By Brian Kelly
October 01, 2014

"When work books a flight w/a sketchy seat, is there an easy way to change it without appearing uppity?" #TL_Chat

There are many ways to get a better seat—without having to shell out cash. The key is being proactive.

When you book a flight and can’t select a seat online, try calling and explaining why you need a certain seat. Being really friendly and connecting with the phone rep can go a long way. If someone you know has elite status with the airline, you can also ask them to call the elite desk and see if they can do you a favor by assigning you a better seat.

Good seats become available whenever people change/cancel—especially in the days leading up until departure when elite passengers get upgraded and their prime coach seats become available. Keep checking online; you can also use Expertflyer.comto set seat alerts. They’ll instantly send you an email if your desired seat becomes available.

Always check in online at the first possible time: that's when many airlines start releasing more seats for assignment. Politely ask at check-in, and if that doesn’t work, the gate agents have final say with assignments. Often the bulkheads are blocked off for passengers with disabilities or children (the bassinets attach to the bulkheads), so if no one needs those seats, you can ask politely. Some bulkheads offer a ton of extra leg room and you don’t have to deal with someone reclining into your space.

You can also try to snag a better seat onboard, but I’d always recommend clearing it with the flight attendant first. You’ll want to wait until boarding is completed before making a move. If you go into a higher class of service (like an empty premium economy seat), sometimes the airlines will make you pay on the spot for the better seat, so I don’t recommend upgrading yourself!

How do you keep track of all your points and miles? Do you use an online mileage manager? #TL_Chat

I use, but it isn’t perfect. Recently, the airlines have made it more difficult to use mileage trackers. Tripit Pro is another useful tool to help track miles and points. But at the end of the day, an old fashioned spreadsheet may be the best way to see an accurate full picture of your balances.

Do you think it's worth it to pay an annual fee for a card that has travel rewards? #TL_Chat

Absolutely. Premium credit cards, especially airline and hotel co-branded cards, can save you a ton of money and improve your travel experience. If you check bags, the free baggage benefit on many airline credit cards can easily cover the annual fee, plus you usually get perks like priority boarding. Super premium cards like the American Express Platinum card may be worth the $450 annual fee. You get Delta lounge access (which costs more than $500) plus a ton of other benefits like free Global Entry ($100) and $200 in airline rebates per year. Most cards with no annual fees only give 1-2% back on your spend and offer few perks, so if you want to enhance your travel and rack up points at a greater ratio, getting a premium card may make a lot of sense.

Brian Kelly is the founder of Follow him on Twitter @thepointsguy and Facebook.