United Airlines recently made a major change to their frequent flier miles program, also called, 'Mileage Plus' policy. With this, all the miles in your account will automatically expire if the account has been inactive for 18 months. While this 18 months period seems long enough and reasonable for most, but for "Not-So-Frequent-Fliers" does this mean giving up the elusive dream of being able to fly one round-trip for free? Just give up all those earned miles easily?.
I have seen many of my "Not-So-Frequent-Flier" friends either letting their miles expire or use those miles to buy newspaper subscription to newspapers that they would never read or buy those restaurant coupons where they never want to dine. For most, being able to gather those 25,000+ miles needed for a round-trip ticket seems like a distant dream that will never be fullfilled.
My miles are due to expire in July'08 and hence I did some quick research and found that there many easy ways to keep my account active. I would like to share my thoughts on what you could best do to save your hard earned miles.
United's policy states that "Any activity on your account, whether you earn or redeem miles, keeps your mileage balance intact for the next 18 months".
Buying or transferring miles between friends and family members (or an outsider) qualifies as an activity that most people do to keep the account active ; but this is expensive (35$ per transaction plus a % fee for every mile transferred).
Instead you could do the following and keep your account active. If you have any better ideas please add comments to this posting.
1. Make online purchases of regular household or daily consumables from stores like Amazon, Target, Barnes&Noble, Buy.com, Macys, Sears, Kohls, Home Depot, Office Max, Office Depot, Dell, Staples, HP, Apple, TigerDirect, Shutterfly, Snapfish, CircuitCity, Netflix, Bose, JC Penny, GAP Kids, OldNavy etc. Go to http://mponlinemall.com/ and use your Milage Plus account number before transfering out to the website of these stores.
2. Simply dine at one of the restaurants listed here http://mpdining.rewardsnetwork.com/advanceddiningsearch.jsp. You can eat a burger at Carls Jr or a samosa at Wah-Jee-Wah, each time simply pay using any credit card that you have registered in the program. You will earn a mile or more for every dollar you spend. Those miles will appear in your account and your account will remain active for another 18 months. So go and register your mileage plus number and your credit card here http://mpdining.rewardsnetwork.com/
3. Shop grocery at your local Safeway store. You will earn 125 miles once you have spent 250$ over any period of time. Next time you visit Safeway find out (using the Safeway club card) how much $ purchases you have made so far.
3. Open a Non-Retirement brokerage account with Fidelity or TD Ameritrade and earn 5k to 25k miles.
4. You could either use your miles to buy a subscription to Wall Street Journal or San Francisco Chronicle or pay to subscribe to these and earn miles at http://www.newspaper-miles.com/. Either way your account will switch to active status for next 18 months.
5. Buy cell phone services, handsets from Verizon, Sprint, ATT or TV programming from Dish or Directv. http://www.mileagepluswireless.com/
6. Other activity like flying, staying, renting with one of the United's partner airlines, hotels or car will also earn miles into your mileage account.
Finally, if you apply for United Airways Visa Credit card you might not only earn enough miles to qualify for a free round-trip travel, in addition, your miles will never expire since you will be earning 1 mile for every $ you spend on that card.
Whatever approach you take just make sure your miles remain active forever till you accumulate enough to fly free and at the time you want. Don't ignore and let them go waste. You earned them and they should be yours to keep.
- B Kamath.