Monday, September 20, 2010

Are Frequent Flier Programs Worth It?

Wouldn't have been able to get this awesome picture on the Acropolis in Athens if not for frequent flier miles!

I read an article from the Washington Post this weekend that got me thinking. The author is very skeptical of the benefits of frequent flier programs. He thinks that the programs cause you to make irrational decisions, choosing flights that might not be the most cost-effective or convenient just to get miles. He also points to credit cards and other programs where you "earn" miles as not being worth it.

The Navigator: Frequent- flier programs cons outweigh the pros

I can't say that I agree with him that frequent flier programs are never worth it. My husband and I have seen some great rewards from our frequent flier programs. I have been a member of Northwest's frequent flier program since a trip to Europe in high school. When Delta bought them my miles rolled over to that program. Living in Minneapolis, Northwest/Delta is often the only choice for a given route anyway, so we have racked up a lot of miles.

Since 2008, I have bought three round-trip flights by cashing in frequent flier miles. We have never had a mileage credit card or taken part in any extra programs to earn extra miles. In 2008, we flew from Minneapolis to Rome and back using miles, and paid something like $20 in fees. This year, I have already flown from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to go to a wedding shower. Additionally, we just booked a weekend in Los Angeles using miles. We have also received The Economist and The Wall Street Journal for the past couple years by redeeming miles.

So, anytime you fly, make sure you're earning your miles. Sign up for the frequent flier program on any airline you happen to fly. It's free, and who knows, maybe over time you will fly enough to earn some rewards. Even if you don't, it's worth a try. I'm not a proponent of credit cards tied to frequent flier miles, especially since they usually have a high yearly fee and sometimes limit how you can use the miles. You're better off with a card that earns you a cash or gasoline rebate, such as the Exxon Mobil card. More on that in another post.

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