Let's face it: Scoring a frequent-flier award ticket at a reasonable mileage rate is about as difficult as learning calculus (at least for me, anyway). I'm still amazed by my good friend Brian Kelly
, aka "The Points Guy," who knows the tricks of every airline or credit card loyalty program, and has scored seriously fab freebies—like the time he flew to the Seychelles for free and ended up sitting next to Madonna.
For our May issue, we profiled Australia, a honeymoon destination that is fabulous, but can be quite pricey to fly to. Not to fear, says Brian: With advance notice you can score free seats. Here's how.
1. Turn credit card points into miles. Roundtrip awards to Australia are hefty, starting at 72K-100K for coach and 125K-150K for business, based upon availability and capacity control, so you'll likely need to top up those frequent flier accounts. "I like both the American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards programs because they allow you to transfer points to a number of airlines, at one point to one mile, which is a great rate," says Kelly.
2. Study airline partners and alliances. "American doesn't fly from the US to Australia, but, Qantas, their partner and Australia's national carrier does," explains Kelly. "Just redeem those American miles on Qantas. And though United and Delta fly to Sydney, it's worth checking out their respective partners, Air Canada and V Australia. They could have better availability."
3. Always book over the phone (yes, even though there's that annoying surcharge). "You can't trust what you see on an airline website—they're notorious for not showing partner award tickets—so you've got to call for the real scoop on seats," says Kelly. And be super-friendly. "These agents hear from angry people 24/7. Explain that this is for your honeymoon! I've found that a little kindness goes a long way."
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