You work so hard to accumulate points, and then some airline still wants you to pay virtually the price of an economy ticket just to use them. What the hell?! Though in most cases you can't avoid them entirely, there are some really useful tips and tricks to pay less, every time. 

First, Not All Miles Add Surcharges, All Add Taxes...

This may come as a shock to some, but not all programs where you earn miles add lofty surcharges. Some simply add the government imposed taxes onto the price, which are often just between $5-$100. That's far from the crazy prices other airlines charge, where you'll pay north of $1000 in addition to your miles for some flights in "surcharges". To make things more complicated, some airlines only add surcharges when using miles for their own flights, or flights on certain partners. Using those miles on other partners may help you avoid them. Airlines like Delta, United and American do not add surcharges, so if you're somewhere where you can earn these miles easily, they are always a solid option. If you can't earn them easily and you use a program which adds surcharges, you'll LOVE the tips below...

Book One Ways, It Will Be Cheaper Almost EVERY Time...

So we all gripe about paying surcharges in general, but what you may not know is that you are also probably overpaying the over priced surcharges! Argh! Surcharges from Point A to Point B are often very different than from Point B to Point A. The airlines (intentionally?) charge the higher of the two, twice, when you book most round trips! Answer? Book one ways, even for a round trip ticket. Find the space and book one way, then book the way back separately. At the very least, you'll be very amused when you see the price difference. I did a case study on this HERE, it's a fascinating read...

Use Hidden City Ticketing To Avoid Cities With Higher Surcharges...

This may all seem very complicated to some, but the taxes added onto tickets using miles are similar to those just buying a ticket with cash. Certain countries, cities and areas charge more taxes and those taxes are unavoidable. Almost. If you simply fly "through" the higher priced city on the way to a city or country with lower taxes, you avoid the higher taxes. On any airline ticket in the world, once you miss a segment, the rest is cancelled, so if you want to avoid the higher taxes by booking a ticket to somewhere you won't actually go, but while flying through the higher priced city you actually want to visit, you can only book one way. As you can see, that's often the best strategy anyway. Note, unless you have an overnight connection, you cannot check bags when doing this, as bags will go to final destination. You could always forward your luggage to get around this...

Give Me A Concrete Example, I'm Lost...

Sorry, this stuff really is tricky and though I do my best to keep it simple, it can get crazy. Let's say I want to fly from London to Rio for the Olympics. British Airways adds surcharges to these tickets. It is however literally illegal in Brazil to add surcharges to tickets which depart Brazil. If you booked a round trip departing London you'd be illegally paying surcharges at the higher UK to Brazil rate. If you booked two one way tickets, you'd pay the high rate from the UK only once, and pay no surcharges at all leaving Rio. It would save you about $400. Oh and the hidden city ticketing? It's worth a longer read, HERE.