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Tips for Playing the Frequent-Flier Game

You can get them by buying a house, renting a car, surfing the Net, paying for college, making a phone call, or hopping on a plane. You can use them to travel around the world seemingly for free. They're frequent-flier miles, of course, and they've exploded in popularity recently. Over the past five years, the number of businesses offering them to consumers has grown 40%, to 18,500, according to Inside Flyer magazine (www.webflyer.com), the frequent-flier bible.

But there's a dirty little secret: Far more often than people realize, they're paying additional fees to get those miles. In fact, travelers can easily end up paying more to accumulate the miles necessary for a "free" trip than they would for an ordinary ticket. The main story "Frequent Fliers: Make Sure You Don't Get Clipped" in the January 18, 1999, edition of Business Week explains how to evaluate various frequent-flier offers -- and exposes the deals that don't measure up.

Here, in two online originals, we tell you what the top 10 true deals are today, and we explain how you can determine which trips you should use your free tickets for. Good luck!

By David Leonhardt


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Updated Jan. 7, 1999 by bwwebmaster
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