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Maximize Frequent Flyer Miles: Use a miles-cash combo

Half the battle of using award miles is finding available seats, which have become increasingly scarce in recent years as the number of flights has decreased. Some newer programs offer a compromise: Delta’s Pay with Miles program (offered to SkyMiles members) and Northwest’s PerkChoice program (available to WorldPerks members) both allow you to “purchase” seats with a combination of miles and cash without having to worry about award-seat availability. Though the airlines have merged, the loyalty programs won’t combine until 2010. With Delta’s Pay with Miles, you can use 10,000 reward miles to knock down the cost of your flight by $100. Northwest’s setup allows you to use half the miles required for a round-trip award ticket for one leg of the trip, and pay half the ticket price for the other. Both are essentially on par with United Airlines’ Choices program, which permits Mileage Plus members to use cash and miles they earn on co-branded Visa cards to purchase flights.

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