Learn how to make the most of your miles.
If you’re close to scoring a free ticket to Rome, we have one word for you: Arrivederci. “The smartest way to spend your miles is on high-cost travel, like an international flight,” says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, a consumer-travel website. In fact, you should always avoid trading in your miles for goodies like an espresso maker and a DVD player. Why? In comparison with a free plane ticket, the retail items eat up a disproportionate number of miles, says Galia Gichon, founder of Downtoearthfinance.com, an independent financial-education website. Case in point: A recent $516 Delta flight from New York City to London would require 60,000 Delta SkyMiles, whereas a 120-gigabyte Sony PlayStation that retails for less ($390) would cost 79,400 miles. Of course, if you have miles that are about to expire or you plan to travel on popular travel dates, such as the winter holidays, the equation changes. In those cases, go ahead and order that juicer or video-game console, guilt-free.