Miles Ahead

Here's how to get the most out of your hotel points and frequent-flyer miles

Thanks to what seems an infinite number of ways to earn frequent-flyer miles--debit cards, long distance calls, grocery-counter promotions and the like--Americans have trillions more such credits than ever before. According to Randy Peterson, publisher of there were 7.9 trillion unused miles floating around at the end of 2001. The '02 numbers aren't in yet, but that's still a staggering six times as many as existed a decade earlier.

Redeeming all these awards, however, has become tougher. In the case of the airlines, blame a reduction in seats. As a group, the airlines have decreased capacity 20% to...

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