Check for the following symptoms to see if your knack for maximizing airline miles and gaining status has elevated you from humble hobbyist to mileage maestro.
- You consider purchases in terms of miles earned, not cost. You've carefully selected a credit card that gets you a mile to every dollar spent, if not more. Those new boots? A hundred miles. That lunch out? Another 20 miles. You're quick to lay your credit card down first, and when it comes to splitting bills, you insist on putting the total on your card while your friends give you cash for their share -- just to "keep things simple for the waiter," of course.
- You'll fly to out-of-the-way destinations, even when a direct route is available. Frequent fliers know it's not always about the mileage -- sometimes racking up segments, or the individual legs of a journey, can fast-track your status boosts. Singapore Airlines recently discontinued the longest regularly schedule nonstop flight in the world -- from Newark to Singapore -- but even while it was an option, some travelers chose to take the nondirect route. One frequent flier profiled by The New York Times opted to fly from Newark to Houston to San Francisco to Hong Kong before finally arriving in Singapore -- all in the name of keeping up status. The truly dedicated (or arguably crazy) will even book a "mileage run," a flight whose sole purpose is to maintain status on an airline, often with just enough time to grab lunch at the destination airport before boarding the return flight.
- You do all your shopping through airline-approved vendors. You may have offended your wife when you got her a Nutrisystem weight-loss package for Christmas. But surely she'll understand when she hears about the 9 miles per dollar you earned when purchasing it through United's MileagePlus Shopping online portal. Even better, you can earn 30 miles per dollar from FTD when you send her apology flowers.
- You only eat at mileage dining program restaurants. Similarly, you check to see if a restaurant is in a mileage program like American Airlines' AAdvantage Dining before you crack open a menu. You're not above asking your best friend to change his birthday-party invitation to a restaurant that will get you more points per dollar.
- You schedule your flights around lounge access. You've worked hard to earn lounge access, but not all lounges are created equal. So while the Santa Monica airport may be more convenient from your hotel, you'll happily go the extra distance to LAX for its spacious and comfortable Admirals Club. Even though you're a pro at speeding through security (likely with Global Entry approval), you pad extra time before your flight to relax in the lounge with some complimentary wine and snack mix, comfortably removed from the fray of amateur travelers outside.
- You shun anyone who uses their miles on a cheap domestic flight. You've learned that the redemption cost per mile is usually much more favorable for international business-class and first-class flights than it is for a regularly priced domestic flight. As the frequent flier gurus at Altimtr explain, "The value of a 50,000-mile one-way award flight for San Francisco to London in business class is likely to be exponentially more valuable than a 30,000-mile one-way award for that same flight in economy. That's because the fare for the business class ticket would have likely been five times higher (or more) than for economy."
- You've already heard of Altimtr, and all the other frequent flier websites. You've got them all bookmarked, including ThePointsGuy, who ranks credit cards based on their mileage rewards; Deals We Like, with advice and deal alerts for frequent fliers; and RichmondSavers, a master at finding loopholes to maximize travel savings. You may have even gotten into a fight on the popular Flyertalk message boards about the best hotel loyalty program for transferring hotel point into airline miles.
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Kelsey Rexroat is an editor at Travelzoo and is based in New York. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.