Numerous Frequent Flyer Changes this Fall

August 14, 2008, Written By Sarah Hefner

Airline carriers are introducing a number of changes and new fees this fall with their frequent flyer programs. By the end of the third quarter, it will cost consumers much more to redeem their frequent flyer miles into “free” trips.

If you are considering using frequent flyer miles to purchase an airline ticket, do it now. If you wait a few days, it may cost an additional $25-$100 in fees per ticket. If you pay for these fees with miles, you may have to charge an additional $250-$1000 per ticket to cover these new fees.

Here are examples of recent and upcoming changes and fees.

American Airlines- Earlier in August, American added a $5 award processing fee. On October 1, American is adding a $50 fee to the required 15,000 miles for a one-way upgrade from economy to coach (fee and miles double for round-trip).

US Airways- Last week, US Airways stopped giving bonus miles to elite frequent fliers. It also added a processing fee of $25-$50 for tickets booked with rewards.

Delta- On August 15, Delta will add a $25-$50 fuel surcharge to award tickets. In September, Delta is adding a third tier to its reward program. Delta currently offers domestic tickets at 25,000 and 50,000 miles. The new tier will be 25,000, 40,000 and 60,000 miles. The 60,000 tier is the only level that allows you to get the last seat on the plane.

Northwest Airlines- On September 15, Northwest will add a $25-$100 fuel surcharge to WorldPerks tickets.

Continental Airlines- Effective September 8, Easy Pass Rewards will be “subject to capacity controls.” That means seats will not be available and it will be more difficult to get seats at peak times to popular destinations. Starting August 17, One Pass Rewards Travel Service fees will increase. If you confirm your ticket less than 20 days before, the fee will be $75.

The fee to change OnePass Reward Travel or to redeposit miles will be $150.

ABC News recently reported that United Airlines and Continental Airlines cut deals with JPMorgan Chase for frequent flier miles. United will receive $600 million and Continental will receive $235 million in cash for miles to be used in the future with their affinity cards (JPMorgan Chase issues the affinity cards for both airlines).

New fees aren’t the only changes that are affecting frequent fliers. Reduced flights and seating capacity, and more frequent flyer miles available, will make it harder to actually use your miles for the flight that you want. This is a good time to shop around to find a reward card that includes a variety of rewards, not just airline miles.

There are good reward cards available with low rates that do not charge
an annual fee such as Miles by Discover, Merrill+ Card, Capital One No
Hassle Miles Rewards, and Bank of America cards with Worldpoints.”


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The information contained within this article was accurate as of August 14, 2008. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.