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It takes time to understand how an airline’s frequent flyer program actually works and what are the best mileage redemption options, what the partners are, what the award chart looks like, etc. – these are all things that we need to learn about a particular program before determining if we want to be involved and use the said program. However, there is an entirely different aspect about frequent flyer programs that we also need to keep in mind, which doesn’t have much to do with an award chart or what partners the airline has.

Frequent flyer programs are often the most profitable part of the airline – they sell their miles to generate revenue and later, sometimes, make it really hard for members to use those miles. Outside of the standard items to learn (how the program works, etc.), there are some key things to be aware of – most important, understand the rules of each program and ensure that you follow them – otherwise your account could be frozen.

be sure to understand the rules of the frequent flyer program you are using

be sure to understand the rules of the frequent flyer program you are using

New Frequent Flyer Program Accounts

One important thing to remember is that new frequent flyer accounts that were just created and had points transferred into and an award ticket was booked right away from them are very likely to be subject to an audit or verification by the airline and/or frequent flyer program – especially if you booked a ticket not in the name of the account holder.

Be very cautious about this – you always want to have your frequent flyer account created ahead of time and usually want some activity in the account before you just transfer in miles and book a ticket right away. Some programs are more strict than others – and if you are asked for any type of proof the airline is requesting, make sure to send it to them promptly – or you risk your account being frozen and tickets cancelled.

New accounts could be subject to other types of restrictions until they’re not “new” anymore – like not being able to buy miles until you have flown 1 mile, etc.

You Can Book an Award Ticket for Others, But…

You generally can book an award ticket for someone else. The rules of the frequent flyer programs are clear: you cannot sell that ticket, so you can book it for someone but you cannot collect anything for that ticket from that person. If the airline finds out that you did, they could close your account and your miles would be gone (and any award tickets booked would be cancelled).

Some programs let you book tickets for others without issue whereas others make you add your redemption nominees to your account and you might not be able to edit those nominees for some period of time. There are other programs that even restrict you further and require proof that who you are redeeming your miles for is a part of your family.

Transferring Someone Else’s Points

You generally cannot transfer someone else’s transferable bank points into a frequent flyer program – the names on both the bank account and frequent flyer account have to match (middle names are usually not needed). If you attempt to transfer points and the names do not match up most likely the transfer will fail and your account could be notated.

If the transfer does go through and the points then show up on your frequent flyer account, that airline actually can check where the points came from and what name was on those points. In cases like this, they can suspend the account and cancel any mileage tickets booked, pending verification. It is possible that they don’t even reach out to you and you just show up at the airport and find out you can’t fly because the ticket is invalid.

You should never attempt transferring someone else’s points.

Frequent Flyer Miles Don’t Belong to You & Have No Value

Airline frequent flyer miles and points in your accounts actually have no value until they are redeemed and a ticket is issued. Airlines devalue miles and their possibilities constantly and their terms and conditions allow them to do anything with the program when they want.

Your miles actually don’t belong to you, even though you have earned them. They belong to the airline and frequent flyer program and that airline and program can at any time remove your miles and cancel your account, without any reason or notice to you. This is very draconian, but then again, lots of terms and conditions the airlines have are.

some airlines/programs have stricter rules than others

some airlines/programs have stricter rules than others

All in All

There are several things to be aware of when dealing with frequent flyer programs and using your miles, in addition to how the programs actually work and what redemptions are possible. Remember that every airline has their own set of rules and some airlines are more strict than others when it comes to their frequent flyer programs. Always have a constant eye on your account and your tickets, because as we know, communication from airlines isn’t always the best.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.