Planning your Airline Miles for 2012

Now is a great time to start planning for next year, to ensure you hit your Mileage program goals in 2012. The first thing to do is decide upon a goal. What is it that you would like to achieve in 2012? Is it earning the miles needed to reach the miles you need to your next award trip or an upgrade on your next long haul trip? Is it reaching an Elite level? Check with your airline to find out what changes they have made for next year. In most cases, the changes are not good news. Read our post on what we think of United’s changes: Why the new changes to Mileage Plus are the work of an evil genius!

Getting to Elite on United is actually my goal. Pretty much every year on United I reach Premier Executive (1P) or the 50k EQM level. That gives me some great benefits, such as free unlimited domestic upgrades, Exit row seats when I do not get upgraded, automatic Economy+ for when I don’t get the exit row, free checked bags and most importantly, Star Gold level on Star Alliance, for all my non-United travel. Next year, my personal goal is to hit the new Premier Platinum (75k EQM) level. One actually needs to be at this level to retain all the benefits United offered at the old 1P level.

Your goals will determine what you should focus on and hence plan for. If your goal is to hit a certain redeemable mile (RDM) balance and don’t care about EQM, your strategy will be very different from mine, that is all focussed on maximizing earning EQMs. Getting or using credit cards, earning miles from hotel stays, merchandise purchases does not help an EQM goal much. (Unless you have a credit card that earns you EQM). Pretty much the only way to earn that many EQM is by putting my b*tt in a seat and flying.

So, set your goal and chart a course. Here is what you should do (this is what I do…):

  • Make a list of your pre-planned trips and the miles you will earn from them. I calculated, I have 24,030 miles of trips that are already planned (not yet booked). You may look at RDM instead of EQM, if that is your goal. Your status may earn you bonus RDM for every miles flown. Remember to include that in your math.

My Balance: 75,000 – 24,030 = 50,970 (EQM goal – calculated EQM)

  • Make a list of all other sources of miles. I know I will earn 5,000 EQM from my credit card. I have an old United card that earns me 5,000 EQM for $35,000 of annual spend. If your goal is RDM accumulation, look at what you expect to earn in RDM for sure from your card. Remember to check if your card has an annual cap on miles you can earn.

My Balance: 50,970 – 5,000 = 45,970

  • Make a list of all other sources that earn you miles and see how many will come in for sure. This will include hotel stays, car rentals, other free sources of miles. These almost never earn EQM.

My Balance: 45,970 – 0 = 45,970 (My goal is only EQM based)

  • Travel run rate. What is your typical travel run rate? Other than your already planned trips, how much do you travel in a typical year. Look at your last three years to get an average. If your life/job patterns have changed, do you expect to travel the same? How much more/less? My number is around 30,000 miles.

My Balance: 45,970 – 30,000 = 15,970

This folks, is your delta, your gap, your ‘may have to Mileage Run it’ number. Start thinking of ways to cover this gap.

I will give some tips to maximize the above sources of miles/EQM and hence minimize your delta in my next post. Subscribe to get an update via email or RSS when I post.

If you have any sources of miles one should track that I missed, do leave a comment. If you have tips of your own to maximize miles next year, do leave a comment. I promise to include all the good ones in my next post, with proper credit.

Subscribe to get updates via email. Subscribe to get updates via RSS.

We also post updates on Twitter and Facebook on Airline Miles, the Airline Industry and other travel related stuff.

Visit our sister Blog by Tech Startup



  1. The same process I follow. Usually I would have already booked my mileage runs by now (January-February is so much better than November-December) but the deals have been lacking for UA this year.

  2. @Scottrick Thanks for sharing. I have found that September is another great month for MRs. Usually just after the summer vacation time is the lightest in air traffic, hence the deals are more prevalent.

  3. Great post! I’ve made the mistake several times of not really thinking about the miles I’m earning ahead of time, and even missed a good opportunity to get status on Delta one year because I paid cash for my wife’s ticket but used points for my own ticket. Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.