Q. I'm pretty new to flying; we're more the road warrior type. However, since my daughter has moved cross-country, we need to fly once in awhile. I have a couple of credit cards that earn me frequent flyer miles. But, they are useless! I had enough miles for a round-trip flight, but they wanted me to spend 14 hours at O'Hare between legs of the journey! Also, I wanted to book two tickets. They said I only had enough for one ticket. I was afraid to book just mine, and then go back in to book my husband's for fear that ...uh oh... no seat available for my husband! Why can't I use the points for one ticket and pay full price for the other?
A. Here's what you can do: Buy, or reserve, the first ticket on your credit card and -if you need to - cancel it within a few hours at no penalty. Of course grace periods and reservation hold times will vary according to airline, so do check with yours first. Then immediately try to book the second ticket on the same flight using your miles. If there are no more seats, scrap your previous reservation and keep hunting.
And yes, it does seem that Frequent Flyer miles are increasingly more difficult to use. We're finding that for some folks a cash back card, such as the Amex Blue Cash card is a better option than a frequent flyer credit card. More on that subject here.