Seniors on the Go: Unloading excess miles
A Delta airline aircraft takes off from the Ronald Regan National airport as the sun rises in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD / AFP/Getty Images / June 9, 2011)
Unfortunately, my reader won't like a direct response to the question. You can't sell miles, as such, at all; the only way to get any money for your miles is to sell mileage-based awards. But the program rules of all major airlines forbid buying and selling awards, and airlines enforce those rules: They managed to shut down most "coupon brokers" who once made a lively awards market and they've been ruthless about confiscating miles/tickets from anyone they catch.
awardtraveler.com, frequentflyerdepot.com and travel-enterprises.com.
But rather than try to sell awards through coupon brokers, consider three other more constructive and less risky uses.
-- Use some of them for international trips in business class. Even if you've decided that the hassles and discomforts are enough to discourage you from flying economy class, international business class is still easy and pleasant. As long as you are physically able to travel, you can really enjoy flying again. As a senior, myself, I faced the need to start using up the miles piled up over the years. So two years ago, I splurged 250,000 miles on a round-the-world business-class trip to check out some places I'd always wanted to visit and to revisit some old favorites, and the trip was great.
-- Consider "gifting" trips rather than miles. You can give away unlimited award trips to family members and friends without breaking any rules. Can you think of a better wedding present than two award seats to Hawaii or Cancun? Or a better graduation gift than a round-trip to London? Unlike selling through a coupon broker, this ploy isn't limited to business- or first-class awards: Even economy seats are welcome when they come as gifts.
-- Become your own coupon broker: Snoop around for people you know who are interested in traveling in business or first class for greatly reduced prices and get them to pay you a couple cents a mile for an award.
One additional consideration. No matter what your age, you or a spouse might suddenly become unable to travel. Make sure that both of you know how to access any frequent flyer accounts either of you might have, so that if one of you can no longer travel, the other can continue to have access to all the family miles.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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