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Newbie FF - Help I've spread my miles to thin

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Aug 18th, 2004, 03:23 PM
  #1
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Newbie FF - Help I've spread my miles to thin

Help! I surfed on FlyerTalk to try and find my answer but I was to intimidated to actually post a question there SO I've returned to familiar territory on Fodors.

My husband and I have miles with Delta (13k each), Air Canada (10K each), Northwest (8k each), Jetsgo, Westjet. As well we belong to Triprewards, HiltonHHonors and GoldCrownClub.

I'm new to the Frequent Flyer Mile game and I need guidance before they expire...

Can I combine any of these miles together somehow to get a free ticket anywhere - we aren't loyal to any 1 airline we just fly whatever is cheapest?? Can I combine them to 1 airline? Will this cost me $$ to do??

Help! I'm stressed from managing all these points!!
MaryRay is offline  
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Aug 18th, 2004, 06:20 PM
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If you want to play the game, you will need to learn to play it right. What you have is a whole lot of orphan miles and you're going to go nuts (or broke) trying to keep all those plates in the air before they are ever worth anything to you.

Unless you're doing a ton of travel, I would recommend figuring out two hotel programs and one or two FF programs (MAX) that you can use for the great majority of your needs. Then concentrate your activities on those.

With Hilton Honors, you need at least one stay every 12 months or you risk losing your points. With many airlines, you need at least SOME activity every three years. The more activity you can concentrate in the lowest number of programs, the more quickly you will be in the chips and in a position to redeem rewards.

Combining miles is often not an option and even some cases where it is possible, you could lose much of the value in the process. (Starwood and Priority Club have decent provisions for conversion in increments, but those aren't among the programs you have listed.)

Between Delta and Northwest, you can choose to earn miles in either program. That's not going to help you with your current balances, but it is something to know going forward. Between those two programs, Northwest is the superior program.

With at least five different FF programs and three hotel programs, you will need to either let some of them expire, use a few of them more fully or find a way to cash out. Perhaps Delta has some kind of "cash & miles" offers that would enable you to make productive use of those miles. If not, Northwest does. Some carriers may offer you magazine subscriptions for your miles. If you're not going to use a program, take what you can get and get out of it.

In the area of lodging, if you have the option of taking miles to your preferred carrier directly and you're not picking up enough stays to get a free night every year or two, then just take miles.

Remember, loyalty programs are there to reward exactly that. If you keep jumping around, you will have a very difficult time capturing benefits unless you're working with very large volume. That's no accident that things are this way; it's the way the programs are designed.

I have three hotel programs that I participate in, a primary program and two alternates. I have two FF programs. I barely keep one of them alive, but in the other I bank hundreds of thousands of miles annually using flights, bonuses, a credit card, long distance service, rental cars, certain hotel mileage deals, etc.

In almost all programs, there are periodic promotions that will give you the opportunity to pick up points and miles more quickly. You need to check for those religiously and make sure you don't miss out because you may find you're picking up a large share of your points and miles that way.


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Aug 18th, 2004, 06:27 PM
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Good info above. Also, after you determine which airline you will be "loyal" to, you can always get an affiliated credit card and charge everything you can - that can add up quickly to miles. Most airline credit cards charge a fee that they will not remove (unlike other cards that we have been very succesful getting the fee removed) - so make sure it is worth it. Also, if you get into bad habit of not paying off bill, it defeats the entire purpose.

We get one round trip ticket/year just from charges for son's school tuition and fees.
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Aug 18th, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Thank you sooo much for the info - this is exactly the info I was looking for. I got caught up with signing up for miles and I didn't really think about what I was doing...

I forgot to say that I am Canadian - I don't know if it makes a difference to the "rules". But is it possible/worth it to transfer my Delta points to my husband, thus getting 1 free ticket even though I still need to buy 1 ticket for myself?? This way I get rid of my Delta points.

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Aug 18th, 2004, 07:35 PM
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You can't combine Skymiles or transfer from one account to another easily. At least no usually. Sometimes may have special promotions in doing that, but not usually.

You can pay $$$ to buy DL Skymiles, but it wouldn't make sense for you.

