Who out there would like to take a flight worth well over $1,000 — for less than $50 in fees?
I’m assuming you would, too.
Though it might sound too good to be true, it’s not. With a little effort and self-education, you could be taking free flights as soon as next year.
Now it’s time to add some serious tools to your arsenal. And by tools, we mean frequent flyer websites and resources where you can scope out deals, further your education and actually redeem those points and miles for free flights.
Here are 19 resources every frequent flyer needs:
As you learn more about the intricate world of miles and points, you’ll grow to love these info-packed resources.
WebFlyer offers several valuable features for frequent flyers: extensive reviews of each loyalty program, the ability to compare different programs head-to-head, a mileage converter that shows how you can transfer miles between programs and a calculator that estimates how many miles you’ll earn from flying a certain route.
Though TravelSort is actually a luxury hotel membership service, Hilary Stockton’s helpful articles are worth a visit for any rewards traveler; they cover everything from getting to India with miles to convincing your spouse frequent flyer miles are worth it.
3 and 4. Extra Pack of Peanuts and Zero to Travel Podcasts
Not all of us have time to read blogs and websites.
Wondering what’s the best way to use all those Club Carlson points? Or just want to commiserate about the terrible service you received on Delta? Here’s where to turn.
Formerly known as Milepoint, the new InsideFlyer has added features in hopes it’ll become your one-stop shop for frequent flyer info.
In addition to its 200+ forums, you can now manage both award programs and travel itineraries from within the platform.
As the oldest and largest frequent flyer community, FlyerTalk can be a fantastic resource — just try not to get intimidated by the vast knowledge of its members!
7. Travel Hacking Cartel
For $15 a month, you’ll receive email alerts of the best deals as well as access to travel hacking tutorials.
As we’ve discussed before, credit cards are one of the quickest ways to rack up reward points and miles. These sites can help you decide which cards are right for you.
If you’re not sure you can be responsible with a credit card, though, don’t risk it; no rewards are worth going into debt. (Here are six ways to earn frequent flyer miles without credit cards.)
8. Credit Karma
To get your credit score for free, check out Credit Karma.
Another important step to take before applying for credit cards is getting your budget in order. I use and love Mint, which helps you manage your bank accounts, credit cards and loans — all in one convenient site or app.
10. The Credit Card Fly
The Credit Card Fly (which, full disclosure: I write for) is a free email newsletter that alerts you whenever a great credit card offer pops up. If you don’t want to keep track of different sites — and simply want to know when the very best deals are released — sign up.
11. Cards for Travel
The name says it all. Cards for Travel, a site created by the Travel Hacking Cartel’s Chris Guillebeau, focuses exclusively on the best credit cards for travel rewards — and even has a section listing cards for Canadians.
With a clean and user-friendly interface, NerdWallet is our first stop for comparing credit cards. Its search function lets you hone your selection by credit score, fees, typical monthly spend and estimated “sign-up value.”
Once you have a few cards in your wallet, it can be tough to remember which offer the most rewards on, say, groceries or gas.
CreditCards.com’s new WalletUp app solves that problem by determining your location — be it a pizza parlor or an office supply store — and advising you which card to use.
What’s the difference between successful frequent flyers and people who get overwhelmed and quickly give up? The tools at their disposal.
Use the following sites to stay at the top of your travel rewards game.
If you’re going crazy trying to remember information about all your loyalty programs, AwardWallet will be your new best friend.
This fantastic tool helps you keep track of your account balances, login information and mileage expiration dates.
As we’ve noted before, online shopping is a great way to earn miles. So don’t buy anything without first checking ev’reward, which tells you how many bonus miles you’ll earn for logging in to various shopping portals.
16. Expert Flyer
ExpertFlyer is one of the few paid services we recommend; if you plan to frequently redeem points and miles for free flights, its search engine is an incredible tool.
Basic membership costs $4.99 a month, or you can get a full year of premium membership for $99. One new (and free!) feature is seat alerts, which let you know when better seats become available on your flight.
Twitter is one of the best places to find out about hot deals — both in terms of frequent flyer promotions and cheap flights — but it’s also overwhelming.
Use Hootsuite to tame the madness by creating lists of your favorite travel tweeters, or following hashtags like #airfare, #awardtravel or #frequentflyer.
19. Google Calendar
If you use credit cards to earn rewards, keep track of their yearly anniversaries with Google Calendar or something similar. Since cards’ annual fees are often waived for the first year, many travel hackers cancel them before that first anniversary rolls around.
Alternatively, if you want to keep the card, a month before the anniversary is a good time to call and ask for a “retention bonus” in the form of a statement credit or extra miles.
Learning to hack travel can seem complicated at first — but we promise it’s worth it. Use these sites to expand your frequent flyer knowledge a little bit at a time, and let us know if you have questions!
Your Turn: What’s your favorite frequent flyer website from the list? Which did we miss?
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.