Freshening-Up Frequent Flyer Miles

Jason Ma, February 22, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q.  We've been receving a lot of questions like the following three, lately:

    I have over 100,000 miles in my frequent flyer account, which will disappear if I don't have any activity by the 24th of May this year.  Short of taking a flight, is there anything else I can do to save these miles?  A person at their call center said that the cheapest way to save them is to buy 1,000 miles at a cost of $52, which will take care of the problem.  Is buying the miles the best way to go?

    My family lived overseas for nearly three years, and all six of us each were able to earn 25,000 frequent flyer miles.  We're now back in the states and recently tried to book a vacation with our miles.  To our dismay we found out that our kids' miles have expired. 100,000 miles just vanished!  Is there anyway to get those miles back?!?!

    I lost all my miles because there was no activity on my account and they didn't even notify me that it was going to happen, although they kept sending all of their junk solicitation e-mails for buying flowers etc.  They tell me I can reinstate the miles I already earned for a service fee plus an added cost per 1000 miles that makes no financial sense for me to do.  Maybe you can warn other readers of these consumer unfriendly tactics.

    A.  Apparently, there's something in the air.   And apparently, it's not our subscribers who have been racking up frequent flyer miles.  George blogged about the least painful way to keep your miles from going kaput last summer and the advice was so good that we're going to revisit it.  The airlines are not doing a very good job of keeping you all abreast of the status of your miles and their imminent expiration.  And why would they?  If you lose your miles, they don't have to ante up to fly you or upgrade you. 

    Painlessly Preserving Your Miles
    So before you lose your miles for good or have to pay to get them back, be a little proactive, prevent the expiration and keep them "fresh".  The easiest way that we've found to extend the life of our miles is...  to shop.  Yep, many of the frequent flyer programs have partnered with all sorts of online businesses.  Buy a stapler from Staples, some Frontline for your pooch from PetMeds, toilet paper from Drugstore.com, surprise your honey with a Martha Stewart bouquet from 1-800-Flowers.  Just think, even downloading a song to your iPod could result in another year of "shelf life" for your miles, plus you'll actually rack up additional miles for the purchases.  Charge it to a card that earns cash back, earns points or even more miles and you are really putting your money to work!  Read about it and link to some airline partner pages, right here.

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