Q: Dear Peter,
Do you think the amount of money people must spend in order to accumulate enough air miles to cover a ticket is really worth the money spent? Do you think it's cheaper to just buy the ticket, rather than spend thousands of dollars to be able to cover a ticket from California to Belize, let's say?
-Lori Ann Nolan, Sebastopol, Calif.
A: Frequent flier miles are meant for frequent travelers, Lori Ann. If you travel frequently, say for work, then I would recommend becoming part of a loyalty program to gain rewards toward your business flights. For example, you can use those rewards to upgrade to a first class seat. However, if you're an infrequent traveler, stay far away from signing up for a rewards program.
See Also: Choosing a good seat on a plane
American Airlines in 2010 reported the AAdvantage program hadapproximately 64 million total members and 60 billion outstanding award miles. Almostone out of every 10 passengers traveling with American last year was flying onan award ticket. In some cases, travelers forget to redeem their points, don'thave enough points to spend on miles and sometimes must combine miles and moneyto make the difference for a flight.
If you do the math, you realize that about 54 percent of all mileageearned these days is earned on the ground, where you get a certain number of milesper dollars spent. That means just for a regular 25,000-mile reward youprobably spent about $14,000 exclusive of what you spent for your airlinetickets. Apply this concept toward a roundtrip ticket from California toBelize, starting at $601. As you see, you're better off saving thousands ofdollars and booking your own flight.