A great option for people who regularly cross continents, frequent flyer programs are offered by most airlines and can save you a lot of money. To put it simply, frequent flyer programs are incentive schemes, which are operated by airlines in order to encourage customers to use their airline regularly.

Airlines reward customers for their loyalty by awarding free air miles for the actual air miles that they clock up with them. Therefore, the more often you fly with a certain airline, the bigger your reward will be, making it a good idea to stick to one or two airlines whenever you travel.

Much like a store reward card, a frequent flyer card fits into your wallet and will earn you points when you buy certain products or use certain services. However, these rewards aren’t limited to air travel. You can also receive air miles for using companies that are connected to your airline of choice.

A large number of hotels and car rental companies around the world have teamed up with airlines, meaning that you can earn air miles even when your feet remain firmly on the ground, simply by staying in a hotel, renting a car, by making credit card purchases or even making a long-distance telephone call.

Make sure you use your frequent flyer card whenever you use these affiliated services and watch your air mile points add up. And the great thing is that although flight travel is the most common way to spend your points, there are many other options to choose from, depending on the airline and scheme you choose.

The frequent flyer program is an ongoing relationship with the airline that can last for many years or even decades. When choosing the airline to affiliate yourself with you should choose carefully to make sure it is the right one for you and dedicate the same care and consideration as you would to choosing a bank or mortgage company.

There are a number of websites that you can use to make the selection process simple as they provide information on several different airlines and their frequent flyer programs, allowing you to make an informed choice. When you have found the airline for you, join the program via the registration form on their website, over the phone or even at the airport on the way to catch a flight.

At first glance, most frequent flyer programs may seem quite similar and choosing between them could be rather confusing. If you regularly fly between certain locations you should make sure that you choose an airline based at an airport that is easy for you to get to and offers a large variety of flights to the regions that you travel to. Make sure that the airline is well known and serves a large number of international destinations. However, if you don’t fly that often but regularly stay in hotels or rent cars, you will want to find a frequent flyer program that rewards you for those activities instead.

Make sure that you read all the details of the program carefully before signing the enrollment form. You will notice a list of terms and conditions that could make a big difference to the program. There will be limitations with every program, such as certain dates when you can’t collect points or perhaps limited seating availability.

It is worth noting that you won’t be credited with air miles if your flight is cancelled for any reason and you might not receive them when the flight is rebooked either, even if the original flight was cancelled by the airline itself due to a technical fault.

Don’t automatically assume that you are receiving your air points when you hand over your card. If in doubt, ask for confirmation. Also, be aware that although most airlines offer free enrollment, there are often fees to pay later down the line such as when you redeem your points.

Although started in the US, frequent flyer programs are now popular the world over. In order to encourage international travellers to use their programs, many US-based airlines now work in partnership with other international airlines so that you can earn air miles wherever you travel in the world. An example of such a partnership exists between American Airlines and British Airways.

Redeeming you air miles is pretty simple. All you need to do is contact your airline, quoting your frequent flyer number. You can use your air miles to purchase a flight ticket of your choice, either using only your points if you have enough or making up the rest of the fee in cash. You will receive either a regular ticket through the post or, as is becoming more common these days, you will receive an e-ticket via email, which you need to print out.

Bear in mind that you can only redeem your air miles on certain dates so you should be sure to check the availability first when booking. If you don’t fancy spending your air miles on a flight, you can also use them on particular internet sites to purchase gift certificates to popular stores. If you’re feeling generous, you may want to donate your air miles to one of the many charities that accept them such as the Red Cross.