Warning: Airline Miles Expiring

A couple weeks ago, I ran across a post over at MyTwoDollars that clued me in to the possibility that our frequent flyer might be expiring at the end of the year. I pointed to this in one of my Weekly Roundups, but have since decided that it’s worth a post of its own…

When David mentioned concerns about Delta SkyMiles in particular, alarm bells went off in my head. My wife and I used to travel Delta fairly regularly, and we both have a decent stockpile of miles. I’ve actually been travelling with Delta regularly, and so I wasn’t too worried about my own miles. But my wife travels has been travelling less in recent years, and hasn’t used Delta in quite some time — the expiration date gets pushed back everytime you fly with them. So what did I learn when I logged in to check? Well, my miles are safe, but my wife’s are set to expire on 12/31/06.

If you find yourself in the same boat, what can you do? I’d like to say that you can just earn miles in whatever way possible and you’ll be okay, but that may not be the case… Back in November, my wife earned 250 bonus miles by completing a Delta survey, but that sort of activity doesn’t seem to reset the clock.

According to David, one possibility is to call Delta and buy more miles — $29.95 for 1000 miles. The other possibility is to redeem an award ticket for some future date, and then either take the trip or change the dates at some point in the future. In this case, there would be a $50 fee to change the ticket later. The other problem for us is that my wife is just shy of the 25k miles required for a flight.

The bottom line here is that it looks like we’ll be buying the miles. Our only other clear option is to let my wife’s miles expire. However, I value frequent flyer miles at about $0.01 apiece, so letting over $200 slip away just to save $29.95 would be penny wise, but pound foolish in my book.

In response to my previous post, a commenter named Savvy Steward chimed in to suggest that you enroll a credit card in the SkyMiles Reward Network and then buy something (perhaps a drink or a meal?) at a participating merchant. The problem is, there’s only a week to get this sorted out, and I can’t vouch for this approach, as I’ve never tried it.

Another possibility would be to spend your miles on magazine subscriptions — obviously, this won’t work if you’ve got a ton of miles.

Finally, I’m not sure how charges on something like the Delta SkyMiles Amex card affect the expiration date, but I’d hope that that sort of activity would be enough to reset the clock…

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