Justices Will Decided Frequent Flyer Case

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The Supreme Court is discussing whether or not airline customers can sue after being thrown out of a frequent flyer program. A rabbi from Minnesota sued when he was thrown out of Northwest's (now Delta) program after supposedly abusing the system. Host Rachel Martin speaks with Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy website about how frequent flyer programs work.


If you travel a lot, you might be one of those people who relishes the game of maximizing your frequent flyer points. Well, that game has gotten a lot more serious as of late. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing a case involving Delta Airlines and a rabbi from Minnesota, who was kicked out at his frequent flyer program for complaining too much. This week on Wingin' It!: Navigating world of airline reward programs.


MARTIN: Brian Kelly knows his points and prizes when it comes to airline rewards. He's the founder of The Points Guy, a website that helps you make the most of your travel points. Brian Kelly joins me from member station WLRN in Florida. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRIAN KELLY: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: How easy is it for an airline to just kind of kick out one of its reward members, even if it's a legitimate reason?

KELLY: It's very easy for the programs because you don't own your miles. It states in the program rules that at any point in time the airlines can end the program, change the program, or simply close your account. But it's extremely rare for airlines to close passenger's accounts.

MARTIN: Let's get down to some practical advice and tips, since this is how you make your bread and butter. What are the best ways to get frequent flyer points?

KELLY: So truly it is looking at your everyday spend. What are you spending your money on, gas, groceries? Maximize those purchases with credit cards that are going to give you bonuses. So instead of just earning a simple one point for every dollar you spend, you want to maximize every single dollar you have, which might mean getting a couple different credit cards.

MARTIN: That sounds dangerous.

KELLY: Now I know a lot of - I know a lot of people cringe when they hear that. But the fact of the matter is the largest portion of your credit score is the amount of balance is that you run every month, so the key is to pay them off in full. If you are in debt I do not recommend getting travel credit cards because they generally have higher APR's and there're better, you know, no balance transfer options out there. But if you're responsible, and if you're going to pay for something in cash anyway, put it on a card, get the points and then pay that card off right away.

MARTIN: So do you diversify that way? Do you have a credit card for each major airline that you fly?

KELLY: I have multiple airline credit cards. I think the biggest tip when it comes to credit cards is get a card that gives you flexibility when it comes time to redeem. I know so many flyers who just double down on: I fly Delta, I can only have a Delta card. But what happened when you go to use those miles and Delta or their partners can't get you where you want to go? So you want to have a lot of different options. So as your base of your point strategy, have a couple of these transferable points programs.

MARTIN: My husband and I kind of live in fear that we are going to lose our points, that we have to use them, we can't hoard them. Is that a real fear? I mean is that a real risk and how do you avoid that?

KELLY: Points hoarding is not a smart strategy because airlines do devalue over the years, so what you have today will be worth less in the future, in general. Now, keep in your miles active is not something you should worry about as long as you're at least taking, you know, one flight a year or simply shopping online through airline shopping portals. That's actually a huge way to rack up miles, especially over the holiday season.

MARTIN: You simply click through the airline shopping portal, it takes you to your retailer, and then in addition to the points you get for using your credit card, you also get a deposit of miles into your airline account. And as long as you have one deposit, it'll reset the expiration clock in most programs.

Brian Kelly from The Points Guy website. Thanks very much.

KELLY: Thanks for having me. Safe travels.


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