel Leigh on Vimeo.

Author’s Note: I received a free copy of Frequent Flyer Master for review, and there are affiliate links in this post.

 

Update (April, 2010): I indeed received 145,000 frequent flier miles as a function of this frequent flyer deal, and I have booked one return long-haul airfare ticket in business class, as well as a domestic flight. For the $1,200 I spent, I received almost $9,000 in flights.

 

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Guest's picture
Amy K.

The last time I ran the numbers, it was worthwhile to get a credit card with cash rewards rather than frequent flyer miles. The cash was roughly equivalent to the cost of the flight I could redeem it for, and no worry of mile devaluation, blackout dates, or inferior customer service for award flights.

Sounds like these tips beat cash. By how much?

Guest's picture

Nice article. More people should be using frequent flyer miles.

Guest's picture
Richard

Wow. Full page ad. I thought that these needed to be marked with "SPECIAL AD SECTION" like in print newspapers so that readers know exactly what's going on.

Guest's picture
kooler

Under the PREMISE heading you used the word "intension" instead of "intention". Wow! I think this is the first time I've caught an error on WISEBREAD. Keep up the great site cheers

Guest's picture
toephu

how much did this guy pay you to advertise his $50 ebook?

Nora Dunn's picture

@Amy K - The difference between cash-back and frequent flyer miles depends largely on what sorts of flights you want to collect for, and how dedicated you are to maximizing your miles with bonus offers etc. The more actively you seek miles, the more bang you'll get for your buck.

For a quick evaluation of various rewards strategies, you can check out this article:

Credit Card Rewards Programs

@Jim - Thanks!

@kooler - Ooh....good catch! Thanks. Fixed: you're on the ball!

@Richard and @toephu - This article is a book review; one I happen to be particularly enthusiastic about because it has added huge value to my traveling life. I'm sorry you found it to be advertorial in nature. I'll try to be more pessimistic next time! (smiles)

Guest's picture
Daniel

You know, I've just been signing up for everything blindly. Now it's time to be a bit more strategic.

Great tips!

Guest's picture
flip

too bad im not from us and the info doesnt apply to me... well, better look for frequent miles stuff for non us citizens like me
:-)

Guest's picture
Lenka

I wonder if there is something like this for EU countries? I did check out the program and it does say that the deals are from everyone from all over the world, yet I wonder how much you can get from it if you aren't US citizen?

Guest's picture
Skiminx

I'd like to know if there is anything similar for Australians???? Does anyone have any ideas?