Airline Miles

These days you can get frequent flyer miles for buying everything from contact lenses to flowers.

The result, Americans have racked up the equivalent of 55 million free flights. While it is not always easy, Consumer Reports can help you cash in on these miles.

Earning frequent flyer miles has become a national pastime. But travelers are noticing the hard part is cashing them in.

Consumer Reports' Tobie Stanger spent weeks booking 300 trips with frequent flyer miles, both online and over the phone. She says a mile doesn't go as far as it used to.

We found we often had to use double the miles expected. And we had to be flexible with the times and even the dates we were going to travel.

That can mean taking very early flights or settling for an alternative airport. But Consumer Reports can get you where you want to go. First of all, figure out which airline goes where you like to travel and fly it as often as you can.

And get a credit card with that airline name on it so you can rack up miles or points for extra travel.

And to get the most from your miles, Consumer Reports says: book online. You won't have to pay a fee and you may get bonus miles for booking on the Internet.

Fly off peak or midweek. You can get better flights for fewer miles.
And don't hold onto your miles for too long. If an airline goes out of business you could lose them.

Follow this advice to help make sure your frequent flyer miles go the distance.

Some airlines do things differently. For example, low cost carriers Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines reward travelers with points or credits for flights taken, not miles earned.

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