Flyertalk is generally considered the gold standard for frequent flyer and travel forums on the Internet. Started more than ten years ago, the forum has millions of posts dedicated to every type of airline and travel tidbit you can imagine. Before the huge surge in popularity of travel related blogs, Flyertalk was where I cut my teeth on travel hacking and to this day, there are lots of secrets and tips that can only be found searching the forum and networking with members. I've been able to take advantage of several mistake fares and secret tactics directly through the knowledge I've gleaned from Flyertalk.
One of the most well-known "secrets" on the forum is the "Coupon Connection" page. This page details potential trades of miles and points between members for their mutual benefit. For example, I usually see people who have upgrade instruments (typically systemwide or global upgrades on American and United) who are looking to trade these for miles in other airline programs. Oftentimes, I'll also see people with huge hotel balances looking to trade those points for airline miles.
Of course, there's an element of trust in these exchanges and unfortunately, for all of you newbies, this portion of the site is limited to those members that have 100+ posts on the website. Ostensibly, this reduces the number of scammers on the page but also tries to ensure that the people who participate are contributing members of Flyertalk.
Here are two examples where I was able to use Coupon Connection to help me achieve my travel goals:
1. Traded 30,000 United miles for 2 American Airlines system wide upgrades: I just did this a month ago and was able to get rid of my remaining UA miles before the devaluation on 2/1/14. In return for those miles, I was able to have my trading partner apply system wide upgrades to my friend's ticket from Los Angeles to Shanghai. She had never flown in business before and was amazed at the food, level of service and most importantly, the lie flat seats. Needless to say, she was very pleased with the experience and it made for a great birthday present.
2. Traded 145,000 Hilton points for 90,000 US Airways miles: In response to another devaluation – this time by Hilton last year – my Hilton points were soon going to be worth much less than before. However, I already had all of my hotels booked for the foreseeable future and didn't think that I would be able to "burn" the points before the devaluation. However, using coupon connection, I was able to find someone who wanted to book at the Conrad Koh Samui in the near future. After some haggling, I used the 145,000 Hilton points to book him four nights at the pre-devaluation price before the price shot up to 380,000 points. In turn, he booked a great award for me on US Airway's Star Alliance partners detailed in this series that allowed me to go to Cabo San Lucas and Thailand all for only 90,000 miles. Both of us scored big time and were able to trade things we didn't particularly need for outsized values.
I've probably used Coupon Connection a dozen times over the years and I believe it's one of the most underrated and underutilized tools in a travel hacker's arsenal.