Photo: Delta Air Lines

Unfortunately for any airline that sells its own miles directly to consumers—and most do, because it's a hugely profitable side business—US Airways has set the value bar prohibitively high with its recurring 100 percent bonuses.

Taking advantage of the US Airways' offer effectively cuts the cost of purchased miles in half, making them a good buy, even a great buy if they're redeemed for pricey business-class international flights.

By contrast, other airlines' bonuses for purchased miles, which generally hover in the 25 percent range, improve the value proposition only modestly....read more»

Woman shopping online (Photo: Image DJ/Index Open)

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American has launched an aggressive—and potentially lucrative—social media campaign to support the AAdvantage program.

According to the airline's news release: "American Airlines, which this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of its AAdvantage program, has launched Facebook and Twitter channels dedicated to the wide range of opportunities to earn AAdvantage miles with American Airlines and its growing list of AAdvantage participating companies. American is the first U.S. airline to launch dedicated social media channels focused on earning miles."

As American will discover, social media channels are only as good as the value delivered through them....read more»

Woman standing at a Taxi Stand (Photo: iStockphoto/Willie B. Thomas)

Unlike airline award prices, which tend to remain more-or-less stable over extended periods of time, many hotel loyalty programs make annual adjustments to the prices of free nights, moving individual hotels into higher- and lower-priced award categories to reflect, presumably, changes in room rate and demand.

Effective March 1, Starwood will make its adjustments for the year, moving 93 hotels into lower (cheaper) categories, and 84 hotels into higher (more expensive) categories.

A roster of affected hotels isn't on Starwood's website yet, but the company supplied me with the following list. (Advice follows the list.)...read more»

Man shopping online with credit card (Photo: Index Open)

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Late last year, United introduced Weekend Saver Awards—discounted award flights for travel on select routes the next weekend.

The concept harkens back to American's Net SAAver Weekend Getaways, Delta's Weekly Web Fares, and United's own E-Fares—last-minute discounts on paid tickets, promoted via email and booked online....read more»

Restaurant Table - Up close of silverware (Photo: iStockphoto/mbbirdy)

While they're fewer and farther between, dining bonuses still make appearances on the mileage-earning scene. We have four offers to help eaters bolster their account balances....read more»

United New Plane (Photo: United Airlines)

One of the key outstanding questions surrounding the United-Continental merger has been that of United's Economy Plus seating section: Would it be retained on United's planes and extended to Continental's fleet?

Yesterday, both of those questions were answered in the affirmative....read more»

Woman looking from a bridge in Italy (Photo: IndexOpen)

The last time US Airways offered its much-discussed 100 percent bonus for purchasing miles was late last year.

When that offer was not extended—as it had been on several previous occasions—there was some question as to whether consumers had seen the last of the uber-lucrative promotion. Perhaps the airline had decided that the bonus was just too generous.

After a couple of months' hiatus, however, the offer is back, albeit with a new wrinkle....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

For this story, let's just go directly to the airline's own press release:

ATLANTA, Feb. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/—Delta Air Lines today announced it has eliminated the SkyMiles mileage expiration, creating a new industry-leading benefit for all members. This program change is effective for all accounts as of Jan. 1, 2011, and makes Delta the only major U.S. carrier without mileage expiration....read more»

First-class travelers watching videos (Photo: Stewart Cohen/Index Open)

Members of US Airways' Dividend Miles program can buy as many elite-qualifying miles or elite-qualifying segments as they need to reach any of the airline's four elite tiers....read more»

Dollar bills on a line (Photo: Index Open)

Got frequent flyer miles? Rather have cash instead? Now you can redeem the former for the latter.

Beginning this week, miles earned in the programs of American, US Airways, and Aeroplan may be redeemed through Points.com for cash in a PayPal account. From there, the cash may used to offset purchases paid for using PayPal, sent to anyone with an email address, or transferred to a linked bank account.

While there are already ways to redeem miles for cash-like gift cards, and to purchase tickets and other services using miles as though they had a cash value, this is a more or less direct route from miles to hard, spendable cash.

It's a significant step in the evolution of loyalty points into a full-fledged currency....read more»

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