How to “Make the Most” of Your Miles in 2015? Seriously?!?

T his article written by Teresa Bitler for the official weblog of ShermansTravel gives advice on how to “make the most” of your frequent flier loyalty program miles for 2015; but in my opinion, many of the suggestions are just plain — well — bad.

“With several airlines changing the way you earn miles — namely basing mileage on how much you spend for a ticket rather than how far you fly — you’ll want to make the most of what you do accumulate”, Bitler wrote. “Even if you don’t have enough points to redeem free award flights, there are many ways to reap the benefits of your hard-earned miles, onboard and off.”

Many ways to reap the benefits of your hard-earned miles? Without further ado, the subheads are what she suggests; but the commentary is mine:

Purchase Items Via the Internet

Yes, you can earn frequent flier loyalty program miles from the Internet “malls” of airlines by purchasing items — but I would personally rather have a cash rebate than miles or points. Bitler is correct when she says that “the caveat is that you’ll almost always get a better deal by using cash instead of mileage, but it’s worth a look if you need to keep your miles active” if you need to earn or redeem miles every 18 months or so to keep from expiring — but that is about it.

While you can purchase a song from the Apple iTunes store, I prefer to spend a few extra dollars and purchase something I can actually use — from a home improvement store, for example. If I spend five dollars on an item which I truly need, I can forgo the few cents I would have earned as the result of a cash rebate — and that is about the only time I will ever patronize an Internet “store” of an airline, which most likely is powered by a company called Cartera Commerce, Incorporated.

While you will most likely receive the miles you earn, it is not exactly guaranteed. One member of FlyerTalk sued Cartera for $7,000.00 plus expenses back in 2012, as he personally had greater than 300 outstanding mileage transactions with them which should have resulted in bonuses awarded to him from the United Airlines Months of Miles promotion of greater than 250,000 United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles. You can find out how that lawsuit ended here.

Redeem Gift Cards

You can redeem your mileage for gift cards through several Internet web sites — but restrictions may apply; available gift cards can vary from airline to airline; and this is generally a bad deal with poor value.

Bitler posted a limited time offer from United Airlines: through January 31, 2015, you can exchange any unwanted gift cards for MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles. A $25.00 gift card will earn you 1,000 miles, which is like spending 2.5 cents per mile — not a terrible deal; but not great, either.

Score Event Tickets

Some airlines offer concert, sporting event, and theater tickets in exchange for frequent flier loyalty program miles — but it is not worth it to me. The example of how you can get free tickets to Broadway shows only reminds me of how you used to be able to earn two free frequent travel loyalty program miles or points for each trivia question you answered correctly by Internet web sites powered by Audience Rewards; and in some programs, it was a great — and free — way of keeping expiring accounts alive.

Auctions

Auctions for experiences — such as sporting events, meeting celebrities or walking the red carpet at award ceremonies — is the one of the best ways to help members either empty their frequent flier loyalty programs of those pesky miles or greatly reduce the balance. Perhaps it is just me; but I cannot see myself spending hundreds of thousands of miles or points for any of the “experiences” offered.

Dining

This is a bad idea as well: through the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program of United Airlines, you can purchase dining cards to participating restaurants. The program has two options: a Lettuce Entertain You dining gift card worth $50.00 for 6,800 miles; and Restaurant.com gift card worth $25.00 for 500 miles. Not only might restaurant choices be limited and not always the best — as admitted by Bitler — but the terms and conditions of the use of the gift card or certificate can be rather restrictive as well.

I once spent two dollars at Restaurant.com on a certificate worth $10.00; but I wound up not using it as the conditions were way too restrictive in terms of when I was permitted to use it; at which locations I could use it; and the minimum amount I needed to spend in order to use it. Unless you are completely successful with your preferred dining experience — which is certainly a possibility — I would avoid this option.

Upgrade Your Flight and Airport Experience

If you are going to use your hard-earned frequent flier loyalty program miles to reward yourself with an upgrade aboard the airplane or to purchase membership in airline clubs and lounges, ensure that it is a good value for you. For example, using those miles for an upgraded seat on an airplane during a one-hour flight typically will not significantly improve your flight experience and therefore will most likely not be worth the miles.

Exchange, Trade, or Gift

Even Bitler admits that exchanging or trading frequent flier loyalty program miles through commercial Internet web sites is a bad idea, as they are “usually at horrible conversion rates that aren’t worth it.” So why suggest it? Gifting your miles is an equally terrible idea, as it costs you money. A better suggestion is to redeem your miles yourself for a trip for someone special in your life. You will still have to pay the taxes for that trip; but they would have had to be been paid anyway by the recipient. Another idea — you did not hear this from me — is to redeem your miles for for a trip for someone now in exchange for them redeeming their miles for a trip for you in the future as a sort of a “trade” in order to avoid the poor conversion rates.

Sell Your Miles

This is terrible advice as well — never mind that the value will not be in your favor should you be successful. Selling your miles is virtually never a good idea, as it is most likely technically is against the terms, conditions and rules to which you agreed when you first joined as a member of a frequent flier loyalty program.

Donate Your Miles

If you are feeling generous, this is a good idea, as you may be able to donate your frequent flier loyalty program miles to your favorite charity in order to help make a difference for those in need. Check the official Internet web site of the airline with which you have frequent flier loyalty program miles to donate to see which charities are official partners of the airline; and check each quarter, as the charity partners of the airline could change.

Summary

Very few of the above suggestions by Bitler makes sense, in my opinion.

Let’s face it: frequent flier loyalty program miles seem to be increasingly more restrictive while devaluing more and more as time passes. Redemption rates increase while benefits decrease; and the amount of SkyMiles earned by flying as a passenger aboard an airplane has decreased significantly for many members of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program — except for when more expensive airfares are purchased — due to the new revenue-based earning system which became effective as of yesterday.

I have said many times over the years that I would rather earn a cash rebate than frequent flier loyalty program miles

My point is that the constant proliferation of referral links at certain weblogs can be ridiculous — despite how lucrative they may be to the “bloggers.” This is probably the farthest extent you will read with regard to anything written by me about those credit cards. I have never had a referral link to any credit card — ever — and I probably never will.

For now, I intend to stick with my credit cards which give me a percentage of cash back every time I use them, as I would much rather have cash than frequent travel loyalty program points or miles, which seem to lose value and have more restrictions placed on them every day.

However, I can use cash any way I want. I like that.

…and that cash rebate — minuscule as it may be — seems to keep gaining more and more value over miles and points.

Aside from flying as a passenger on an airplane, I will continue to avoid paying money specifically to earn frequent flier loyalty program miles in the future, as they seem to be increasingly not worth the bother or the effort. I will do as little as necessary to prevent my frequent flier loyalty program miles from expiring; continue to earn them either as I fly as a passenger on an airplane or for free through a promotion; and attempt to redeem them for the greatest maximum value to me as possible.

How are you going to “make the most” of your miles in 2015?

2 thoughts on “How to “Make the Most” of Your Miles in 2015? Seriously?!?”

  1. Mike says:

    Airline miles are meant as a substitute for spending money to fly on airlines. Any alternative is pointless, like giving a fish a bicycle for its birthday. And I am unanimous on this, if I do say so myself.

  2. Mrs Betty Slocombe says:

    “…and I am unanimous on this!” (c) 1985 Mrs Betty Slocombe. I will report this to Mr Rumbold.

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