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Some Helpful Beginner’s Guides For Loyalty Programs

by Jason Steele

Like learning to use a computer, the more you understand how loyalty programs work, the harder it can be to remember how beginners look at the same subject.   What is needed are really good beginner’s guides to the more intricate aspects of loyalty programs.   Here are a few good places to start if you are just trying to understand loyalty programs that give out points and miles.

Where To Start

The USA Today just printed a good introduction: Frequent flier 101: What you need to know about loyalty programs.   They are covering the basics on airline, hotel, rental car, and even shopping programs.   Inside Flyer is a subscription based site that has a lot of great information.    Paying for access gets you a lot of the details, but there is plenty of introductory level information that is available there for free.

Dealing With Specific Airlines

The blog The View From The Wing has been putting out some fantastic guides in the last few days.   I just read their guide to Using US Airways Dividend Miles to Book Star Alliance Awards.    This came on the heels of  their How to Use Delta Skymiles to Book International Premium Class Awards post.  While these posts are specific to the airline named, many of the tricks can be used for other loyalty programs, albeit with slightly different routes.  For example, you will always have more success piecing your routes together yourself, leg by leg, then getting an airline’s web site or telephone agent to consider all potential flights.

How to Get the Best Hotel Deals

The View From The Wing also posted another great guide on How To Get The Best Hotel Deals, covering all sorts of sites, codes, and deals.   If you want to take advantage of a Best Rate Guarantee program, start at the Best Rate Guarantee Blog and begin with their list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Navigating FlyerTalk

Flyertalk has become the place where all the most experienced loyalty program gurus share their secrets.  Although it is laid out very simply, it can be a very intimidating place for newcomers.     The three biggest pieces of advice I can give to someone new to FlyerTalk are the following:

1. Consult their New Users Guide first.   You should also familiarize yourself with their rules of conduct.

2. Read a lot before posting.

3. Do not make your first post a long, complicated question or complaint.   Share some useful information with others first.    Only later should you really go out to an airline forum and post questions or complaints.  Even then, try to keep everything brief and leave out personal details such as (“I was having a bad day when I checked in for my flight to my cousin’s wedding.)

My How To Guides At Blend.com

I blog quite a bit, and one of my gigs is over at Blend.com.   I have written quite a few How To guides for them that are typically at more of a beginner level than what I write here.    You can check out such topics as: How To Get A Great Deal On A Rental Car, How To Transfer Frequent Flier Miles or Loyalty Points, and How To Travel With An Air Pass.

What To Look For In A Guide

There are lots of guides out there of varying degrees of usefulness.    A lot of it borders on the completely obvious.   I want to smash my computer monitor when I see someone write that you should simply pack less to avoid luggage fees.  Another problem is outdated information.   Airlines are constantly changing their written policies and procedures, while their de fact practices change even more often.

No matter where you turn to for information, becoming skilled at earning and redeeming loyalty awards is a pursuit that will take a considerable amount of reading.    I happen to enjoy it, and I have found that my efforts have been paid off many times over.

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