Emily’s list: I’m a frequent flier edition

Emily Crone

I feel as if I’ve finally hit a credit card milestone: I bought my first plane ticket on frequent flier miles!

When I was in high school, my mom took my two siblings and I to London and back using Continental OnePass miles. While she had accumulated some of the miles from prior travel, one of the main ways she earned them was by using a Continental-branded credit card on most of her day-to-day purchases (and of course paying them off right away).

Before that trip, she set us up with all of our own OnePass accounts so that we would begin earning miles for our own travel. A few years ago, once my freelance writing business was well established, I knew I needed a business credit card. I got a Chase Continental card so I could keep racking up miles with the same airline. I use it for all of my expenses — everything from my website’s hosting fees to a flight for a business trip. I set it up so that my phone bill is automatically charged to it each month. I always pay it off within two months, though usually no more than a couple weeks. I also enjoy the annual benefits, such as two passes to the fancy airport club and first checked bag free.I'm a frequent flier edition

A while ago, I hit a point where I was eligible for a free domestic flight. I decided I would rather keep saving up points for an international flight, since those can be cripplingly expensive. Finally, the time has come!

My mom just won a grant to study in Ireland for a few weeks this summer. She asked me if I wanted to come spend a week of that time with her. I started looking up flights on United (it just merged with Continental, and thank goodness, my miles transferred over). During certain days or times, you can get flights for fewer miles, but I’m going in the midst of peak season, so there were no lower options. I was disheartened to find out that my flight would cost 110,000 miles, and I only had 108,500 in my account. Then I realized I could purchase those extra miles for less than $100. After that fee and some other fees, I purchased the flight for $150! I looked up the retail price after, and flights were starting at $1,400. There’s no way I could have afforded that without my miles.

This was a happy moment for me to realize that yes, when used wisely, frequent flier cards really can get you free (or close to free) flights. It’s not just marketing mumbo jumbo. I wouldn’t be able to go on this trip if I hadn’t diligently earned and saved those miles. Many credit cards have such huge sign-up bonuses that you can sometimes earn a free flight simply for being approved, and I’ve thought about doing that so I have more than one frequent flier card, but at the moment my soon-to-be-Irish eyes are smiling and I’m feeling really loyal to the one I have.

I hope you’ll continue reading for my roundup of my 10 favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week, the first of which is right on topic!

1. Dough Roller reviews Manilla, a website that can help you track your reward miles and points across many different airlines.

2. Not Made of Money reveals that buying in bulk doesn’t always save you money and offers tips to make sure it does.

3. Dinks Finance offers advice on how to choose a financial planner who is perfect for you.

4. My Journey to Millions proclaims that there are many gray areas in life and lists some of the money rules that should not be considered holy.

5. Hosting house guests isn’t cheap. My Dollar Plan explains how you can host visiting friends and relatives without blowing your budget.

6. After getting married just over a year ago, I can tell you that weddings get very expensive frighteningly fast. Moolanomy shares some awesome tips on how to keep the costs down.

7. A writer on Money Crashers does an excellent job of explaining precisely why gas prices have been rising — something that I have been very curious about.

8. Len Penzo shares how he uses a ledger system to help his children learn about money.

9. Financial Highway lists six things you should leave off your weekly grocery list and what you can use as an alternative.

10. Young and Thrifty discusses how placing a priority on savings can help you achieve your major goals in life.

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