Like others have suggested here, forget what you have and just concentrate on the future. Otherwise, you're just going to lose sleep and brain cells, for not much.
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Aug 18th, 2004, 07:36 PM
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I should add that the only consistent way to earn a lot of miles without flying is to get a credit card associated with the airline. Here in the US, there's a AE/Delta card, and you can often get a big bonus for signing up. However, annual fees is like $75 or $80.
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Aug 18th, 2004, 07:37 PM
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That may have some merit, but check on the fee to transfer and make sure that you are truly capturing a value. I value miles at 1.5 cents each (U.S.) for the purposes of making computations, but it depends entirely on what you ultimately trade them for (your avoided cost).
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Aug 18th, 2004, 07:52 PM
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AA currently let people transfer 1,000-5,000 miles for $50, 6,000-10,000 miles for $100, and 11,000-15,000 for $150. So, if DL runs some special like this, you can salvage your DL miles into a free ticket by spending $150. Not a good deal, but at least you get something back.
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Aug 19th, 2004, 01:46 AM
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One other thought - no matter how much you travel, you will end up with unusable or unused miles. Try not to obsess over them. Try not to worry about what will happen to them during airline financial troubles. Read here for entertainment predictions on what will happen to miles if airline goes belly up.
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Aug 19th, 2004, 06:20 AM
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How long have you been accumulating miles?

Unless you fly an awful lot, and have unbelievable flexibility in your schedule, the FF miles game may be a waste of your effort. Some people think you can accumulate the required miles, then get a free ticket on a specific flight on a specific date; this is almost never the case. The airlines limit the number of seats available for FF miles purchases, and there are many people competing for those few seats. Depending on the airline, seats may become available ten or eleven months in advance, only to disappear within days, then reappear just before the date of the flight, if the airline hasn't been able to sell them for cash. The problem is, naturally, worse on the more popular flights. This means that, often, you will have to fly to an alternate destination, on a date that may not be suited to you if you are using FF miles.

The people who are successful in the FF miles game usually have huge balances in their accounts (perhaps a million miles), and have the flexibility to fly wherever and whenever they can score a ticket. I picture them sitting down at their computer, today, and looking for free tickets in May 2005 for multiple destinations, then, if they find one, deciding instantly whether or not they want to go.

Further, many airlines seem to be cutting back on their FF programs, raising the number of miles needed for a free ticket, or reducing the number of seats available.

So if it means paying more to fly on a given airline just to accumulate FF miles, I am not at all certain that it is worth the cost, although if you fly enough to maintain status in the elite FF program (typically, I think, 25,000 miles a year), there can be some benefit, such as the occasional upgrade to the front cabin.
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Aug 19th, 2004, 07:13 AM
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Thanks everyone for the advice.I've only been accumulating miles for the last 2 years - not really knowing how it all works. I kept figuring, it's free, and I kept hearing about people getting free tickets, so why not sign up?? At least I know now how all this works...

We travel about 3-4 times a year but we usually just look for the cheapest ticket or we drive. Also, with the HiltonHHonors and GoldCrownClub I take miles instead of hotel stays. I may just pay more for our next flight and fly on Delta just for the points - at least this way it wasn't all wasted.

I did find www.starwood.com/preferredguest through another website www.rewardscanada.ca and they say that I can transfer between Air Canada, Delta and Northwest. Does anybody know how this works and whether this will help me???
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Aug 19th, 2004, 07:47 AM
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HiltonHonors will let you double dip. You get points and miles. Make sure you change your preference on Hilton.com. I believe they have three choices. 1.get points and 500 miles,(good for short, cheap stays) 2.get points and 1 mile per $ spend (great for expensive, long stays), 3.get 1.5 points only (this one rivals the 2nd choice, so you have to decide if you just want points or points/miles. Whichever one you choose you will get points, so perhaps you are mistaken about which program you are talking about.

The advice above is all good. If the difference in ticket price is big, stick with the cheaper ticket, but if it's just few dollars, go with your prefered airline to collect all the eggs into one basket. Also, I would consider the connections, the airline and the ease of redeeming miles at the end of the road.
Pay attention to special offers (2x actual miles flown, fixed bonus miles on certain routes, etc.). Unfortunately these offers are not automatic. You usually have to register for them on the airlines website.
Basically as everybody told and I'll second it, once you decide which program it will be, try to read all you can. There are many, many different ways to double, triple your mileage earning capabilities, so the first class ticket to Europe is very possible, but like anything else in life, you can't just expect it to come to you, you have to pursue it and study it if you want to get rewarded faster.

Always a good idea to study the airline's website for all the info, and once you do that, check out www.flyertalk.com. Find the specific forum for your airline and ask questions there. In most cases the members there know more about the FF programs thatn the airlines themselves. They will be happy to answer any and all possible questions. There are also hotel forums, and just general travel forums. Great website.

Good luck!
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Aug 20th, 2004, 05:18 PM
  #13
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Thanks everyone....Fodors always comes through for me...
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