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Have you ever considered taking a trip around the world? It’s a fantastic journey flying a minimum of 23,000 miles from your starting point.
But how do you do it? How do you ensure that you accomplish your travel goals and minimize the amount of money you spend? The three main airline alliances all allow you to book around-the-world fares. Some make it easier than others. Let’s take a look.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth an average of two cents each. That takes into account three very different redemption options, including exchanging them for gift cards or travel credit or transferring them directly to an airline or hotel partner. At a minimum you should receive one cent per point.
American Express Membership Rewards points are worth an average of 1.8 cents each. That takes into account the wide variety of redemption options available to you, whether transferring them directly to airline and hotel partners or using them as a credit when booking through the Membership Rewards Travel portal.
Thought you were short on miles and points for your next trip? Think again. Many airlines and hotels offer discounted redemptions at different times of the year or even shave down the cost for members that hold certain types of credit cards. Could you be one of the lucky ones? Read more to find out!
Many things in the airline industry are not always clear. Surely, you have overheard someone in an airport or on a plane lamenting that they have a layover of two hours in the airport. Or perhaps, you caught part of a conversation of someone having a stopover for a couple of hours. Technically they are not the same thing, and one can actually be a good thing as it can give you the chance to stop somewhere en route before going on to your final destination.
Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in a situation where you’ve allowed some of your frequent flyer miles to expire. Whether it’s 100 or 100,000 they represent miles that could have been used for a free flight or other award redemption. Fortunately, many loyalty programs have rules that enable you to restore lost miles to your account.
The best programs have a flat fee or return the miles complimentary on request. Most, however, use a sliding scale that can make it very expensive to restore large balances. Think carefully about how much you value those miles and what you might use them for before spending several hundred dollars to get them back. Finally, a few programs don’t offer any opportunity to restore lost miles. This post at least describes a few ways that their life can be extended if you act before they expire in the first place.
When Do Airline Miles Expire?
Marco Polo Club
Delta Air Lines
*after last qualifying flight
American Airlines (AAdvantage)
Miles earned with American AAdvantage will expire after 18 months without any account activity in your AAdvantage account. If they expired on or after December 2002 (which applies to most people reading this post), then they are eligible for reactivation. American Airlines charges between $200 and $600 depending on how many miles you’d like to restore.
$200 to restore 1-50,000 miles
$400 to restore 50,001-75,000 miles
$600 to restore more than 75,000 miles
United Airlines (MileagePlus)
Unlike American Airlines, United places a time limit on how quickly you must act to recover any lost miles. They can only be restored within 18 months after they expire. Fees are also much higher than with American Airlines if you wish to reinstate a very small number or a very large number of miles. Most travelers will only find it worthwhile to restore 50,000 miles or more — otherwise, just pay for the ticket with cash.
$50 to restore 1-5,000 miles
$200 to restore 25,001-30,000 miles
$400 to restore 50,001-75,000 miles
$600 to restore 100,001-125,000 miles
$1,200 to restore 200,001-250,000 miles
$2,500 to restore more than 500,000 miles
There are other intermediate price points not listed above, but you can view all of them by reading the complete terms and conditions. If you decide to proceed, log into the United website through this dedicated page.
Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan)
Alaska Airlines claims that miles do not expire, although it reserves the right to close and delete an account that is inactive for 24 months. (Is there a difference? Supposedly this means that there’s a chance no immediate action will be taken.) Miles can be re-instated up to one year after they are “deleted” for a flat fee of $75.
Rapid Rewards points will expire after 24 months without account activity, and there is no policy for reinstating points after they have expired. Most people report no luck in their requests to have miles returned; they are likely lost for good.
Hawaiian Airlines (HawaiianMiles)
Any earning or redemption activity in your HawaiianMiles account in the past 18 months will prevent your miles from expiring. Once miles have expired, they can be re-instated for a fee. This is not disclosed online, but multiple reports suggest the cost is roughly $30 per 1,000 miles. This would place it among the most expensive fees of any program, and it is probably not worthwhile to most people. Just buy the ticket with cash.
Air Canada (Aeroplan)
Aeroplan has one of the most strict policies, letting miles expire after just 12 months of account inactivity. In addition, there is no cap to the fees you must pay to have them restored. Expect an administrative fee of CAD$30 plus CAD$0.01 per mile. For example, restoring 50,000 miles would cost CAD$530.
British Airways (Avios)
Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity. There is no policy for reinstating Avios after they have expired, so they may be lost for good, but some people report success if the miles were lost recently. Miles that are returned may come with an additional requirement, such as new activity within the next three months, or else they’ll expire again — and for good.
Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer)
KrisFlyer miles don’t expire all at once. Instead, individual miles expire three years after the month in which they were earned. This means that more recently earned miles will remain available for use. Keep this in mind when looking at your account balance and saving up for a large redemption.
Although expired miles will not be returned, the expiration date can be extended an additional six months (for general members) or 12 months (for elite members) at a rate of $12 for every 10,000 miles. Alternatively, you can redeem 1,200 miles instead of paying $12. These fees are levied online and increase to $20 or 2,000 miles when requesting an extension in person or by phone.
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)
Like with Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program, individual Asia Miles are valid for 36 months after they were earned. Miles earned more recently will not expire. However, you can extend the validity of miles that are about to expire.
All members pay the same fee of $40 per 2,000 miles to extend their validity by an additional 36 months. This fee only applies online; in-person or telephone requests will cost $100 per 2,000 miles. Although both fees are high, the extension is particularly long and might make this transaction worthwhile.
KLM/Air France (Flying Blue)
Miles will not expire in Flying Blue as long as you take a qualifying flight every 20 months. Be aware that this policy excludes other forms of account activity from delaying expiration. In addition, Flying Blue does not have a policy on restoring miles after they have expired, so they may be lost permanently.
Many airline loyalty programs today have one of two approaches toward keeping miles valid for redemption. Some say that miles have a fixed expiration date, no matter what you do. Others say the miles will remain active indefinitely as long as you have an “active” account.
American Airlines recently announced more changes to the way flyers will earn miles and elite status, and it’s getting more complicated than ever to figure out what a trip will yield when it comes to mileage rewards.
United Airlines has a huge number of partner airlines: 28 Star partners and 12 non-alliance partners, all of which you can book with United MileagePlus miles. However, booking award flights (especially in business or first) on United rather than partners, has a major advantage. Since United charges more for premium class awards on partners, you will pay considerably less if you fly on United metal.
The United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flyer program has dozens of business partners that can help you earn miles on the ground. You can earn miles when you rent a car, stay at a hotel, ride a train or get away from it all on a cruise. You can also earn miles when you buy a cellphone or cable service, eat at a restaurant or choose a car. Wherever there is a consumer product or service, the chances are you can earn miles for giving it a try.
Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, is a great airline for flights between the U.S. and Australia. It has excellent service, a fantastic first class cabin and direct flights to Australia from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Dallas.
Booking flights through the Citi ThankYou portal can be a better value than other redemption options. For example, booking flights with points earned on the Citi Premier card can yield a 60% bonus over a gift card if you book a flight with American Airlines/US Airways through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, where 30,000 points is equal to $480 toward a ticket on American or US Airways, or $399 on any other airline compared to a $300 value in gift cards if you went that redemption route.
Joining Korean Air’s frequent flyer program, SKYPASS, may not be on your list of priorities, but maybe it should be. As one of the founding members of the SkyTeam, you can book flights on 20 different alliance members, including Delta, Air France, KLM and Aeromexico. It’s also partners with Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, American, Emirates and Etihad Airways, among others.
Hurdling through the air at 500 miles per hour at an altitude of 35,000 feet is a marvel in itself, but today’s on-the-go society wants more. Airlines are responding by adding new-fangled entertainment systems and wireless internet access. But, that isn’t enough. Passengers don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, there are some airlines that connectivity is a modern-day necessity, not a luxury, and they provide free Internet to help pass the time. Hop aboard one of these airlines to take advantage of it and remain productive inflight.
Emirates is perhaps best known for its flashy and luxurious first class cabin. It’s one of only two airlines in the world that offers in-flight showers. And if first class passengers don’t find what they want in their personal in-seat minibar, they can head to the lounge which has a full bar, including a bartender.
So you’re savvy enough to collect points and miles from airlines and hotels, but did you realize that you might be missing out on other perks by not signing up for some of these lesser known loyalty programs.
American Airlines recently introduced significant changes to their award charts that drastically raise prices in many cases, as well as creating two separate charts for travel on American Airlines vs. partner airlines. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t still find some good opportunities to use those miles for incredible vacations.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the most valuable bank rewards programs. Points can be redeemed for almost any flight booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a value of 1.2 cents each, or you can transfer them to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Most third party programs restricted the amount of award availability, but they have the advantage that you could get much more value for your points.
Delta’s frequent flyer miles have been derisively nicknamed “SkyPesos” for their low value, but in fact there are still many good opportunities to redeem them for valuable awards. Unless noted, all rates below are for round-trip travel.