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How to ensure you get the miles you deserve

Too often, travelers miss out on getting the frequent flyer miles they’ve earned, either because they forgot to give out their member number or because they weren’t aware they could be earning miles in the first place. Once these flyers discover their omission, they don’t always know how to get the missing credit they’ve clearly earned.

Fear no more! Read our tips below to acquire the knowledge you need to never lose out on frequent flyer miles again. And if we don’t cover a specific question of yours here, know that you can always look up your preferred program’s rules online or call and ask an agent yourself.

Get the flight miles you deserve

In order to get your flight miles credited, you need to add your frequent flyer number to your reservation. The good news is that you can accomplish this at several stages during the reservations and travel process, so if you miss out on one opportunity, you still have the chance to ensure you get all the miles coming to you from that trip.

Before your flight: The easiest and most fail-proof way to guarantee you’ll get miles for your flight is to provide your frequent flyer number when you make your travel arrangements. If you book online, the reservations form almost always provides a space to enter your number, and if you book by phone or through a travel agent, you can simply tell them your number. If you forget, you can always call up your airline and have your number added to your reservation.

In the weeks leading up to your flight, you should also check the Mile Finder or your airline’s website to see if your flight is eligible for bonus miles. Many offers require registration prior to your flight; if you don’t sign up, you won’t get the extra miles. When checking, think about your flights as individual segments, especially if you have a stopover. Sometimes you can earn bonus miles for one leg of your trip, if there’s a promotion between those two cities, rather than between your origin and destination cities.

On the day of travel: Check to see if your member number is printed on your boarding pass. If not, ask the gate agent to add it. Usually, if your number isn’t on your ticket, it means that your number isn’t attached to the reservation. It doesn’t matter if you provided your number at reservations or not; you can always add it at the last minute. But if you do this, remember to check your ticket on your return flight as well. Sometimes the agent only adds the number to your current flight and forgets to add it to future travel.

Also, be sure to keep all flight documents (boarding passes, itineraries, etc.) until you notice that mileage has been credited to your account. Having documentation makes it much easier to get back missing credit after a flight.

After your flight: If you get to your destination or return home and realize that you forgot to add your number to your reservation or that for some reasons your mileage didn’t post to your account, you still are eligible to collect miles for your flight. Just be careful because time is running out. All six of the major U.S. airlines state in their program rules that they will consider claims for mileage adjustments within six months or a year of the original flight activity. Airlines reserve the right to request proof of activity, such as an e-ticket itinerary, boarding pass, or ticket stub; and Continental even has a specific “Mileage Request” form for you to fill out. Delta states clearly that only written requests will be accepted; verbal requests made by phone won’t get you far with most airlines.

Wondering how long to wait for your miles to post before you deem them missing? United and US Airways specifically mention that flight miles should post within a few days, while Delta can take as long as 30 days to credit your miles. Once you’ve made your request, you should have your miles in a few weeks to a few months. As it is your responsibility to make sure your flights are credited, and not the airlines’, it is best to follow up with a phone call or additional letter if you do not see your miles after two months.

Securing miles for partner activity

The system works the same way for accruing miles from airline partners. You will need to provide your account number when you make reservations or initiate a transaction; you often need to repeat your number during check-in or pickup. For missing credit, you will need to address the partner directly, not the airline with which you hope to earn miles. Miles from partner activities normally take six to eight weeks to appear in your account, so be patient. Again, you will need to keep documentation of reservations and payments to prove you completed the activity in question.

Other mileage earning tips

The rules of loyalty programs can be so confusing that often travelers believe they are entitled to earn miles when they are not. Here are some additional tips about when you can and cannot earn miles:

  • Except in the rare case of a special promotion (or Hilton HHonors Double Dip stays), mileage credit cannot be earned for the same flight or partner activity more than once. If you fly on Continental, for example, you cannot receive credit for that flight on both Continental and partner Northwest. And if you stay at a partner hotel, you often have to choose between earning flight miles or hotel points. Once your flight departs, or you’ve initiated your partner transaction, you cannot change your mind and switch where your miles are credited.
  • If your flight is canceled, you will not earn miles. If you are rebooked on another flight, you can earn miles with the airline you fly or one of its partners. If you fail to show up for your flight, you will not earn miles for the unused tickets.
  • Upgrades only upgrade your seat, not your miles. You will receive the miles for the class of service you paid for, not the one you flew in.
  • Not all tickets earn miles. Free tickets, such as award tickets, consolidation tickets, and tickets booked on certain opaque travel sites, such as Priceline and Hotwire, are ineligible to earn miles.

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