Don't Make My Mistake With Your Frequent-Flyer Miles

I love travel "hacks"...

I'm constantly looking for ways to get more out of the system.

One way that I make sure to take advantage of is by always earning frequent-flyer miles when I fly.

But unlike retirement savings, your frequent-flyer miles aren't going to grow over the years. They don't earn interest. And they certainly don't pay dividends.

This isn't advice that you usually hear from a retirement expert when it comes to your assets... But don't hoard your miles.

Every couple of years or so, I get an e-mail from an airline about a new "upgrade" it's making to its points system.

Somehow, those upgrades always seem to result in lower availability, more expensive seats, or fewer benefits.

One of my earliest big airline milestones was with American Airlines...

I had racked up 54,413 miles prior to a 1989 "upgrade" that promised to put any miles earned before the program change into a special bucket.

I still have the letter they sent me announcing the change...

AA pic

Those 50,000 miles were enough for a free first-class ticket on any American Airline flight... plus a first-class upgrade for a companion flying on a regular ticket on the same itinerary.

I hoarded those miles for a special occasion – a Hawaiian vacation – that I never quite had enough time for.

Then, American Airlines went bankrupt.

It reorganized the program, axing the promise that the miles wouldn't expire, and I lost them. (I did join the class-action lawsuit after the airline's changes, but received next to nothing.)

Do what I do now: Don't hoard your miles. Take a trip. Visit family or friends, or just explore a new place.

It's not just for the experience. Travel can be great for your health...

For example, a 20-year follow-up to a longitudinal heart study following women in Framingham, Massachusetts, found that women who vacationed at least twice a year had a significantly lower heart-attack risk than women who vacationed just once every six years.

Another study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal indicated that the odds of marital satisfaction decreased as the frequency of vacations decreased... and the odds of depression were higher.

A nine-year study showed that men who did not take an annual vacation had a 20% higher overall mortality risk and 30% greater risk of death from heart disease. The study concluded: Vacationing may be good for your health.

And of course, one of the most immediate and important benefits of vacationing is reduced stress.

Stress can wreak havoc on your body. It boosts inflammation and can speed up the cell-division process. In addition, it's associated with higher risks of dementia and Alzheimer's.

So this year, make it a priority to take that trip you've been dreaming about.

Save Some Cash if You Don't Have Miles to Burn

If you don't have airline miles saved up, it's still a good idea to take a vacation this year...

To save a few dollars, try using the app FareScout, published by the site, to help determine the best time to book a flight based on whether fares could increase or decrease from the date you want to book.

The best travel deals are on average 47 days before a trip, according to – a flight-booking website. Keep in mind that this is the average... Typically, the lowest fares are in the one- to three-and-a-half-month range. The most expensive time to book, on average, is two days before a trip.

And now, finding out the best time to book is easier, and maybe even more accurate.

FareScout looks at the previous 13 months of fare data to determine whether a ticket's price will fall or rise within the next seven days. The app works on domestic U.S. flights leaving within the next 60 days, when prices are mostly likely to change on short notice.

FareScout is simple to use; it's an app you download onto your iPhone or Android smartphone. Just enter in your flight information and FareScout will tell you whether you should buy now or wait. The app will even let you know how much fares could increase or decrease.

So if you want to save some money, without trying to figure out the best day to buy tickets on your own, try FareScout at

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