Air miles reward systems allow passengers to earn "credit" with airlines.
Air miles reward programs allow travelers to earn and redeem points for air miles traveled or for money spent on affiliated credit cards, at hotel chains or other retailers. These programs allow individuals to earn "mileage" to use toward an array of rewards and services. Each air miles reward program is different, but they all allow customers to earn rewards for the money they spend. For each dollar spent on a flight, hotel stay or rental car, or spent using a participating credit card, individuals earn air miles that they can later redeem for a variety of products and services. Travelers can earn and redeem air miles in a number of ways.
The most well known way for travelers to earn air miles rewards is through an airline. Each airline offers its own unique frequent flier miles rewards program. Every time a traveler purchases a ticket and/or takes a flight, he or she is eligible to earn air miles. Often, airlines run special promotions that allow customers to earn extra air miles for flying on specific dates, flying to or from certain locations or booking a flight through the airline's Web site. Many airlines also have several non-airline travel partners that allow customers to earn additional miles through hotel stays, car rentals, dining and shopping.
Most airlines allow air miles to be transferred to other individuals as a gift, donation or incentive. A company can give air miles to its employees and a person can give his or her air miles to a friend or family member.
Another way to earn an air miles reward is through credit cards. More than 900 credit cards on the market allow customers to earn air miles. Most credit card companies offer a specific number of air miles points per dollar that is spent with the card. Often, credit card companies increase the number of points that can be earned based on the type of product or service that is purchased, such as a hotel stay or rental car.
Many banks, such as Chase Manhattan now offer debit cards that can earn air miles rewards. For individuals who choose to avoid using credit cards, debit cards offering air miles rewards are a great alternative. The Chase Continental Airlines Debit Card was the first of its kind to hit the market. Air miles earned on this card are redeemable for flights on Continental Airlines, as well as magazine subscriptions, merchandise or donations to an approved charity.
Individuals can redeem air miles reward miles in a number of ways. Additional travel is the most common way to redeem air miles. Air miles can be redeemed for airline tickets, discounted flights or travel upgrades. Each airline offers award travel charts that allow customers to see what travel rewards they can receive with their current air miles balance. Based on the number of air miles earned, customers can purchase free round-trip tickets to fly anywhere in the world. They may also use their earned air miles reward to lower the price of a flight or to upgrade to first class on the flight of their choice.
In addition to selecting flights as an air miles reward, customers can choose from an array of other services and products. Air miles can be redeemed for merchandise, sports tickets, vacation packages and hotel accommodations. Many airlines also allow customers to redeem air miles for magazine or newspaper subscriptions for themselves or as a gift for others. Because each airline and air miles reward program is unique, individuals should check with the airline for an approved list of redeemable services, merchandise and rewards.
For individuals wishing to give to others, an air miles reward can be donated. Most major airlines, such as Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines allow their customers to donate their unused air miles to the charity of their choice. The airlines team up with major charitable organizations such as March of Dimes, American Cancer Society and the Make-a-Wish Foundation to make a difference.
SoundMoneyTips warns consumers to be aware that the value of air miles varies significantly depending on what people use them for. A customer who purchases a coach ticket for $220, for example, might need 25,000 air miles. This means that each air mile is worth less than a penny. Air miles are worth more if travelers use them to purchase business and first class tickets. Air miles also have many restrictions regarding how they can be used. They often can only be used to purchase tickets on certain dates and routes.