I was recently sent a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master for review. Although I would normally balk at paying US$50 for a book, I was surprised by how much I got out of it. I was especially surprised because I thought I was reasonably up-to-speed on earning frequent flyer miles. Boy was I wrong.

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When I first opened it up, I knew I was going to like it. There’s something vitally important about structure in a guide book, especially one that is attempting to walk you through the dense jungle of information that is frequent flyer programs. The brave “one-free-plane-ticket guarantee” blazoned across the front is certainly an interesting feature, but it was the contents page that made me smile. After a brief introduction, the book is split into three main sections:

  • Strategy
  • Tactics: earning frequent flyer miles
  • Tactics: redeeming frequent flyer miles for award travel

The first section, strategy, begins with a brief history of mileage programmes before launching into a simple yet detailed explanation of how and why air miles are so good for airlines and so bad for the majority of travellers. Then things start to get a bit more technical. Chris explains how to set goals for travel, how to earn up to that amount and how to redeem your miles. The time it takes to earn rewards is played off against the financial value of the miles, based on the current cost for the flights you are after. Overall, the focus is on miles earned via ground-based purchases and other promotions, although there is also talk of buying miles on the “grey market”.

Things start getting very interesting in section two. The tactics around earning miles seem endless and exciting — in a geeky kind of way. This section is very specific, with rewards programmes named and the fastest way to gain miles with them outlined. The rewards programmes mentioned are all US-based (Like the Southwest frequent flyer program or the AmEx frequent flyer program) and some tactics rely heavily on credit cards and stores that are unavailable outside the States. Looking around the New Zealand scene (where I am now), many ideas are unavailable or operate on a far smaller scale of reward.

The third section is dedicated to the most difficult of tasks: cashing in your miles for flights! Chris walks through the best way to go about it, commenting on extra miles you can pick up and the best way to get through to customer service. Information on what to expect while redeeming your air miles will be very helpful for someone who has never done it before. There’s a “trouble-shooting” section and interesting rewards are noted, perhaps as a form of motivation.

After the three core sections there are still 12 additional pages: miscellaneous tips (which are all very helpful), Q&A, reader stories, and a list of additional resources, including blogs and forums. And there are plenty more bonuses available too: an audio segment and a copy of “surviving travel in North America (and beyond)” — which is a reworked version of the now-defunct “Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare”.

Is Frequent Flyer Master right for me?

It has refined my approach to mileage and I can see it making a marked effect in the near future.

The Frequent Flyer Master pack comes in at US$49, which is a tiny percentage of the air ticket that Chris guarantees you’ll earn within 90 days. That said, it’s still a fair chunk of change, so you’ll want to ensure you want to earn frequent flyer miles before buying. It’s not just for big credit card spenders — there are plenty of ideas for free miles and also good instructions on deciding the value of points against costs you might incur getting them.

It is certainly great value for people looking to travel from a home country, as many “on the ground” tactics involve going to a particular place or shopping through a particular shop with a particular credit card. There are also lots of tips for those of us who live in a constant state of travel although, as the book stresses, the in-air miles can be the hardest to earn. I travel a lot, but I have learned a lot from this book and the accompanying mp3 audio file which has some bonus information. It has refined my approach to mileage and I can see it making a marked effect on the amount of miles I earn in the near future.

When buying through the site, you have the chance to buy both Frequent Flyer Master and Travel Ninja books for $79. We’ll be reviewing the Travel Ninja book next week, but, in short, I suggest you make the most of the deal and pick them up together. The combined material will save you money on your flights or, if you’re already at the cheapest end of things, make your research, booking and flying that much more pleasant and speedy.

What is the plane ticket guarantee?

The Frequent Flyer Master site outlines the miles that Chris himself is earning each year and gives you an idea of what to expect yourself, depending on how much time you invest in earning frequent flyer miles. Within 90 days, you should have earned 25,000 miles — enough points for a US domestic flight — or he’ll refund the complete price you paid. I feel this comfortably negates the risk of the price and, at the same time, I think it’s a fair offer: you can easily earn much more than this with a few hours of reading and taking action. Give yourself a Thursday night or a chunk of your weekend and the shortcuts and tactics outlined here should begin to pay off quickly.

You can buy a copy of Frequent Flyer Master (or any of Chris’s books) here. We earn a small commission if you use this link (and enough of those keeps us both eating and travelling). That said, I’m off to pick some low-hanging fruit and bump up my One World frequent flyer miles for the next jaunt.

Frequent Flyer Master is written by Chris Guillebeau and published by the author. A copy was made available for review.

Your thoughts on "Review: Frequent Flyer Master"

  • Thanks for that really thoughtful review! I've been debating whether or not to buy this, I think you've swayed me to buy it. :)

    on November 13, 2009 at 3:21 am Reply
  • Hi Andi, if you do please feel free to leave your thoughts here. It'd be great to know how useful you find it.

    on November 13, 2009 at 6:21 am Reply
  • Hey Craig! I'm thinking of getting this, but I've already read loads of blog posts about the subject and they all seem way too US/Canada centered. If the bulk of the rewards programs are US based, as you say, is the book mostly a better way of looking on how to earn your miles in flying and redeeming? I also travel a lot, but my residence is in Ireland so I am trying to figure out how to become a "frequent flyer master" like a lot of my American friends... Thanks for any thoughts :)

    on January 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm Reply
  • Hi Benny, great to see you here. I think the North American bias is simply because these economies make getting airline miles so much easier. As Chris says in the book: crap airlines, great milage programmes. I think there's still a lot in it and the process of hunting down deals (plus the tips on how non-US citizens can use some of the US-based earning opportunities) make it valuable outside North America. In any case, there's always the money-back guarantee if you don't earn enough miles for at least one ticket.

    on January 20, 2010 at 10:29 am Reply
  • Thanks for the answer Craig ;) I'm going to see if I can find any European-based specific writing on the subject, and if I don't then you can't do better than Chris in terms of expertise on the topic! I just wish I could buy a cheaper copy of the book with the US-only offers removed, but I can see that it could still be a valuable investment. Cheers!

    on January 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm Reply
  • If you find some, please report back! :)

    on January 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm Reply
  • I haven't even heard of this book, but I am going to pick it up. I'm the queen of free hotels/flights because I try to collect points for everything. I'm definitely a marketers target market. Thanks for the interesting post.

    on August 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm Reply

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