June 24, 2007

Airlines may let old miles expire

American Airlines has made a big change to its frequent-flier program that won't please some travelers. Beginning Dec. 15, AAdvantage members will have to earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months or all of their miles will expire. Previously, members had to have account activity once every three years to keep those miles active.

When this new deadline takes effect, it also will apply to miles earned under the old rules.

On Dec. 15, if you have not had any account activity since June 15, 2006, all of your miles will expire.

You should take a close look at your account now, so you'll have plenty of time to earn or redeem miles before this change takes effect.

American is not the first airline to reduce the time period for account activity and probably won't be the last.

Since January, US Airways Dividend Miles requires members to have account activity at least once every 18 months, and so will United Mileage Plus as of Dec. 31.

Delta changed its expiration policy late last year, and, at present, SkyMiles members must have activity once every two years.

US Airways, United and Delta all serve Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Low-cost carriers' points and credits traditionally have expired earlier.

Even if a carrier gives you three years to have activity, the airline can change the program at any time.

Frequent-flier programs affiliate with many stores, so a quick visit to the airline's Web site can provide information on these partnerships.

If you shop online, you often can click through to retailers' Web sites from the airline's site and get miles with purchases.

You also can earn miles with partner airlines, hotels and car rental companies, with co-branded credit cards, dining programs and other retailers.

In addition, you can redeem miles to qualify for activity, and you are not limited to air travel.

If you want to redeem a low amount of miles, magazine subscriptions are a good choice.

Many frequent-flier programs allow contributions of miles to charities, so you can feel good while keeping your account active.

Because airlines can make changes to frequent-flier programs, you'll have to keep on top of your accounts. When you receive a statement, read the fine print so the miles don't fly off for good.

By Tom Parsons - The Dallas Morning News
Source: The Myrtle Beach Sun News

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