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What can I do with ‘orphan’ miles?

Dear Tim,

I have 14,000 miles on NWA and I don’t think I’m going to
accumulate any more. What can I do with these miles?


Dear Bruce,

The “orphan miles” conundrum is an altogether too common one. While it’s too late for you to sidestep the problem, I would use your situation as a cautionary example to others, and proffer my standard frequent flyer advice: find a program that works for you, and consolidate your earning in that, and only that, program. A problem avoided is a problem solved.

For those who, like yourself, are stuck with below-threshold
miles, here are some options to consider…

  1. Keep Saving

    Since you are only 6,000 miles short of a free ticket, you might want to consider continuing to accrue until you reach an award threshold. After that, switch to a new program.

    At 20,000 miles, you will qualify for one off-peak
    (September – May) roundtrip coach ticket for travel within the continental U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean on Northwest, Continental or Alaska. Seats are restricted and a
    Saturday-night stay over is required.

    To close the gap, you could for example sign up for the
    WorldPerks Visa card. You’ll earn 3,000 miles for enrolling,
    and one mile per $1 charged up to 10,000 miles per year.

    Or you could switch one or more Internet or telecommunications services to Sprint. Bonuses include up to 10,000 miles for residential long distance, or up to 5,000 miles for Sprint PCS mobile, plus up to 5,000 additional miles for Earthlink Sprint Internet services. And thereafter, you earn five miles for every dollar in eligible charges.

  2. Upgrade

    You could also use the miles for an upgrade. For 5,000 miles, you can upgrade a one-way flight from full coach to the next class of service. Or for 10,000 miles, you can upgrade from selected discount coach fares.

  3. Miles-as-Cash

    Later this month, MilePoint ( will allow members of six airline programs (including WorldPerks) to redeem their miles to partially pay for goods and services through a variety of online merchants. Miles will be valued at $0.02 each, and can be used to offset between 10 percent and 25 percent of the price of offered goods.

Whatever you decide, don’t forget to make at least one
transaction in your WorldPerks account every 36 months.
Otherwise those miles could expire altogether. And I don’t
think that’s the best solution to your problem!

Hope that helps.

Tim Winship
Contributing Editor

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