Beginner’s Guide to the Miles Game and How to Get Started

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Have you read about travellers who travel in Business or First Class using miles and paying only a fraction of the actual ticket price? Is it a scam? What are they hiding? Do they have sugar daddies/mummies? Is it sponsored?

In this article, I will share an introduction to the Miles Game, highlight some common challenges beginners may face, and offer tips on how to get started.

What is the Miles Game?

In a nutshell, the “Miles Game” is a term used to describe the Earning and Redeeming of miles to fly cheaper and/or in greater comfort (Business/First Class).

Typically, paid Business Class flights cost 5 times more than Economy Class flights. However, when redeeming miles for Business Class flights, it usually cost about twice more than Economy Class!

Personally, this is the biggest reason to get into the Miles Game. It gives me travel experiences that I could not comfortably afford. Although I now travel in Business and First Class most of the time, I have never paid full price for those flights.

Redeem miles for Qatar Airways First Class (read my review)
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How to Earn Miles?

There are 3 key ways to accumulate miles:

  1. Use the best credit cards for all your spending
  2. Buy miles
  3. Credit paid flights

Earning miles through credit cards

By using the best credit cards, “players” of the Miles Game can earn miles organically through normal day-to-day spending like groceries, dining and transportation (i.e. without spending more than they usually would).

New credit card applicants should also take advantage of sign-up bonuses, where they can receive free gifts in the form of cash, miles/points or other products like luggages and earbuds, just by meeting the minimum spending requirement.

Miles/Points earned on different cards have varying quirks/annoyances that you have to be familiar with. For example, some credit card miles expire in 1 year (bad), while others do not expire (good).

Redeem KrisFlyer miles for Singapore Airlines Business Class (read my review)

Some cards come with annual fees, while others are free for life. Miles from certain cards can be transferred to only 2 frequent flyer programs (bad), while some can be transferred to as many as 10, giving you superb flexibility.

The good news is that you can find all these key details, in easy-to-read format, in Suitesmile’s credit card page. Simply click on the “More info” button under each card.

To stay on the winning side, cardholders should pay all credit card bills on time and keep track of their card details (e.g. miles/points expiry, annual fee due date etc.).

Annual fees on most credit cards are waived automatically for at least 1 year. When an annual fee is due (for subsequent years), ask for an annual fee waiver. If the bank does not want to grant the requested waiver, pay your bill fully (except the annual fee amount), transfer out your miles/points and call again to cancel the card. You can always re-apply for it a few months later.

Buy miles on demand

Travellers can also buy miles to save on flight tickets.

This is useful for travellers who don’t have the time to deal with the tracking of credit cards (as described above) or those who just want to top up their miles balance, before making an award redemption.

Buy Aeroplan miles and redeem them for Oman Air Apex Suite Business Class (read my review)

However, not all Frequent Flyer Programs offer a no-questions-asked way of buying miles. On top of that, miles sales often come with varying discounts and bonuses.

Credit paid flights

This is probably the easiest way to earn miles. When flying on a paid flight with a full-service airline (non-budget), travellers can credit their flight to a preferred Frequent Flyer Program (FFP).

This need not be the FFP of the airline that you are flying in. For example, when flying in a paid Singapore Airlines flight, you can credit the flight to its partner’s FFP, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands.

The amount of miles that are credited depends on the cabin/fare class and distance that you travel.

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How to Redeem Miles?

Once enough miles have been earned, they can be redeemed for airline tickets. Redeeming miles for a flight is also called an award booking.

Like credit cards, Frequent Flyer Programs have some quirks and annoyances.

Miles in each FFP can be redeemed for flights on its own airline or on its partners. For example, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles can also be redeemed for flights on Lufthansa, its Star Alliance partner.

Unfortunately, redeeming miles has a learning curve too. It is not a simple as redeeming miles for any flight you want, on any airline, on any date, to any destination.

Miles on certain FFPs have a fixed expiry term of 3 years (bad), while the expiry term on others can be easily extended with account activity (good). On top of that, some FFPs/airlines pass on hefty fuel surcharges on award bookings.

Redeem Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for Cathay Pacific Business Class

There is also the bigger “headache” of award availability. FFPs have the freedom to decide the flights that can be redeemed with miles.

Because of high demand, travellers who can only fly during public/school holidays may need to make their award bookings as early as one year in advance! Travellers who are redeeming miles for the entire family may also face difficulties in finding award availability.

FFPs also have different award charts, that tell you how many miles are required for flights to each destination. The easiest way to find out the best ways to redeem your miles is by checking the tables in Suitesmile’s sweet spot articles.

Here are the steps to redeem miles for an award flight:

  1. Find out the cheapest ways to fly to your destination
  2. Sign up for frequent flyer accounts on the FFPs’ websites (it’s free)
  3. Check for award availability on the FFPs’ websites
  4. Transfer credit card miles/points to a preferred FFP
  5. Wait for transferred miles to appear in your FFP account (typically 2 to 7 days)
  6. Book award flight with your miles and pay taxes/fees that come with it

KrisFlyer is NOT the only FFP

If I receive a mile for every newbie who thinks that the Miles Game = KrisFlyer, I would have enough miles to fly to the moon and back!

Don’t get me wrong, KrisFlyer is not a bad FFP. But there are other FFPs out there that can give you great value and experiences.

Do not limit yourself by making this noob mistake!

Stay disloyal

As contradicting as it sounds, true “winners” of the miles game do not stay overly-loyal to any loyalty programs or airlines.

Take advantage of the best deals/hacks as they come, and enjoy them while they last. When a loyalty program or airline start to suck, leave them and move on to the next better one. No emotions.

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Stay in the know

To “win” the Miles Game, travellers should stay up-to-date with the latest travel hacking deals/hacks/news. The easiest way to do this is by subscribing to Suitesmile on Telegram, where you can receive notifications on the latest happenings in the travel hacking world.

Subscribe to Suitesmile on Telegram
to be the first to know about amazing
deals and travel hacks. It's FREE!
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Bottom line

There are many other tricks/quirks/hacks regarding credit cards and the Miles Game but I have laid out all the basics that a newbie should be aware of, before embarking on this mostly-rewarding (sometimes painful) journey.

Yes, it requires effort (especially in the beginning) to win the Miles Game.

So, are you up for it? Join Suitesmile Chat on Telegram if you have any questions!

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