Wednesday 9 February 2011

Tight Fist Tip #45: Do Not Sign Up For Frequent Flier Miles

Your Miles Make Me Rich

You've been waiting for this day for months (or more likely years). You've finally scraped together enough miles to get a free domestic flight, which you lovingly decide to use to go visit your old, sweet grandmother. You get on the phone and try to book a flight for next week. No dice, says the agent, frequent flier seats are not available. What about the following month? Sorry, those dates are blacked out. So you finally book one for a few months later, but by the time you get there GRANDMA IS DEAD! Friendly skies my ass.

Frequent flier miles are nothing but a gigantic, manipulative scam. The whole point is to try to to get you to pay more for flights in order to gain 'rewards' that are virtually useless anyway. I'm convinced there are around 1.5 seats on every plane available to buy with miles. Plus flights on or around all holidays are blacked out, so you can't use your miles when you actually need them.

While I don't really lose sleep over it, the real purpose of frequent flier programs is to screw over corporations. Unless people are complete morons, they won't spend a lot of extra money to build up miles on their favorite airline...unless it's someone else's money. Business travelers are more than happy to spend their company's money on expensive plane tickets to build up their miles. If I were ever a CEO, the first thing I'd do is ban employee participation in frequent flier programs. Yes, I'd be super popular with the masses.

So what should a good Tight Fister do save money on travel? JUST BUY THE CHEAPEST TICKET! Seriously, the differences between airlines are negligible.

But if you are super-careful, why not sign up for all the frequent flier programs but still always buy the cheapest ticket? Then just maybe you'll luck into getting a free flight every now and again, right? Exactly. The same way that you are going to be able to just enjoy that crack pipe every now and then, just for fun, only at parties. Trust me, YOU ARE TOO WEAK FOR THIS GAME. Bow out, sucker.


  1. if you amass enough frequent flier miles to get bumped up to like a silver level card, occassionally you get upgraded on full flights. does that count for anything?

  2. You missed one of the biggest reasons that Frequent Flier schemes will cost a Tight Fister money: It mentally locks you in to that airline.

    Say you're with XXX for your frequent flier membership. Now say that you need to fly from London to ... well, anywhere. The cheapest flight is with airline YYY, but XXX is only just a little bit more expensive. The mental attachment to your miles will pull you towards the expensive XXX flight!

    The only way to fight this is to enter the frequent flier schemes for _every_ airline and then always go with the cheapest. But then you run up against the fact that BUDGET AIRLINES DON'T OFFER FREQUENT FLIER PROGRAMMES, so you're still going to be suckered.

  3. Dear Mr. Tight Fist, I agree with your point about buying the cheapest ticket. But what about frequent flier mile credit cards? I got a free round trip ticket to Nairobi for signing up for the citi AAdvantage card and just spending as I regularly would. When they offered more miles for signing up for another card, I just signed up, got the miles and then canceled the card.

    Also, I totally do have a frequent flier scheme for EVERY airline. My mom set them up for me when I was little and I now have this ridiculous matrix on my computer of airlines, current number of miles, expiration dates, etc... and you thought Jews were frugal.