Frequent Flyer Miles

Millions of Americans earn frequent flyer miles, either from actual flights taken or through product promotions or credit or debit card rewards.  There are dozens of qualifying programs, each with different stipulations for getting rewards and using them.  Credit cards have become the most popular way of collecting airline miles, but you should be sure the terms of the credit card fit your needs. 

With so many people earning miles, at least four trillion miles may be currently unredeemed.   How can you make the most of your frequent flyer miles?

  • Keep track of your miles.
  • Know and use your program’s partners to maximize your miles.
  • Check your program updates to know how to get the greatest benefit from your miles.
  • Be aware of any applicable expiration dates.
  • Use your free miles for flights that would otherwise be the most expensive.
  • Check your statements carefully, and keep travel receipts to be sure you get the credits.
  • Purchase flights using your frequent flyer miles in advance.
  • Try to make travel arrangements in the off season to get the most value. 

Be sure to review all of the associated policies for your reward program and take advantage of the benefits.  You can redeem your frequent flyer rewards for airline flights and sometimes rental cars or hotels.  Many frequent flyer programs will also let you donate your miles to the charity of your choice.  Check with your favorite charity to see if it has a mechanism for receiving frequent flyer miles.

Since the airline industry is very cyclical, your miles are never guaranteed.  If an airline goes out of business, you can expect to lose all of the miles you have accrued.  Because you are not the owner of your airline miles, you are subject to the rules and regulations of the airlines.

Be cautious when selecting your frequent flyer account.  Your miles might never expire, but your account could.  Generally, you can use your frequent flyer miles to buy a friend or family member a plane ticket as a gift, but you are not allowed to accept payment for it.  Therefore, be very skeptical of anyone who tries to sell you a plane ticket they claim to have purchased with frequent flyer miles.  They are either scamming you or breaking the airline rules.  If you are caught, you will have neither your money nor a plane ticket!