7 Common Mistakes Travelers Make With Airline Miles

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Airline Miles Credit Cards | 2 comments

Truth be told, earning and spending airline miles is a game of strategy and wits. Airlines are in the business of making money, not dishing favors out. Over time, most frequent flier programs have deteriorated and airlines are no longer as generous as they used to be with mileage points. To come out ahead, you need to tweak your strategy. Keep away from these common and costly mistakes that plague travelers and you’ll live to enjoy your mileage points!

Letting Points Expire

This is perhaps the most common mistake you can make. You forget about your airline miles and time expires on your points. Yes, unfortunately airline miles come with expiry dates indicated in the fine print of your policy. Read it carefully. The simple solution is to make a cheap purchase from the online portal of your points program. Most frequent flier programs and airlines have online shopping portals. A purchase will extend the life of your miles. All that is needed in most cases is some activity on your credit or debit card to keep it fresh.

Redeeming Airline Miles For Products

Most if not all airlines miles programs allow you to redeem products with your miles. It can be anything from a shiny flat-screen, fridge etc. The problem with these redemptions is that they are bad value for money. You redeem at a ratio of less than 0.1 miles to money spent. The recommended redeem ratio is above 2.5 where you start to get the value of your points. If you can, avoid redeeming your points for merchandise. Instead, aim for other experience redemptions such as hotel stays and upgrades on flights.

Failure to Link Debit/Credit Card To Dining Reward Programs

This is a no-brainer. Record the number of times you eat out in a month whether for business or pleasure. Second, calculate the amount of money you spend on each of your eating out experience. Now, imagine you could earn a point for every dollar you spend eating out! Further, imagine you can redeem the points you accumulate over time to fly free to your favorite travel destination. How easy can that be? All you have to do is link your card to a dining rewards network and eat at participating restaurants. Anything you consume that ends up on your tab automatically earns you point. You can even pay for friends and they refund you back in cash. You earn some extra miles at their expense!

Putting Your Points Earnings in Too Many Baskets

Your airline miles are a special kind of “investment”. They don’t appreciate in value over time but they do accumulate. Unlike normal investments though, over-diversifying your points earning programs will only get you hurt. When it comes to earning miles, you need to keep your efforts focused on a few programs. This will quicken the process of achieving elite status. That’s where the real magic happens. Elite status opens up a new world of travel and flight experience. You get to enjoy a plethora of perks in elite status, from preferential treatment on flights to quick and painless travel experiences.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not bad having and participating in a number of programs. Different programs have different ways of earning points that might be beneficial to your spending. Keep these programs to a manageable and profitable level.

Failure To Shop Through Online Portals

Most airlines miles programs among them Delta, Hawaii, and Southwest have online shopping portals. These portals allow you to shop at participating outlets and earn bonus points for every purchase you make. If you are shopping online anyway, why not check out products listed on these portals and increase your airline miles from the comfort of your house. It’s a simple and legitimate way to easily accumulate miles but one overlooked by most travelers. Take the time to browse through.

Never Checking Partner Availability When Redeeming Miles

Airlines will stonewall you when it comes to redeeming points for a free flight. Free seats on airplanes are expensive real estate. Most times, agents will give you the first choice on their screens when you want to redeem a flight. Don’t settle for that. You can do better by performing a bit of research on participating partner sites for available seats and flights. Arm yourself with this information the next time you call an agent to redeem points. You can get a better placement and get more value for your points through a bit of digging and comparing available options.

Hoarding Miles!

I have been guilty of this as well. You just like to see the balance of your points increase. You imagine the day you redeem the miles for a trip across the globe. As already pointed, points expire if not utilized. And honestly, the point of accumulating miles is to spend and enjoy them so redeem yours once in a while. Moreover, deals, bonus points and sign-up bonuses come up all the time. You will have ample time and opportunity to accumulate more mileage points.


The whole point of airline miles is to earn miles cheaply through any legitimate means. Then, redeem those miles for something worthwhile, something that enriches your life. By avoiding the common mistakes most people make with their airline miles, you are on your way to achieving the airline miles nirvana – where you hit elite status and the floodgates of travel perks open up!

What other mistakes have you encountered with your mileage programs and how did you work around them?

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2 Responses to “7 Common Mistakes Travelers Make With Airline Miles”

  1. Nice tips and good advice. There are many pro’s and con’s of air miles accumulation, heck I even wrote a book about it!

    With regard to miles not expiring, that is why I love having my KLM Flying Blue points. I fly with them at least once a year and the points never expire. I currently have over a million miles on the card even though I’ve redeemed points for various flights including numerous Business Class flights from Europe to Asia and even flew my father Business Class to Australia (and back again πŸ˜‰ )

  2. Wow…thats quite a nice collection of miles πŸ™‚ And I’d venture out to say that KLM has a nice program if their miles take that long before they expire. I think it also has to do with the fact that you are an active flier and user of their services.

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