As the year comes to an end, and everyone is concerned about maintaining elite status, I wrote earlier this week about End of Year Hotel Point Account Audits, so today I look at how to make sure you received all the airline miles that you are due this year.
Similar to hotel programs, I almost always find discrepancies in my airline accounts, so it’s important to go through your airline frequent flyer accounts to make sure all the miles that are supposed to be there actually are.
While most of this should be automated, there are plenty of ways that airlines can miscode your ticket and not credit you with the miles that you are owed, so it’s always best to conduct your own audit. After all, every mile counts, so give yourself the year-end gift of knowing your account is fully up-to-date.
Here is a checklist to follow when auditing your account for airline miles and flight segment credits from the past year.
1. Elite Bonuses: If you’re an elite member with any of the major airlines such as Delta, American, United, US Airways etc, you get a 25%-125% mileage bonus depending on the airline and your status level, so be sure to check your flights from the past year (you can often find this information just by logging into your account on the airline’s website and looking through past mileage statements) and make sure you get the extra miles you are supposed to. Typically, when flying on the airline’s own metal the elite bonus will post automatically, but it’s a good idea to double check if you have any codeshare flights or flying on a partner airline. Also, if you were re-routed to a more direct flight due to weather/flight cancellations, you can still ask the airline for the original routing credit of the flight you purchased. You shouldn’t lose out on miles if the airline had to change your routing last minute! Also, sometimes airlines take a couple days to update your account’s elite status, which is normal. However, if you attained elite status before a flight, but it wasn’t updated yet, make sure you get the appropriate elite bonus for the flight in case the system doesn’t retroactively credit the appropriate bonus.
2. Class of Service Bonuses: Most airlines offer a class-of-service bonuses of 50% on elite-qualifying miles, and varying award miles bonuses for booking first and business class or full-fare economy tickets, so be sure these extra miles have posted, especially if you find yourself short a couple miles for elite status. It may take a little time to calculate, but it’s worth it.
3. Miles From Alliance Partner Flights: One of the great things about airline alliances is that you can earn miles for the flights you take on your primary airline’s alliance partners. So if you are a United or US Airways flyer, but flew other Star Alliance carriers like Singapore, Lufthansa or TAM this year, you could still earn United miles for those flights. Mileage accrual rates vary based on the fare class of your ticket, and you can often get class of service bonuses, so be sure to double check your itineraries and make sure everything is credited properly. The other issue that usually comes up is that alliance partner credits can take a long time to post, so be sure to keep checking back with your airline if you don’t see credits that should have posted.
4. Double Elite Qualifying Miles Promotions: If you took advantage of promotions like American’s Double Elite Qualifying Mile promotion which is going on through December 31, or US Airways Double Preferred Miles promo for shuttle flights back in September, make sure all your bonus elite qualifying miles posted. Airlines have gotten better with these promos posting (and sometimes it takes up to 4 weeks for a “sweep” to happen), but make sure you see the miles- it is possible that your registration didn’t process correctly (or you actually forgot to register!)
5. Car Rental/Hotel Partner Promos: Most airlines partner with car rentals and hotels and will offer points for renting a car or staying at a property. However, on top of the normal partnerships, they will offer special promotions to earn even more miles. Hertz and Delta teamed up to offer Delta frequent flyers the opportunity to earn up to 2,000 bonus SkyMiles on car rentals while American and Avis partnered by offering customers 250 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles per day on Avis rentals up to 1,000 miles per rental. Hilton launched a lot of mileage promos lately for double dipping with points and miles on stays at Hilton properties, including this one where if you stay though December 31, you’ll earn double miles with American or United. Check to see if all your partner miles posted to your airline account
6. Credit Card Sign-Up and Spending Bonuses: By now you must know that my favorite ways to earn miles is through credit card sign-up bonuses and spend thresholds. For instance, the lucrative 100,000-Avios British Airways Visa bonus is back where you earn 50,000 Avios for spending $1,000 in 3 months, and the other 50,000 Avios for spending $20,000 within the year. But it’s not just bonus/award miles you can earn – many credit cards actually offer elite miles for meeting certain spending thresholds. American’s Citi Executive AAdvantage MasterCard gives cardholders 10,000 elite qualifying miles when they reach $40,000 in purchases each calendar year. Delta’s Reserve card offers 10,000 Medallion qualifying miles with the first purchase, and 15,000 MQMs if a member hits $30,000 in spend within the calendar year, plus an additional 15,000 MQMs if they hit $60,000 in spend during the same calendar year. The Delta Platinum Amex offers 10,000 MQMs for $25,000 in spend, and another 10,000 MQMs for $50,000 in spending, for a total of 20,000 MQMs. The US Airways Mastercard offers 10,000 Preferred Qualifying Miles after cardmembers hit $25,000 in spending each year, so make sure all the bonus elite qualifying miles are properly reflected in your account. For instance with the Delta Reserve, you must select that you want the MQMs deposited in your account, otherwise they will not be deposited for 90 days after hitting the spend requirement in case you wanted to gift them to a friend or family, so make sure all these miles are credited before the end of the year if you need them to hit your elite status goal.
7. Airline Spending Bonuses: A common benefit of most co-branded airline cards is the ability to earn multiple miles when using them to purchase tickets on their co-branded airline. On American, all their cards including the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa offer 2 AAdvantage miles for every dollar you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases. Delta offers 2 miles per dollar on all Delta purchases when you use one of the Delta American Express cards. United offers double miles when you use your United Explorer and the United Club card, and the US Airways Mastercard also offers double miles when using it to make US Airways purchases, as does the JetBlue Credit Card on JetBlue purchases. The Virgin America Visa, Virgin Atlantic Amex and the Alaska Airlines Visa each earn 3 points per dollar spent on their respective airlines. The British Airways Visa earns 2.5 Avios per dollar spent on BA, and the Southwest Plus Visa earns 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest. So make sure, you go through your credit card statements to see if you received all your bonus miles.
8. Shopping Bonuses: Earlier this month at the outset of the holiday shopping season, I wrote about maximizing your points and credit card spend this holiday season as well as the top holiday shopping bonuses and various other deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday where you could earn up to 30 points/miles per dollar on your holiday shopping through airline and hotel portals. Although the bonus miles should post automatically, there are sometimes quirks or issues with getting credited, so if you know you took advantage of any of these bonuses, go through your credit card statements and mileage/points accounts to make sure everything adds up properly and if not, get in touch with the shopping portal directly since they are the ones responsible for crediting your account.
9. Other Promos: Some airlines have been offering bonus award and elite qualifying miles through other promos, such as purchasing their lounge membership. Delta launched a Delta Sky Club holiday promotion where Medallion members receive 1,500 Medallion Qualifying Miles when they purchase or renew a one- or three-year club membership by December 31, 2012, and US Airways was offering first 5,000 and then 3,000 Preferred qualifying miles earlier this year for purchasing or renewing lounge membership. Though it’s not elite-qualifying miles, Alaska is currently offering 5,000 bonus miles for new Board Room lounge memberships. Beyond club promos, Bose was giving away 1,500 SkyMiles with the purchase of Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones, and don’t forget about those potentially lucrative NetFlix membership bonuses where you could earn up to 10,500 bonus miles for signing up for various accounts. So if you took participated in any of these, go back through your records and check to see if these miles posted.
And if you still find yourself short, there are still a few last minute options. Delta is selling up to 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles until December 31, 2012, US Airways is selling status outright, and United offers extra Premier miles with their Premier Accelerator. You can also check out this post for more ideas on last-minute elite status boosts.