Back in November, the Washington Post highlighted a statistic that is downright sad: 92 percent of airline frequent flyer miles are never redeemed.Now I don’t know how one comes up with all the data that would lead to this conclusion, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s true. This means that only eight percent of all mileage actually gets turned into something useful. The rest is just numbers on statement, worth something in theory, but not really ever cashed. If you’re looking for something to achieve in 2007, here’s an easy target. Turn those virtual rewards into real ones!
I’m not saying it’s easy. You may have to book a ticket 330 days before you actually want to travel. You may have to spend more than the minimum level to get the seat when you can really use it. You may need to buy a ticket and then use the miles to upgrade to business class (which actually makes the miles worth more anyway in most cases.) You may need to fly once or buy some things in an airline’s virtual mall to get up to the right level, or you may need to top off the balance with miles from a Diner’s or Amex card if you have one. In the end though, these actions will turn a paper reward into something tangible.
Of course a good portion of that 92 percent is probably “orphan miles.” You sign up for a frequent flyer program on the first flight you take with that airline and then never do again. Or you have miles or points on an airline that lets them expire after a set amount of time, so you’re back to zero eventually if you don’t fly it enough. When that’s the case, you’re out of luck and they just vanish into the jet fuel exhaust. Keep an eye on your programs to see if you can keep that from happening. On Southwest it’s pretty tough to do without flying, but on others you can sometimes just make a purchase online to start the clock again. If you really want to be sure you’re getting your fair share and are gaming the system instead of it gaming you, check out the book Mileage Pro.
And here is a related article on frequent flyer resolutions.