How to get started with frequent flyer programs

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This post is part of our new series that will make up the Million Mile Secrets Learning Center. While airline credit cards are a great way to earn points and miles, applying for credit is a big responsibility, and the terms associated with rewards cards can be a bit complicated. But don’t worry, MMS is here to help guide you on your miles & points journey. And to start, we want to tell you about an easier way to earn airline miles and points: signing up for frequent flyer programs. Frequent flyer programs are free, signing up is easy, and being a member of a loyalty program can offer valuable benefits (especially if you have elite status!).

What are frequent flyer programs?

Frequent flyer programs allow you to earn travel rewards when you travel on a specific airline. When you sign-up for a loyalty program, you’ll get an account login and a frequent flyer number.   When you book flights, make sure you’re logged into your account or attach your frequent flyer number to your booking. That way, you’ll get credit for your trip and in the form of airline miles or points. You can then use those miles and points for future travel in the form of free or discounted airline tickets. Frequent flyers also get benefits beyond racking-up airline miles and points. Many programs offer their loyal customers — those with elite status — seat upgrades or flight amenities. For example, those with Delta Platinum status will get Delta Comfort+ upgrades after ticketing, which will undoubtedly make your journey more comfortable.
A free upgrade to seats with more legroom is a welcome benefit for anyone, especially those with longer legs! (Photo by MPH Photos/Shutterstock)

Should you join a frequent flyer program?

Short answer: Yes. Long(ish) answer: Joining frequent flyer programs is beneficial for everyone — even if you’re not a seasoned or frequent traveler. That’s especially true because membership is free and easy. You can even sign your kids up so they can start receiving miles when they fly, too. While it certainly pays to be loyal to one airline, you can join multiple programs and accumulate miles and benefits over time. 

Become a loyalty member in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Consider the major airlines in your area

Frequent flyer programs are worthwhile for anyone who flies, no matter how often. But, when signing up for frequent flyer programs, it’s essential to consider which airline(s) you’re likely to fly the most.  If one airline dominates your airport, then sign-up for that frequent flyer program. If there are multiple major players that operate out of your home airport, it might be worthwhile to become a member of more than one airline’s loyalty program. And honestly, it can’t hurt! It’s also worth noting which of the carriers that operate flights out of your local airport are part of an airline alliance because you may be able to use miles and points you earned flying with one airline to book a ticket on a partner airline. Pro Tip: Check out our airline award charts guide for details on the rewards policies of each airline because every airline has a different way of calculating how many miles you earn per trip — based on things like geographic zone, cash price and more. Reviewing this guide is an excellent way of ensuring you understand the various programs before signing up.

Step 2: Sign up 

Once you’ve decided which program(s) to join, it’s time to enroll. Most airlines have a “sign-up” tab for their loyalty program on their homepage. Once clicked, you’ll be prompted to create a username and password, fill in some personal information, and then you’ll be given a frequent flyer number. Creating an account is entirely free!

Step 3: Enjoy rewards and benefits

That’s it! Any eligible tickets booked with your frequent flyer number will earn you airline miles or points. So you can sit back, relax and enjoy earning travel rewards. If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself with a free seat upgrade in the future.  Pro Tip: Once you’ve mastered the basics of the miles & points hobby, you can start strategizing on how to make your dream trip a reality — and jet off to incredible destinations like Italy or Iceland

Bottom line 

Becoming a member of a frequent flyer program is quick, easy and free. Anyone can enroll and start accumulating airline points and miles to use in the future. What’s not to love about that? Featured image by mimagephotography/Shutterstock.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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