Beginner/Non-Frequent Traveler Guide to earning miles on American, United & Delta

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We are taking an dive to see what is lucrative for new entrants to the Points & Miles in the world of American, United & Delta Airlines.
Award Miles Info:
From To Economy Saver One way Business Saver One way
Continental US Continental US 10K <700 miles, 12.5K 25K
Continental US Alaska 17.5K 30K
Continental US Hawaii 22.5K 40K
Continental US Europe 30K 57.5K
Continental US India 42.5K 70K

From To Economy Saver One way Business Saver One way
Continental US Continental US 12.5K 25K
Continental US Alaska 12.5K 25K
Continental US Hawaii 17.5K 37.5K
Continental US Europe 20K 50K
Continental US India 45K 67.5K

Delta: Info isn’t easily available like the other airlines.

Earning Miles:
General Member 5* (Base Fare – Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Gold 7* (Base Fare – Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Platinum 8* (Base Fare – Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Executive Platinum 11* (Base Fare – Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
*Carrier Imposed fees on domestic route with AA is $0.

General Member 5* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Silver 7* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Gold 8* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Platinum 9* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
1K 11* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)

General Member 5* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Silver 7* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Gold 8* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Platinum 9* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)
Diamond 11* (Base Fare + Carrier Imposed Fees – Taxes & fees)

What does it take to earn the free travel for a Beginner?
One needs a minimum of 25K miles & flexibility in travel dates to earn a round-trip award ticket in economy. Assuming that you don’t have any elite status with the airlines since you are just starting out, a $200 base fare would provide about 1000 miles. Which would imply one would need about 25 $200 trips to earn the award travel. Wait. What now? This doesn’t seem to make sense.
Then why are people so thrilled about earning miles & using it for award travel? Traveling on the airlines is just one means to earn the miles. There are plenty of reward credit cards that earn miles for your every day spending. If you spend easily more than $2K in a month then end of every year you would have earned your 25K miles to enjoy a award travel. To add on top of this there are sign up bonuses on credit cards that range from 30K-50K for meeting a minimum spend requirements in the range of $1000-$3000 in 90 days.  One can check if you have a targetted offer using cardmatch.com or Citi/Chase/Amex Preapproval offers check as well.
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Amex Delta Skymiles
As always don’t spend more than you can payoff in full on the credit card. Before you start on applying to credit cards ensure you have credit score >700 using either CreditSesame or Credit Karma.

 

Good Reads for Beginners from other gurus in points & miles:

Beginners Guide at TPG

Rookie Tips and FAQ at Frugal Travel Guy

Beginners Guide To Miles and Points at Onemileatatime

Free Frequent Flyer Miles

Starter Tips at View From the Wing


 My recommendations for Credit Cards to start with:
Chase Sapphire  Citi AAdvantage Platinum

My Preferred loyalty programs:
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi AAdvantage (go to for my international travel awards on one world)
BA Avios (go to for my domestic travel awards on one world)

Feature Photo by 401(K) 2013

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