If you’ve read my recent post on planning a multi-destination European vacation, you know that I like to do my research to get the best deals at the most convenient times and dates. On the same topic of making the most of travel, did you know that you can earn points for many of these flights on three major U.S. airline carriers?

I recently did a bit of reading on this topic and let me tell you, it’s a whole new world out there! I have missed out on too many opportunities where I could have easily been earning points for free flights!

Yes, people, free flights. Let’s dive in.

Don’t we look psyched to be on top of the Eiffel Tower?
Here’s wishing I had put in my rewards number after that long-haul flight!

Three Major Alliances

There are three major carriers within the U.S. that have alliancesto airlines across the globe. The big three? Delta, United Airways, and AmericanAirlines.

These airlines are part of the three big alliances acrossthe globe – SkyTeam for Delta, Star Alliance for United, and Oneworld forAmerican.

If you’re flying to anywhere in the world, there’s a strong chance that you will be flying on an airline that operates within one of these alliances. For example, if you’re flying British Airways, you are flying within the Oneworld alliance.

So what does this mean for you?

This means that when you book your British Airways flight, you should be entering your rewards number for American Airways…or any other Oneworld alliance airline that you fly most often.

The Points

Using the example above, you have the potential to be earning points for flying British Airways that will cash out in your American Airlines account. When you are booking, you should enter your American Airlines rewards number to gain American Airlines points for this flight.

Depending upon where you live in the world and what airline is most accessible to you, you should be using the rewards system for that airline according to the graphics for each alliance below.

Photo via Oneworld
Photo via Star Alliance
Photo via SkyTeam

But, I only have 200 points, that’s not getting me anywhere!

That’s true. 200 points is likely not going to buy you afree flight anywhere. However, points for most of these airlines will neverexpire*, which, at some point, could earn you a free flight! (And, if you askme, a free flight is better than no flight at all.)

Chances are, if you’re flying Iberia once for a trip to Spain, you are not going to earn enough points using Iberia’s rewards program for a free flight on Iberia likely ever. However, by putting in your American Airlines rewards number instead of creating a new account for Iberia, you can contribute to your American Airlines rewards pool for chances at earning a free flight sooner.

*Some airlines may require you to be active within a certain period of time to keep your points. For more information on expiration policies, you can check out this awesome article by The Points Guy.

What about jetBlue or Southwest?

Both jetBlue and Southwest have their own rewards programs, which I highly encourage signing up for. Neither airline participates in a big three alliance, which is not to say that their independent programs aren’t fantastic. I have earned many free flights for both of these airlines on low-cost and short distance flights.

Partner Programs

If you do a bit of exploring on the websites of each of these rewards programs, you’ll find that there are so many ways to earn points that aren’t necessarily just by flying! You can register your credit card and gain points by dining at participating restaurants, you can utilize a shopping portal and earn points for online shopping, you can link your rental car or hotel to your rewards account and earn points for hotel stays.

All of these methods are simple and help you contribute to your points faster, which means free flights faster!


I like free flights as much as anyone out there, but I was so uneducated on this topic and missed out on so many opportunities to be earning points on airlines I fly frequently!

All of these programs are completely free to sign up for, although earning the points does take a bit of vacationing. But, who knows? You could log-in to book a flight one day and realize you have enough points to pay for it!


As always, if you want help planning your vacation, I specialize in creating a completely custom itineraries just for you! Whether you’re about to book or just starting the planning process, send me an email or check out my services here.

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