Live chat

Sharon Epperson: Tips to maximize frequent flyer miles

May 19, 2011 at 7:54 AM ET

CNBC's Sharon Epperson joined TODAY for a live web chat Wednesday morning following her Money 911 appearance.

She began the chat with a discussion about her upcoming CNBC special report, Travel Dollars. It's about how more people are staying put, either through staycations or staying in the country this summer. Find more info about Travel Dollars here.

Watch her on CNBC starting at 9 a.m. ET and follow her on Twitter.

Here are two questions from her chat and the complete archive:

Laura's question

Frequent flyer miles are great when/if you can actually use them when you want to travel. The only program that I've had good luck with is Southwest Airlines. 

Sharon's answer:

You're so right. About 25,000 miles doesn't always get you a free ticket like it used to. Here are some great ideas on how to make the most of you frequent flier miles here

One tip: Take advantage of the airline or credit card company's desire to build loyalty. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick around as a customer. Capital One has a great program to lure customers with immediate 100,000 mile reward -- but once you have the card, that doesn't mean you have to make a lot of charges on it. Just use it to get a ticket and stick it in a drawer.

Heather's question:

I have a 1-year-old daughter who has received money as gifts. What is our best investment option for her? Should we open a savings account in her name? Or should we open a college savings account?

Sharon's answer:

I think you should open two accounts. With a Uniformed Gift to Minors or Uniform Trust to Minors account (UGMA, UTMA), you can invest in whatever you'd like and the money will go to your daughter when she turns 18. Go to your bank or a low-cost brokerage firm like Fidelity, Vanguard or T Rowe Price to learn more.

Also definitely look into opening a 529 college savings account for your one-year-old. Time is on your side and you can often get a state tax deduction if you invest in a 529 plan in your state. Also if this child doesn't go to college, you can always switch the account to another beneficiary -- another child or even yourself.

Complete archive:

If you have a question for our TODAY Money experts, submit it here.

To sign up for an e-mail reminder for our next chat, click here.

Watch this week's Money 911 segment: