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Midwest flyers can combine frequent flyer miles, cash for trips

Got miles in Midwest's loyalty program? Having trouble finding available award seats on Midwest flights? Here's one available option: Combine cash and Midwest miles to pay for Midwest Airlines Vacations packages consisting of a flight and a hotel, a flight and a rental car, a hotel and a rental car, a hotel only, or a flight and activities.

Members of Midwest Miles may redeem either 5,000 miles for a $50 discount or 10,000 miles for a $125 discount on the price of the package. That amounts to getting 1 cent or 1.25 cents in value for every mile redeemed.

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The Midwest offering is one of a number of recent moves among airlines to shore up the value of frequent flyer miles, in response to increasing consumer dissatisfaction with limited award availability.

Delta recently backstopped the value of miles in its SkyMiles program with the introduction of Buy with Miles. With the new feature, program members who also hold program-affiliated credit cards are essentially guaranteed 1 cent in value for every mile used to pay for tickets on delta.com.

And United's Choices program similarly allows Mileage Plus members to use miles to pay for flights, although it's limited to miles earned for purchases with the program-affiliated credit card.

These new options bring both good and bad news.

On the positive side, mileage collectors can count on getting at least 1 cent per mile when it comes time to redeem their miles. And because the miles are used to buy revenue tickets, the capacity controls that limit the availability of award seats do not apply.

That 1-cent-per-mile value is also a negative, however. The mile just isn't worth much. If the miles were earned for credit card use, for example, at a rate of one mile for every dollar charged, 1-cent miles amount to a 1 percent rebate. That's better than nothing, but as discussed here, it falls far short of optimizing a mile's value.

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