Last Updated Mar 7, 2007 6:47 PM EST
For years, my best attempt to organize my airline miles came in the form of a laminated card I kept in my wallet that contained all of my frequent flier numbers. I'd pull it out whenever I was buying tickets, but never had any real idea of the following things: how many miles I'd racked up in each program; which airlines shared miles; when certain miles expired; and the number of miles I needed in order to upgrade or score a free ticket to a particular place. Occasionally, I'd research those various questions by looking at my accounts on the various airline websites, but I never had a coherent system in place. As a result, I ended up with far fewer free trips than I'd hoped. (And lots of subscriptions to crappy magazines bought with expiring miles.)
As it turns out, though, there are several programs out there that allow you to manage your miles in a far more productive way. Consumerism Commentary shows how to use your Quicken software to keep track of your accounts. ("Airline miles are almost like money in the bank, so why not track them that way?" adds Lifehacker.) But the easiest for me to use is MilePort, which I downloaded (for free!) from the cool website FrequentFlier.com. MilePort lets me quickly determine all of the nagging questions I have about my account from an easy-to-use interface, meaning that I can tell which accounts are ready to give me a free trip and which ones are only good for another subscription to US Weekly magazine.