Frequent Flyer Miles: Should You Ever NOT Sign Up?

Frequent Flyer Miles And Loyalty Programs

The airline industry was ahead of its time when it created frequent flyer programs, which allows loyal customers to earn miles or points towards free flights and seat upgrades. Consumers can also rack up airline miles by enrolling in credit-card programs that offer points toward cheap tickets with each purchase. Signing up is a no-brainer.

Open up the wallet of the average American, and chances are it will be bursting with those ubiquitous loyalty cards – covering everything from grocery stores to restaurants to hair salons. But admit it: most of those cards are just a waste of wallet space, right?

It would seem that way. There are an estimated 90 million Americans enrolled in frequent flyer programs, and 2 trillion unused miles, according to a recent article in Bloomberg Business Week.

But as more and more loyalty programs track consumer habits and add yet another item for people to track, the question should be asked: Are they really worth it?

Read FareCompare founder Rick Seaney’s take on airline points programs and learn more about how airline frequent flyer programs work.

Frequent Flyer Miles: Who Needs Them?

For business travelers and globetrotters – folks who spend more time in the air than on the ground – there are plenty of benefits, including:

  • First Class and Business Class upgrades
  • Free checked bags
  • Free flights
  • Free priority boarding
  • Preferred security lane access
  • Gourmet meals
  • Free drinks
  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi
  • Points that can be applied to cruises, hotel stays, car rentals, gift cards and events
  • Access to Business Class lounges
  • Priority getting on and off the plane

 Frequent Flyer Miles: Who Does not Need Them?

If you are not truly a frequent flier (someone who travels at least 25,000 miles a year), it might not be worth your time to enroll. For those travelers, the following drawbacks might outweigh the potential perks:

  • Your miles expire with inactivity, so it can be a hassle to use them.
  • Airline-branded credit cards often have large annual fees and high interest rates.
  • Redeeming the miles can be a hassle (upgrades can be restricted, blackout dates etc.).
  • Many European carriers have fuel surcharges and redemption fees.
  • It is a hassle having to keep track of extra usernames and passwords.

Bottom Line:  If you are not going to work the system, or if you are someone who wants to stay off the grid, then do not feel guilty about not signing up.

 

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Updated: November 17, 2014