Exterior-Citation-EncoreLast week we covered some of the basics on how to start maximizing the value of your frequent flier miles. This week, we’re going to talk about some tools to find flights that offer the most mileage bang for your buck.

Alphabet Soup: When we talk about booking flights, two acronyms are thrown around quite frequently. EQMs, or Elite Qualifying Miles, are the miles earned that count toward qualifying for the next level of Elite status. Frequent fliers evaluate flights based on their CPM, or cents per mile rate. An excellent value flight will be under 6.5-7 cents per mile. While some obsessives (ok, me) will occasionally book flights solely for the mileage during special double EQM promotions or at the end of the calendar year, you can use this rule of thumb to your advantage when booking flights to calculate the which flights will help push you to that next Elite level at the best possible value.

Your Toolkit: There are two tools I use when searching for flights that get me the best possible tool. The first is ITA Matrix, the most powerful fare search engine you’ve never heard of. Think of it as Kayak on steroids- it has a wide array of tools to help you find the days, routes, airports and airlines that get you the best fare to get where you want to go. Be forewarned, this robust tool has a bit of a learning curve, but once you pick up the basics you’ll be driving your CPMs down like a pro. A great primer on ITA Matrix can be found here.

The second tool in my arsenal for finding great fares is The Flight Deal. TFD aggregates fantastic sale and discounted fares all over the globe, and every rate they publish is under that magic 6 CPM rate. You can filter by your home city or preferred airline alliance, subscribe to either their RSS or Twitter feed, and watch as awesome fares roll in. How about Puerto Rico for under $300? Or Moscow for under $900? From Russia with love, indeed.

There you have it, my basics on finding and booking the cheapest possible fares. Best of luck on hitting those elite tiers and travel safely, folks.

 

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