Airline miles value sinking faster now; use them or lose them!

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

If you are the type to hoard airline miles, it’s time to abandon that strategy. ASAP. Plan that big European vacation you were dreaming about. Buy some goofy electronics you don’t need with points. Gift them to family members.

Nature gives us only a few absolute laws: things like gravity, inertia, and the falling value of airline miles. Over time, the value has alwas sunk, as airlines work to chip away at their miles liabilities. After all, they have no incentive to do otherwise. Generally, this has been done gently, however — fewer 25,000-mile tickets, fewer available seats, and so on.

Not any more.

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Airline industry consolidation has given airline executives the ability to take a hachet to rewards programs, and the grim reaper is coming. Bill Hardekopf of enumerated the list of cuts in a recent post.

  • “Airlines are now rewarding how much members spend rather than just the number of miles they accumulate. … In January, Delta Airlines and United Airlines started requiring cardholders to spend $2,500 in addition to logging 25,000 miles in order to obtain the lowest level of seat. Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines already had expenditure-based loyalty programs.
  • “Some carriers have also increased their mileage requirements on premium reward travel. For example, Delta increased the miles for a “Saver Seat” to Hawaii from 40,000 to 45,000 Sky Miles. United’s Mileage Plus members need to spend 30 percent to 40 percent more miles to get a free seat on any Star Alliance partner airline.”

United, once it absorbed Continental’s frequent fliers, turned permanent rewards points into temporary. Those who don’t log some kind of account activity on United every 18 months are in danger of losing points. Here’s a handy list of expiration timetables and creative ways to avoid losing miles.

But here’s the point: miles aren’t money, but they are subject to inflation that rises as fast as a plane during takeoff. Use them or lose them. Or better yet, it’s time to consider making some actual rules around the way airlines treat miles.

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About Bob Sullivan 1648 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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