What to Do With a Small Number of Miles With Airlines You Won’t Fly Again

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Anupam, commented:

Hi, I have 20,000 Turkish Airlines miles which will expire this year.  How can I use the miles without flying Turkish Airlines?

Other readers, like Nate and Kiran, had similar questions about what to do with a small number of miles.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

What Can You Do With a Small Number of Miles in an Airline Loyalty Account? Let’s Find Out!

Once miles are in a frequent flyer account, you unfortunately can NOT transfer them to another airline.  But there other ways to use them.

I’ll give you ideas and tips for how to credit your miles in the future!

Credit Your Miles to Your Favorite Mileage Program

Link:   Star Alliance Airlines

Link:   oneworld Alliance Airlines

Link:   SkyTeam Alliance Airlines

I’ve written about why you should credit your paid flights to airline partners instead of accumulating a small amount of miles with an airline you likely won’t fly again.

Most airlines are in 1 of 3 alliances: oneworld (includes American Airlines), SkyTeam (includes Delta), and Star (includes United Airlines).

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

SkyTeam Is 1 of the 3 Alliances. Pick Your Favorite Airline in Each Alliance and Credit Your Flights to Its Mileage Program!

You can usually credit flights from all airlines in an alliance to 1 mileage program.

For example, you can credit your flights on Finnair, Qantas, or Royal Jordanian to American Airlines.  That’s because they’re all in the oneworld alliance.  So you can pool all of your miles into 1 place (American Airlines) where you’ll likely use them.

If an airline is NOT in an alliance, it usually has partner airlines (though there are a few exceptions).

For example, you can credit flights on Delta, Emirates, LAN, or Qantas to Alaska Airlines because they are partners.  Then use Alaska Airlines miles for Big Travel!

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

oneworld Is Another Alliance. But Some of Its Airlines Have Partners Outside of It.

Before you fly on an unfamiliar airline, check its airline partners (usually on the airline’s website).  And credit the miles to your favorite partner!

What If It’s Too Late?

If you’ve already flown and credited your miles to an airline you won’t fly again you can NOT transfer them to another airline.

But you have other options.

Anupam has 20,000 Turkish Airlines miles.  What can he do with them?

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

Redeem Your Miles for Flights on Partner Airlines, Merchandise, or Even Gift Cards, Depending on the Program

Redeem the Miles for Award Flights

Turkish Airlines has a mileage program called Miles & Smiles.

According to their award calculator, Anupam could fly 1-way within Europe for 10,000 Turkish Airlines miles.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

Vienna to Istanbul is 10,000 Turkish Airlines Miles and ~$49 Each Way

Or he could fly within the “Europe 2” zone for 10,000 Turkish Airlines miles.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

Fly Within Europe for 10,000 Turkish Airlines Miles Each Way

He could redeem on partner airlines to fly within Europe.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

According to Turkish Airlines, These Countries Are in “Europe 2″ so You Can Fly for 10,000 Turkish Airline Miles

Or he could fly within North America for 10,000 Turkish Airlines miles each way.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

A 1-Way Coach Award Flight Within North America Is 10,000 Turkish Airlines Miles

North America seems to include Alaska and Hawaii.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

North America Covers a Lot of Places!

However, via FlyerTalk, Turkish Airlines miles are hard to redeem.  And may require an in-person visit or call to a sales office.

But 1st try their website.

For Other Mileage Programs

Most airlines have their award chart on their website.  If you can’t find it, call for help.  And ask which award flights require the least number of miles.

Some mileage programs, like British Airways Avios, require as few as 4,500 British Airways Avios points for an award flight.  So it’s worth checking to see if you can use your miles to fly!

Upgrades

Most mileage programs will let you use miles to upgrade to the next class of service.  And some will let you upgrade on partner airline flights.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

You Can Sometimes Use Airlines Miles to Upgrade From Coach to Business!

The upgrades are usually restricted to certain types of tickets.  For example, you can use Turkish Airlines miles to upgrade on Star Alliance airlines flights.

Merchandise

Another option is to use your miles for merchandise.  Turkish Airlines has the Shop & Miles online store with lots of items for under 20,000 Turkish Airlines miles.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

Use Miles to Shop! But Only If You’re Sure You Can’t Use Them for Flights

You usually will NOT get a good value for your miles.  So only do this if you can’t use them for award flights.

Lots of airlines have an online store where you can exchange your miles for merchandise.

For example, Etihad has the Reward Shop and Qantas has the Qantas Store.

Car Rentals, Hotels, and More

With some mileage programs, you can redeem your miles to help offset the cost of car rentals, hotels, and other travel experiences.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

You Have Lots of Options for Your Air Canada Miles… but Award Flights Are Still the Best Value!

You can use Air Canada miles for gift cards, hotel stays, merchandise, or rental cars.  You can even donate them to help those in need.

Thai Airways is another airline with a lot of ways to redeem miles.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

Thai Airways Has a Lot of Award Options!

You can use your miles for hotel stays, lounge access…even magazine subscriptions.  A little digging also revealed you can fly in a cockpit simulator for only 12,500 Thai Airways miles!

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

This Is the 1 Award Where You Might Wish You Had Unused Miles!

Be careful, though.  Even great programs will give you the option to redeem miles for car rentals and hotel stays at less-than-stellar rates.

What To Do With A Small Number Of Miles With Airlines You Won't Fly Again

You Can Use American Airlines Miles to Pay for a Car Rental, but It’s NOT a Good Value

Only redeem miles this way if you’re sure you won’t use them for award flights.  Or if your miles are about to expire.

Or Keep Flying

If you find you’re close to an award flight with a program you don’t like, it might be worth it to credit another flight to the program.  Just so you can get an award flight and be done with it!  Because you’ll usually get the best value out of exchanging your miles for award flights.

Be sure to check the airline’s website to see how many miles you’ll earn for your flight before you do this.

You should NOT consider this if you’re trying to earn status with another airline in the same alliance.  In that case, you are better off using your miles for 1 of the options above.

Bottom Line

Airlines have loyalty programs to encourage you to keep flying with them.  Once miles are in a frequent flyer account, it’s NOT possible to transfer them to another airline.

If you have a small number of miles in a program you won’t use again, see if you have enough for an award flight by checking the airline’s website or calling them.  Because award flights will usually be the best value for your miles.

If you can’t, you can swap them for car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, or other options.

Consider crediting another flight to the program just so you can get an award flight out of it.

Before you fly on a new airline, always check to see if you can credit the flight to another airline in the same alliance, or to 1 of its partners.

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3 responses to “What to Do With a Small Number of Miles With Airlines You Won’t Fly Again

  1. Most US programs offer the option to redeem for magazines. You can often get reasonable value (around 2 cents/mile) that way. Some years ago, I used “orphaned” Northwest miles to pay for 5 years of a magazine I would otherwise have paid $34.95/year for – a very reasonable value.

  2. I have upcoming flights on Icelandair. Any suggestions on what to do with the miles?

  3. I have some Fly Blue miles and have looked all over their website. Cannot find out what to do with them…about 2000. Any suggestions would be appreciated