TODAY

TODAY   |  August 21, 2013

How to use those confusing frequent-flier miles

Frequent-flier programs are full of confusing rules and regulations that can make trying to redeem them overwhelming. Charisse Jones, correspondent for USA Today, shares some tips you’ll want to know before cashing in and flying out.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today's travel, this morning, frequent flyer miles are getting tougher to cash in. what can you do with our points? she is the national business correspondence for usa today . good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> these programs have been around for 30 years but every time i go on it looks like the rules are more and more complicated. is it really happening?

>> everybody feels that way. frequent flyer programs are one of the most popular perks the airlines have. they have hundreds of millions of members. they're not going to get aside that many seats for all the travellers accommodated so it's harder to book an award trip when and where you want for the amount of miles you want to spend.

>> i would love to meet the people involved in writing these rules because they're complicated. but through all the policies in general, what's the top things you try to keep in mind.

>> well, the minimum is go 25,000 but now it might cost you more like 40 to 50,000 miles . to go to europe it's usually 15,000 miles and another continent is even more. miles and points to expire so it's easy to keep your account current. subscribe to a magazine and that should be enough. always remember if you can't get the reward trip you want, there's other fun things you can do with your miles and points.

>> that's something we're going to talk about right now. if you would rather not use the points for a trip, you can choose a retail gift. we'll go through the different airlines and talk about it. let's start with united. what do they have.

>> well, with united for 100 to 150 miles you can download a song to your i pod or mp 3 player.

>> that's nothing.

>> you can easily get that. if you have a few more miles to play with, they've got these cool one of a kind experiences, like, for example, one person was able to bid on meeting rod stewart in the flesh in las vegas and going to see his concert. the starting bid was 50,000 miles .

>> these are not real tickets by the way.

>> no, they're not unfortunately. you know.

>> american airlines .

>> american airlines has a combinations of miles to get a hotel room or karenal. for 1,000 miles and about $200 you get a room at the hyatt recency in newport beach . you can take at this world class hotel chain and surf sand and seafood. cost you nothing. if you have more miles you can go to london and for 46,000 miles you can get a room at the 5-star property in the posh section of london. if you want to say hello to the royal baby and see big ben . it's a great room.

>> probably something you wouldn't book ordinarily.

>> might cost you a little too much if you had to use cash.

>> delta, they have a year round online auction .

>> delta has so many things you can choose from. for example, for 10,000 miles you can get a pair of baseball tickets to see your favorite teams play.

>> my team the san francisco giants and the atlanta braves . that's a lot of fun too. this is a vip seat, the gourmet club, vip parking. that's a lot of fun. they also have cool merchandise you can buy, like, for example, you can get a ge wine center which holds 57 bottle of wine.

>> hello.

>> if you're having a great party you can get this. it's pricey. 240,000 miles . it's for the person that can't spend them all on travel. they can get an item like that.

>> finally, jet blue , you can donate your miles for a good cause.

>> use your points to help somebody else. for 1300 points they'll donate $10 to the charity of your choice. it could be hunger relief or united way . use your points to help somebody else.

>> is it tough as a reporter keeping these rules and policies straights?

>> my mind is always spinning, believe me.

>> they don't make it easy. thank you so much.