Mileage Run FAQ
Mileage Run FAQ
Before I go into the details, let me explain in one sentence why I do mileage runs: the miles I earn on mileage runs allow me to travel in a level of luxury to distant places that I could otherwise not afford. And that is why I do them.
What is a mileage run?
A mileage run is a trip designed specifically to earn miles or points from an airline frequent flyer program. You may or may not allow yourself enough time to leave the airport and visit the city you’ve stopped in: the main goal is to earn miles.You can also do a mattress run to earn points from a hotel frequent guest program.
Why would someone want to earn miles?
Miles can do two things for you: they can give you elite status with an airline, and they they can allow you to take a trip at a greatly reduced rate.
What is elite status?
Since I am building my miles with American Airlines, I’ll focus on their program. Virtually every airline offers similar benefits.
American’s passengers fall into one of four categories:
* No status: you get on the plane, you get off the plane. You receive no special benefits. You get credit for 100% of the miles you fly fly (1,000 miles, you earn 1,000 miles).
* Gold: You receive a 25% bonus on your mileage (fly 1,000 miles, you earn 1,250 miles). You can request elite seating such as exit row seating which provides extra leg room. You are allowed to board the aircraft before the “no status” passengers, which generally means you will have room in the overhead compartments. You are able to check in at the Business Class or First Class check-in line at the terminal: some airports offer an elite line at the security check-in, allowing you to go ahead of non-elite passengers. You will receive electronic upgrades to use on future flights. For more detailed information, visit the American Airlines AAdvantage Gold page.
* Platinum: You receive a 100% bonus on your mileage (fly 1,000 miles, you earn 2,000 miles). You can request elite seating such as exit row seating which provides extra leg room. If you are flying in coach, you are allowed to board the aircraft after the First Class passengers, but before the Gold and “no status” passengers, which generally means you will have room in the overhead compartments. You are able to check in at the Business Class or First Class check-in line at the terminal: some airports offer an elite line at the security check-in, allowing you to go ahead of non-elite passengers. You will receive electronic upgrades to use on future flights: your upgrade requests will have a higher priority than requests from Gold members. For more detailed information, visit the American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum page.
* Executive Platinum: You receive eight complimentary one-way systemwide upgrades just for being Executive Platinum. (Think about that, free upgrades to Business Class or First Class just for having Executive Platinum Status!) Want to fly coach? You are guaranteed to be able to buy a coach seat, even on a sold-out flight, when you make your reservation at least 24 hours in advance. You can request elite seating, you board early, and can check in at the First Class counter. You’ll have top priority on Business Class and First Class upgrade requests.
How do I qualify for elite status?
You qualify by reaching a certain number of miles or flight segments. These are the requirements for 2008. You have to reach these levels during the calendar year (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31)
|Miles/Points Required||Segments Required|
How are these miles calculated?
All of the numbers in the chart above represent Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). All passengers, regardless of elite status, earns these miles when they fly. If a flight is 1,284 miles, a passenger earns 1,284 EQMs for that flight. (The minimum you can earn for a flight is 500 EQMs. A flight from Austin to Dallas is only 183 miles, but a passenger earns 500 EQMs for that trip.) A Gold elite status passenger would earn an extra 321 miles (25% of 1,284) for the trip, but the bonus miles are not EQMs, they are Redeemable Qualifying Miles (RQMs). The important point is that the RQMs do not count towards earning your elite status. So, while a Platinum or Executive Platinum passenger will earn 2,568 miles for the trip listed above, they will only earn 1,284 EQMs, just like everyone else.
Then what good are these bonus miles?
Simple, you can spend them to purchase tickets for free flights!. A coach ticket to Hawaii costs 35,000 miles, and it does not matter if they are EQMs or RQMs, they all spend the same.
Also, American Airlines will reward its long-term clients who have flown a lot of miles. When a passenger has earned 1,000,000 miles, they become lifetime Gold. At 2,000,000 miles, they become lifetime Platinum. This does not mean they have that many miles in the account, it just means they have earned those miles since they opened the account. The miles can come from any source including flights, bonuses, credit card purchases, they all count the same.
I don’t fly a lot. Are there other ways for me to earn miles?
Absolutely! Do you like to eat out? Do you like to shop online? Do you like to use a credit card? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you can earn miles without flying!
Since I do most of my flying on American Airlines, my focus will be on AA, but most of the North American airlines offer similar programs. Many other airlines from around the world may offer them too.
Dining: American Airlines offers the AAdvantage Dining and AAdvantage Hotel programs. Sign up for the dining program (it’s free!) and register your credit cards with them. Then eat at the restaurants that are part of the program and pay with your registered credit card. It’s as simple as that: you don’t need to present a membership card to the waiter or say anything to him, just pay with your registered card. Depending on your membership level (the more you use the service, the higher your level) you could earn 3, 5, or 10 AAdvantage miles for every dollar you spend. I’ve used this service for several years and have earned over 25,000 AAdvantage miles: that is enough for a free ticket in the continental US!
The hotel program offers a similar bonus with miles awarded for staying at hotels that are part of the program. You make your reservation online and pay in advance for the room. The website will show you how many miles you will earn for the stay.
Shopping: American Airlines offers the AAdvantage eShopping service that lets AAdvantage members earn points while shopping at over 200 retailers. Some of the online stores include
* Home Depot
* Land’s End
* Office Depot
* Best Buy
* Circuit City
* National Geographic
And many many more. Shoppers earn 4-10 miles per dollar spent, depending on the retailer. You’re going to shop. why not earn extra miles while doing it?
Credit Cards: Every major airline in America airline offers a credit card that you can use to earn miles (I don’t know about airlines in other countries, or policies regarding citizens of other countries). American Airlines offers the AAdvantage MasterCard. With the AAdvantage card, you earn one AAdvantage mile for every dollar you spend. Food, clothes, gas for the car, it doesn’t matter what you have bought with the card, you will earn one AA mile for each dollar you spend. You may also earn special bonuses when you sign up, such as no annual fee for the first year, or 10,000 bonus miles with your first purchase.
I use the card to pay for almost everything I buy each month. I have stopped buying items with cash, checks, or a debit card. Several of my monthly bills, including cell phone and cable TV are automatically charged to the card. All of these purchases go on the airline card and then I pay it off in full every month to avoid having to pay the finance charge.
Depending on your budget, you could earn several hundred or several thousand miles each month, and the good thing is that you don’t have to change how you shop, just how you pay for your shopping. I have earned over 150,000 AAdvantage miles by using the AA credit card.
AA also offers a credit card for businesses. I have a friend who uses it to pay expenses at his business and has earned over 2 million miles by doing this.
As with every other credit card, be careful how you use it, do not get in over your head. The best policy is to pay it off in full every month.
The miles you earn from the card will not count toward earning elite status each for a given year, but can be used to pay for a flight. They do however count towards lifetime status: lifetime Gold after 1 million miles, lifetime Platinum after 2 million miles.
While I still carry the AA MasterCard, I now use the Starwood American Express card for my purchases. It works the same way as the AA card, but instead of getting AAdvantage miles, I earn Starwood Points. The Starwood band features several brands including Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, aloft, W Hotels, Le Meridien, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, and element.
With the AA card I earned miles that I could only use on American Airlines. When I use the Starwood card, I earn points that I can use at over 850 hotels around the world. Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) has won many awards for offering the industry’s best redemption program, take a look at what they offer. But Starwood offers an extra benefit. I can transfer Starpoints to more than 30 major airlines, most on a 1:1 basis. And, I receive a 5,000 Starpoint bonus when I transfer 20,000 Starpoints to miles. So, if I transfer 20,000 points into my AAdvantage account, I end up with 25,000 AA miles. This give me a 25% bonus on all my purchases. Plus, I get an additional card for Mrs. Happy Flier to use at no extra charge. The Starwood AmEx is a great deal!