Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Racing to Save Expiring Airline Miles

When we lived in Los Angeles, we traveled quite a bit… back to Iowa to see my family or to the southern states to see his family. Before the kids came along, I had enough banked time at my (poor devoted public servant) government job that I could travel with DH to trade shows – places like Miami, Washington DC, Minneapolis and Vancouver to name a few. When we had one child, we hit San Francisco, Seattle, Orlando and Acapulco. Finally, before moving back to Iowa, we took both kids to Hawaii. We traveled on whatever airline was the cheapest, but all things being equal, we opted for American Airlines.

Our frequency of air travel has changed dramatically since returning to Iowa – as in zilch. My last flight was the Iowa house-hunting trip. Miss M and Miss K love to travel but we've found it's cheaper to just drive if we want to go anywhere with the kids. DH and I would love to take a getaway trip but have to limit the length – can't impose on the grand-sitters. We've only done that once and it was just a two day trip by car to Chicago; not cost effective to fly anywhere in that amount of time. My folks live here so no air travel required on that front. Our airport is small enough that it requires a connecting flight in at least one city… Translation: Flying anywhere from here is an all day job. Since it takes one day to get to MIL's house by van, we just drive - it's easier, don't have to rent a vehicle once we get there, can stop as often as we like, can haul a cooler without having to carry it, not limited to amount of stuff to pack AND the kids have a DVD and video game system at their disposal

So what we have ended up with is a bunch of airline miles that are dwindling into non-existence. I found out that some were about to expire but we didn't have many on it so I just converted them into gift certificates. I think some other smaller ones expired. Then there's the biggie – American Airlines. I have enough for a free flight about anywhere, DH just shy of that. We would have to buy tickets for the girls – filed that in the "someday" slot. Oh yeah, did I mention that American changed the frequent flyer policy and the miles are about to expire unless I have activity on the account?

About six months ago, my mom let me know she received an email from AA that her miles would expire December 15, 2007 unless there had been activity within the 18 months prior to that. She was curious if that applies to my account also and I confirmed. We quickly remedied her problem by signing her up for points.com and getting the signup bonus mileage. Any activity counts. We had a few problems with my dad's but eventually did the same for his. I got them taken care of, but didn't put much thought into mine.

OpinionPlace.com allows you to take surveys for American Airline credit so I figured I would just do one of their surveys. To my dismay, week after week I didn't qualify so that was a bust. By the time I had thrown in the towel on that inroad, I had missed opportunities elsewhere. Other ways to retain your mileage are clicking through AA.com while shopping online – no guarantees that it would post on time though. Same with their "AAdvantage Dining Program by Rewards Network". Finally, with the clock ticking away, I talked my MIL into signing up for points.com thru my referral link. Why I didn't think about that when I signed my folks up is beyond me. Tick, tick, tick… that didn't post either. In the midnight hour (December 4th), I managed to land an OpinionPlace survey but doubted it would post by the 15th. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to donate miles as a last result. I logged on yesterday to check my account – if it wasn't updated, I was going to call customer service to donate the miles. Better safe than sorry. Low and behold, it had updated! OpinionPlace.com came through in lightning fast time!

Whew – safe for another 18 months… I don't plan on waiting that long to use up those miles though!

If you are an AAdvantage member, have you checked your account lately?