Why you should earn and burn airline miles


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According to a 2016 survey conducted by Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPA, only 15% of Americans have ever redeemed their rewards to partially or fully cover a flight.

One of the most common reasons for saving miles is to fund fights for a nice vacation or big trip. But if 85% of us aren’t even using our miles, what’s the point? Not everyone is saving for anything in particular, and that’s where hoarding miles becomes fruitless.

In my case, when I discovered 15,000 Delta SkyMiles squatting unused in my account, I knew I wanted to spend them. It was the perfect amount to cover a roundtrip flight to New York City (12,000 SkyMiles) with a little leftover. Here’s why I burned my miles just as quickly as I discovered them:

You could face devaluations for saving points too long.

Letting your miles go unused is comparable to cash sitting without accruing interest. What’s more, points have the ability to decline in value the longer you sit on them. Even fixed-value points can drop in worth with standard inflation.

If you’re worried about not having the perfect amount of points for a trip, there are other ways to add to your miles besides buying them. For example, book through your program’s hotel or the airline’s dining rewards program, open a new card for the sign-up bonus or even do surveys on e-rewards.com or emiles.com.

There have also been countless social media giveaways and the opportunity to test out new products for air miles. Even Netflix once offered 2,000 United Miles for signing up for a membership.

Points can expire – and it’s annoying to get them back.

Most loyalty program miles expire after 18-36 months of inactivity. But you can extend the expiration date online in some cases with a bit of work.

For example, American Airlines points expire after 18 months of inactivity, but you can prevent these miles from expiring by staying active in your American Airlines account or by making a purchase through their program’s online portal. Other options include donating at least 1,000 AAdvantage miles to charity.

The United Airlines MileagePlus program has the option to reinstall expired miles. Basically, you either pay for them back (which can be a lot of cash) or partially pay and complete one of the various tasks they offer (usually buying a flight).

Loyalty programs tend to add or remove categories and change rewards rates, affecting your miles earned.

It’s not uncommon for loyalty programs to change their rewards structure. Rewards rates, rules and categories are subject to modification, so nothing is guaranteed.

For example, in August of 2018, the Marriott and Starwood merger resulted in the devaluation of some of Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, which offered certificates for both airline miles and a seven-night stay at a Marriott property. This meant that some travelers had an advantage booking Hotel + Air packages for fewer points than those who had booked prior.

You only live once. And in my case, I’m only an unattached twenty-something for so long. With age comes spouses, children and additional obligations, so why not take that spur-of-the-moment trip if you have the means to do so?

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