Best Ways To Maximize Your Miles

Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen
CBS/The Early Show
Use them or lose them - that's always been the basic advice of frequent flyer miles.

Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen offered some advice on the best way to maximize your miles.

According to Koeppen, now is a good time to use your points, "use your miles," she says.

"Why not use them? If you have them, use them. Especially your frequent flyer miles," she said. "Most airlines now, if you have no activity in your account for 18 months, gone. They expire."

Koeppen started with Capital One, who has a rewards program. She picked 70,000 points.

Although Koeppen was able to get a golf club for 70,000 points, she found it online for $150.

However, with those same 70,000 points, she was able to get cash back of $350.

"Better deal doing the cash back," she noted. "I can get it as a check. I can get it as a credit. Better deal, right?"

Koeppen found the best deal in travel - "you can get up to $700 reimbursed for travel expenses - hotels, rental cars, airline tickets," she said. "All for the same 70,000 points."

She points out that when people see the golf club, they think it's a good deal.

"If you really want the golf club, don't use your points, buy it and get the cash back," she said.

Koeppen admits these deals take some time to research - for her it took about half an hour to figure it all out, but it's worth it in the long run.

What about miles?

She picked United Airlines and used 25,000 miles - plus some taxes and fees because she booked the ticket at the last minute.

From LAX to JFK, the ticket cost her $278.

For 6,000 miles, Koeppen was able to get $300 worth of gift certificates to use at restaurants.

"There are over 8,000 restaurants that you can go to," she said.

There is an even better deal, Koeppen adds.

"You read the Wall Street Journal, you want a subscription - it's 3,382 miles - that subscription is worth $343.

If you want to keep your miles from expiring and you don't have a trip planned anytime soon, this is a good option, using a small amount of miles on something," Koppen says.

You can also donate your miles to charities such as Salvation Army, Red Crosss, Make A Wish - as little as 1,000 miles, which keeps your account active.

It's not tax deductible, she says, but it goes to lots of charities and good causes.

Koeppen suggests that consumers visit, where you can keep track of all of your points and all of your miles.

"You can actually swap miles from one account to another," she said. "So you need your hotel points to go to your airline points. You can also do something, the global points exchange. There's 2.2 million users. You can swap with other people."