Frequent Flyer Vocabulary

There is a lot of crazy frequent flier/mileage/points/credit card vocabulary. This page is my attempt to gather most of the terms I know in one place. Some are abbreviations, some are terms. I’ll be updating it regularly as I think of new terms, learn better definitions, and think of other things to add through posts. I’ve tried to bold any vocab words I use in definitions so you know you can find them elsewhere in this list. Hope this is helpful! If you think there are any terms I’m missing please feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail at

AAoA – Average Age of Accounts, or the average age of all the credit accounts available. A good way to keep this high is to never close your no fee cards

App-o-rama – term in the mileage community referring to multiple credit cards on the same day (sometimes up to 5 or 6!). Reasoning: app-o-ramas help consolidate credit checks (two pulls from the same bank in one day show up as one pull), and credit pulls do not appear on the report until the next day (so bank 1 won’t see your credit pull from bank 2 if you apply on the same day). General recommendation is to wait at least 91 days between app-o-ramas.

CPM – Cents Per Mile, or the number of cents each mile you earn on a given flight costs. For example, if you spend $200 on a flight that earns 2000 miles, that flight is 10 cpm (20,000 cents / 2000 miles).

Credit Pull or Check (hard and soft) – a credit pull (or check, or inquiry) occurs whenever someone, usually a bank, takes a look at your credit report. Hard pulls, which generally occur when you are trying to borrow money, hurt your credit score. Soft pulls, such as checking your own credit score, or banks offering you pre-approved cards, do not hurt your credit score. Hard credit pulls associated with home or auto loans are all considered as one inquiry as long as they are all done within a certain time frame (I think two weeks).

Credit Score – there are three major credit bureaus that calculate different credit scores for you. The score is a number that tells banks how worthy you may or may not be to receive more credit or loans. Generally a score about 740 is pretty good, 760+ is excellent

Credit Utilization Ratio – The ratio of your debt (money borrowed) to your credit limits (maximum amount of money you can borrow). Lower ratios improve your credit score.

Elite Status – general term for status granted by an airline to loyal customers. The more you fly with an airline, the higher elite status they will grant you, and the more benefits you will get. Benefits include club access, bonus miles, expedited check in, etc.

Flyertalk – a community of people who love flying, where you can learn a ton of information through sifting through the forums. Flyertalk

Legacy Carrier – term generally used to refer to the “big four” US based airlines – American, Delta, United, and US Airways (technically, Alaska and Hawaiian are legacy carriers as well). Usually used to differentiate from low cost carriers

Low-cost Carriers – term referring to all of the US based airlines that started after US airline deregulation. Examples: Jetblue, Southwest, etc.

Metal – refers to who owns the actual plane you are flying on. For example, an American Airlines (AA) flight might have a codeshare with British Airways (BA) flight. The metal you are flying on is whichever airlines’ name is on the side of the plane. So a BA flight on AA metal would mean you have a BA ticket, but the actual plane you are sitting on is owned and operated by AA.

Mileage run – a flight taken for the sole purpose of earning miles, often to achieve a certain level of elite status with an airline. Skilled mileage runners will find deals on cheap fares to minimize their costs (cpm, see above)

Milepoint – another website where points freaks and mileage runners gather to gab about miles, points, and travel. Milepoint

MQMs – Medallion Qualifying Miles, miles you earn on Delta Airlines that will count towards elite status

Open Jaw – term used when you fly into one city and out of another. Many reward tickets allow open jaws. For example, I could fly into Frankfurt and out of Munich.

Orphaned Miles – miles in a program that you probably are not going to be able to use or are going to expire without you using them (hopefully a small amount!)

Phantom Award Space – award space that looks available on an airline’s website but actually isn’t bookable. Generally the result of a computer glitch

PNR – Passenger Name Record, or record locator. Technical term for the number/letter code an airline gives you as a reference number when you have a reservation or ticket. You’ll give this to an agent over the phone to talk about your reservation, or plug it into a website to choose seats/check flights online. You’ll usually need the PNR for the metal you are flying on to choose seats on a multi-airline flight

Product – term often used to refer to the seats, service, and amenities in a premium cabin

RDM – ReDeemable Miles. Miles earned on a flight that you can redeem with an airline for other flights

Stopover – Rule on some tickets allowing you to stay in a connection city for more than 24 hours. Useful to visit multiple places on the same itinerary. Example: I fly to Beijing with a stopover in Munich. I could spend 3-5 days in Munich before continuing on to Beijing.

YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary. Generally used for offers and deals that aren’t guarantees. In other words, some people might end up with 10K miles from the offer, while others might end up with 5K. Usually applies whenever a human is deciding how many miles to give you (for example, I call up an airline after a long delay and ask for some compensation in the form of RDMs).

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