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Beware of taxes
Although a ticket itself may be "free", you will most likely still have to pay taxes out of pocket, and they make up a large part of a flight's original price. Depending on the flight path and the program's regulations, you may be able to pay taxes with points. For example, Star Alliance allows you to use points when paying the taxes for flights within Europe. And the tax amounts can vary by airline: a flight from Poland to France on Lot Polish Airlines has lower taxes than the same flight on Austrian Airlines, which are both part of Star Alliance. It is worth calling the frequent flyer's booking agent to find the best deal.

Christine Nikol is a management consultant and freelance writer, helping advise Fortune 500 and international companies on business strategy. Her travels have taken her across Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean, and she's lived in as far flung places as Kathmandu. She's a Gold member on British Airways, a Lufthansa Senator, has Diamond status with Hyatt hotels and Platinum with Starwood properties.



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