How to make those flier miles count

4 Tools to Avoid Wasting Your Frequent Flier Air Miles

by Justin Zipprich


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To many travelers, they can be fun to get and hard to let go. They are as precious as money, yet they can sometimes mean more much more. We're talking about frequent flier air miles.

Even though airlines give away thousands of miles per flight, it can take ten times that amount to really accrue into anything useable. When you do finally arrive at the point where you've got enough to spend, well, that's when the issues begin. You find yourself getting so excited about your air mile balance that you feel the need to spend them on something, anything!

There are ways that you can get your money's worth out of those miles. There are also ways that you can make those miles last until you absolutely need them. Don't fall into the air mileage trap. Check out these few simple tips to how to not spend those precious frequent flier miles.

Don't Transfer Flyer Miles to Your Friends or Family

It sounds cruel, but keeping them to yourself will benefit you both. We know you're trying to do something nice for your pal by purchasing their exotic trip with your miles. How could it possibly backfire? Well, when you transfer your miles to someone else's card, you run the risk of running into massively unfair transfer fees.

Most airlines including Frontier and Delta charge around 0.01 cents per mile plus a transfer fee. That may seem like a small price to pay, but it adds up. Let's say you transferred 100,000 miles, the 0.01 cents per mile charge would result in a total fee of $1,000.

Some airlines word their transfer programs differently. Alaska Airlines charges $10 for every 1,000 miles plus transfer fees, but you can only transfer 30,000 miles at a time, and it is just as costly.

By the way, those transfer fees aren't exactly pocket change. Alaska Airlines charges a $25 fee per transaction while Delta charges a whopping $30 fee for each transaction. In the end, your friendly gesture may end up costing you dearly.

But all is not lost. If you really want to buy your friend that trip, all you have to do is enter your rewards information during their order; most programs have no issue with that.


Don't Let Miles Expire

One of the worst ways to use your air miles is to make the mistake of letting them expire. Frequent flyer miles can easily be out of sight and out of mind, and if you don't travel often, you could let them slip through your fingers. They are easy to forget because the airlines don't go out of their way to remind you of the expiration until the last minute. After all, they want more of your business!

What do you do if you find your points are about to expire? Buy something! Every program is different, and you'll have to read the fine print in your contract to know for sure. But, often times, buying something, even a very small or inexpensive item, even as small as a $1 song from iTunes, can be the trigger your program needs to restart your expiration timeline.

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Don't Spend Flyer Miles on Expensive Merchandise

Once you have those air miles, it may be tempting to spend them on big-ticket merchandise like televisions and stereo systems rather than using them for trips and airfare. Do yourself a favor and try to resist the temptation.

Why? Because you want to get the most out of your miles, and buying expensive merchandise robs you of that pleasure, often getting you pennies per mile. Think about this. Let's say you want to buy that crystal clear, 60" HD Smart Television from the Delta SkyMiles Marketplace and it costs over 400,000 miles to purchase.

Then you do a simple product search on the internet and find that you could buy that same exact television for under $1,300 from Walmart.

When you divide the price of the television into the number of miles you would spend in the marketplace, you're really only getting around 0.33 cents per mile. Constantly using caution in the online marketplace leads to the final tip.

Don't Spend Your Points at the Air Miles Rewards Store

The television example is just one instance of how buying merchandise at your favorite mileage marketplace can often be a big mistake. Each airline has one, and they all have items for "sale" that don't exactly match up to the cost that you would see at an actual store. This is because each point has a face value, but these values are not static. They are constantly changing, and being able to catch the window where points equal dollars is tough.

This goes for almost anything you can get in these rewards stores. With the United program, you can get a $100 Amazon.com gift card for 16,500 miles, but that only equals roughly 0.60 cents per mile. Let's say you want to purchase the dependable Eagle Creek Travel Safe TSA Lock to protect your valuables while traveling. Buy it on Amazon and it will cost you $10, but get it at the Delta store and prepare to dish out a whopping 2,800 miles or 0.35 cents per mile. This method just isn't cost effective, and it is a terrible use of your miles.

You know how important your frequent flier air miles are to you, so finding ways to use them wisely is paramount. By following these simple guides and always keeping on top of your rewards balance, you will surely benefit from all that travel in a big way. So do yourself a favor. Check out your miles balance, and start planning your dream getaway today!

Take the Next Step:

  • Check your frequent flyer miles and find out when they expire.
  • Want to plan a vacation that you can afford and enjoy on a tight budget? Then visit the TDS library for some additional budget travel tips.
  • If you're planning a trip with a new addition to your family, don't miss these tips for flying with baby.

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