Is Mileage Dumping A Bad Practice?

These days, I spend plenty of time reading interesting threads on FlyerTalk – particularly the ones that have to do with theories on using points and miles. In one particularly riveting discussion, I found frugal travelers talking about the merits of moving points from one program to another to take advantage of better award charts or more flying availability.

The problem with this practice is when flyers don’t have any relationship with the program they are transferring miles to. That is, they have a frequent flyer account with the program but have never boarded one of their airplanes – and have little intention of doing so. For lack of a better term, I’ve decided to call this “mileage dumping.”

Is this practice healthy and prosperous for everyone involved? Can frugal travelers who open accounts for the sake of redeeming miles at a better rate be rewarded over time? There are arguments for and against this practice – I will let you decide which side you are on after I present both sides.

The arguments for mileage dumping

The best argument for mileage dumping is not the fact that one can do it, but rather it presents another alternative mileage program for flyers to put their faith in. For instance: one of my favorite elite programs is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, despite the fact that I don’t live in a city served by either Alaska or Virgin America. By collecting these miles when I do fly American and through the Alaska Airlines Credit Card, I can book American flights for (sometimes) less than American prices.

Of course, that above scenario isn’t exactly a mileage dump, per se: I am still earning miles through ways that are profitable to the frequent flyer program. However, another option would be to do what the original poster in the FlyerTalk thread suggested: convert Starwood Preferred Guest points to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. Which is feasible, considering I have American Express Membership Rewards points I have to do something with.

The reality of the matter is that programs work with transfer partners in order to create a more rewarding experience for flyers while encouraging their loyalty. If there is a better deal to be had using another program, there is no shame in taking advantage of a better deal.

The arguments against mileage dumping

On the converse, loyal members of programs who hold elite status may say that taking advantage of a mileage program simply for the better rewards is akin to highway robbery. For example: remember when Star Alliance flyers could gain gold status through Aegean Airlines? With more flyers taking advantage than actually used the program, Aegean changed the program so that gold status was limited to the flyers who actually flew aboard the airline.

The practice of mileage dumping could also cause airlines to change their programs and put stricter limits on who can earn miles and elite status. Similar to how Alaska made overnight changes to Emirates awards, longtime abuses of mileage systems could cause programs to reduce or otherwise end relationships with transfer partners that are not financially linked to their frequent flyer program. This only hurts those flyers who have remained loyal to the airline.

As we often say in the points and miles world: pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered. By taking a balanced and cautious approach to getting the best deals for our mileage, everyone can make the most of every point now and well into the future.

How do you feel about mileage dumping between programs? How do you ensure you get the best deal without the risk of killing it for the future? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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