Frequent Flier Miles

Is there any value to these things at all anymore?
Saturday, September 24, 2005

I received in the mail today a letter from Delta letting me know that they are combining their two different rewards programs, both of which I have been a member of for a number of years. The letter assured me that I would still be provided with the same excellent service I have come to expect (which isn’t saying all that much), but my concern really is whether or not those frequent flier miles are really worth anything anymore.

Over the last 10 years or so, I have accumulated over 200,000 miles that I can redeem for free travel, for stupid office gifts or for magazine subscriptions. I learned tonight that I can also donate the points to charities. I have been flying Delta most of my life, as they are based out of Atlanta, and I have had an American Express card that offers me 1 SkyMile for every dollar I spend. I am religious about using my credit card in order to amass rewards points, but I never actually redeem the points, so why do I keep up with this ritual, when I could instead use a credit card that offers me cash back?

Here are my problems with this program:

  1. It is difficult to find a flight that has seats available for a reward ticket.
  2. Ticket prices have come down so much recently that it is not worth using 25,000 miles for a flight that only costs $300.
  3. All of the airlines are declaring bankruptcy anyway, so the value of my miles is in total jeopardy.

Worst of all, given these actual problems with the rewards programs, the airlines also decide to add the artificial restriction of expiring the miles after a certain amount of time. (The letter today pointed out the fact that Delta was generous in offering a 3-year expiration.)

I should probably either suck it up and book all of my flights on miles until I have no more, plan a fantastically free vacation around the world, or donate all of my miles to a charity.

I could use a vacation.