If you play your credit cards right, the sky could be the limit in terms of frequent flyer miles. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Airline tickets can be expensive. Add on baggage fees and premium seating, and those plans for a family vacation may never take flight.
However, what you may not realize is that you could be sitting on a gold mine in terms of unused frequent flyer miles and credit card points.
"But if you don't know how to use them or you don't even know how many you have, you're pretty much throwing money in the trash can," says Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com.
It's a pretty big trash can, since 71 percent of Americans have no idea how many points they have.
"The good thing is, 66 percent of Americans collect points, so at least the majority," Kelly says.
Kelly is 6 feet, 7 inches tall, so he uses his points to stretch his legs as well as his travel budget.
"For me, it's all about getting business class as cheaply as possible," he says. "And just this January, I used only 110,000 U.S. Airways miles and I got an $8,000 ticket to South Africa."
All he paid was $130 in fees.
So how does he rack up all these points? For one thing, by choosing plastic over paper. Kelly suggests getting a credit card that earns rewards you will use, and using that card whenever you make a purchase. When shopping online, use a shopping portal to earn rewards even faster. Most major airlines offer them, as do many credit cards.
"There's also cash back shopping portals, so even if you don't want airline mileage, you can be getting cash back for every online purchase," Kelly says.
Of course, this method only works if you use it responsibly. You need to pay the balance in full every month, or else you could end up paying more in interest than you are saving on the flight.
"A lot of these travel reward cards have hefty annual fees. The APRs are higher than most standard cards, so if you're running balances, if you're letting miles expire, you can absolutely get eaten alive," Kelly says. "On the flip side, if you're spending a lot of money and just using cash, you're missing out on tons and tons of points in value. So, it's really all about, are you winning as a consumer? And you can absolutely win."
A victory you're more than welcome to bask in on the beach.