Sunday Reader Question on Consolidating Frequent Flyer Accounts
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Jeff writes:
“I have points on gazillions of airlines – probably enough for free flights on many – but am wondering if there is a good way to consolidate? Just moved to silver status on US Airways – but no status on others. I registered on points.com but seems like there are high fees for transferring from one program to another …”
In an ideal world, you would be able to freely and instantly combine all of your frequent flyer accounts with ease. However, for a multitude of reasons, that’s not possible (if it was everyone would collect easy to accrue points like Delta SkyMiles and then transfer them into valuable United miles).
Points.com is an option, though not a very lucrative one. They have two “markets” for exchanging miles: 1) A market between points.com users where they charge a fee of each transaction and 2) Swapping/consolidating points with yourself, where they just charge you horrendous exchange ratios (you are basically paying for it by agreeing to get rid of your miles, which I assume in turn points.com gets paid by the loyalty programs for getting miles (liabilities) off their books. For example they will allow you to exchange 6,234 valuable Alaska miles to get 1,000 measly Delta SkyMiles. Uh, no thanks.
So what do you do if you have scattered balances?
My best suggestion would be to:
1) Track them all on a site like Award Wallet or Using Miles so you see what’s in front of you. People are often surprised when they see everything from a big picture perspective.
2) Build up your small balances
a) Sign-up for dining programs
b) Use shopping portals
c) Credit your miles when flying a partner airline. For example if you are trying to build up your US Airways miles and have an upcoming United flight, accrue miles towards your US Airways since they are alliance partners (Note: If you are trying to attain elite status on United, this isn’t a good idea).
d) Buy miles. Usually this doesn’t make much sense, but if you can get a 50-100% buy miles bonus and you are only a short way from an award, this option can make more sense than needlessly letting the miles expire or using them recklessly.
e) Transfer miles from a transferable points program. This is why I accrue points into Chase Ultimate Rewards (via Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards) and American Express (via my Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold). You can also transfer hotel points, though Starwood generally has the best ratio – giving a 25% bonus for every 20,000 miles you transfer to most of their partners (unfortnately not United/Continental).
f) Get a credit card. If you are trying to make a small balance meaningful, a nice sign-up bonus can take your balance from worthless to ultra-valuable in no time. For example, the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex will give you 30,000 miles when you spend $500 (plus a bunch of other benefits like priority boarding and free checked bag) and the Continental OnePass Plus and United MileagePlus Explorer cards give 25,000 miles on first purchase, 5,000 for an additional cardholder and 10,000 every year you spend $25,000. Almost every airline has a co-branded credit card and some are better than others, so do your research before jumping into anything. Feel free to check out my Top Deals page for a rundown of my picks of the best cards.
g) Combine your miles. Some airlines, like British Airways with their Household Accounts, will let you pool miles with other family members. Most US programs do not allow this.
Overall, there are a lot of ways to boost your balances and if you are new to the miles and points world, I suggest taking some time and making sure you have an effective strategy in place. My Beginners Guide should give you some good tips for a starting point, but feel free to ask any burning questions in the comments section!
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees