Expiring Frequent Flier Miles

by Nancy Bestor

I recently received a letter informing me that the 5,600 miles in my 14-year-old daughter’s United Airlines Frequent Flyer account are set to expire in September. The same letter also offered me subscriptions to several magazines as a way to “use” those miles before their expiration. I admit that I am a skeptic when I get solicitations like this in the mail, so I did a little research.

After tracking down my daughter’s frequent flyer number AND password (no easy feat) I determined that, yes she does have 5,600 miles in her account and yes, they are expiring in September (I was not being lied to!). With a little bit more research I also verified that yes, I could turn in my miles and obtain subscriptions to wonderfully glossy magazines like People, Glamour, ESPN and even GQ.

I also learned, however that I could extend the expiration date of the miles by 18 months with ANY “activity”. Activity includes flying (but we have no trips planned before September), booking a trip with miles (5,600 miles is not enough to book a ticket), using a mileage plus credit card (we don’t have one connected to this account), transferring the miles to another account (at 1.5 cents per mile), or registering the account and shopping with one of United Airlines’ MileagePlus Shopping partners (bingo!).

It turns out that United has hundreds of online retail partners where I can register my frequent flyer number when making a purchase and therefore have “activity” on the account and extend the validity of the miles. Now I’m the first person to say that I could happily sit down with a People magazine and a box of See’s Candy and while away an afternoon. But really, it seems a shame to waste 5,600 miles on magazine subscriptions. I wonder how many people get suckered in by this mail offer and don’t realize they have other options? Apparently it’s enough to make it worth United Airlines effort to make a deal with a magazine subscription company that’s for sure.

For a complete list of MileagePlus online retailers visit https://www.mileageplusshopping.com.