Should You Limit Your Loyalty to Frequent Traveler Programs?

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Back in 2002, FlyerTalk member sanramon asked the question: ”how many frequent guest programs do you belong?’ There is also the question: Is It Possible to Belong to Too Many Frequent Traveler Programs?

These days, I say no.

However, I read the latest entry by Marshall Jackson posted to his weblog where he says:

“There’s a reason I don’t pursue a points hoard in a plethora of programs. Primarily, I just don’t have the time to keep up with more than a handful. Services like AwardWallet make it easier to track multiple programs, but given the airlines’ apparently growing antipathy towards services like that, I’m beginning to wonder how much longer until other airlines and even hotels jump on the bandwagon of not permitting outside access to our balance information.

“With a limited menu of programs that I’m willing to invest in, I must choose my programs wisely…..with a focus on those where I’m likely to obtain and sustain some level of elite status.”

I might have agreed with his comments years ago when frequent flier loyalty program miles had a hard expiration date — that is, if you did not use them after three years, you lost them. Period. There was no way to extend the expiration date. Once they were gone, they were gone. Back then, I only joined a frequent traveler loyalty program if I knew I was about to use the product of a company which I had not yet patronized, and I figured why waste the opportunity to earn miles or points?

Back in 1996 — before there was the current iteration of FlyerTalk — I had slightly greater than 30,000 United Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flier loyalty program miles, when there used to be a space between Mileage and Plus. Those miles were almost three years old and were about to expire, and I had no plans to fly on United Airlines anytime soon. I did not know what to do except to let those miles which I earned uselessly expire.

As a subscriber to the MilesLink newsletter — my only connection back then to news about frequent traveler loyalty programs — I spotted an offer for a limited time where I could get 120,000 Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program points for converting those 30,000 United Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flier loyalty program miles. Of course, I took advantage of that offer. I have not seen a deal similar to that since.

These days, I would disagree with the comments posted by Marshall Jackson because miles and points can be extended — usually free of charge — once every 12 to 18 months in virtually any frequent traveler loyalty program with little effort. Use Audience Rewards to extend the expiration date of your US Airways Dividend Miles and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts. Download the American Airlines AAdvantage Shopping toolbar and do three searches to earn an AAdvantage point. Stay at a Hilton HHonors hotel property and assign your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account to post your bonus miles…

…and guess what, Marshall? I do not even use tracking services like AwardWallet. I have a simple text database and the basic rudimentary calendar on my computer to easily track my miles and points. Simply do minutes worth of work once every 12 months for your dormant accounts, and concentrate on focusing on your primary and secondary accounts.

Frequent traveler loyalty programs such as Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport require less maintenance than the others because their miles and points either have longer expiration dates or no expiration date at all. Easy. No worries. No hassles. No problem.

Sure, there are some frequent traveler loyalty program accounts where I have “orphan” miles — but they are free and require little effort to maintain. If sometime in the future I happen to fly as a passenger on an airline on which I rarely travel or stay in a room with a hotel chain which I rarely patronize instead of the ones I primarily use, I know that those dormant accounts will be replenished, and — as has already happened to me in the past — they will someday have enough miles or points for redemption of an award from which I will benefit.

Often, there are promotions and offers where you can add miles or points to your account in seconds, free of charge. Club Carlson has one such promotion right now. American Airlines occasionally has promotions where you can add AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles to your account easily, such as this promotion which is about to expire. La Quinta had a promotion recently as well — and there are others too numerous to mention here, but search The Gate using seconds as a search term and you will see many more promotions and offers for free miles and points.

Marshall, do not cheat yourself out of miles or points that you have legitimately earned. Open those new accounts. Earn those miles and points. They do add up. You never know when you may need them…

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