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How I Lost Miles – Thousands of Them – Through My Own Carelessness

lost miles
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I just made a startling discovery.  Over the past two years, I lost miles – thousands of them, actually!

While I cannot calculate the exact value of the lost miles, I estimate it to be at least the equivalent of a domestic round-trip ticket.  At minimum.  And maybe more – big ouch!

lost miles

Hopefully you can learn from my lost miles – and along the way earn thousands of extra miles for yourself.

What are “Sleeper Programs”?

Dining rewards programs and other double-dip programs like Thanks Again are what I like to think of as “sleeper programs”.  They can earn passive miles for you while you aren’t even thinking about it.  This is often for things you are already doing – eating dinner, parking your car at the airport, buying a bottle of water before a flight.  These are double-dipped miles on top of the ones you are already earning from your credit card programs.

But they can only earn for you if your credit cards are registered and you follow the rules of the program.  If they are not, all of those potential miles are lost miles.

What Happened With My Lost Miles?

What happened is I did a poor job of managing my card wallets in a couple of key sleeper programs – Thanks Again and my airline dining rewards programs.  Over the last two years, through a series of events, I allowed my credit card wallets within the programs to grow stale.

Specifically, three things occurred:

  1. I received new chip/pin cards from several credit card companies.  These came with new card numbers.  Alas, the old ones were still in all of my earning profiles.  Because I did not go into my profiles to update the numbers, they stopped earning rewards for me.
  2. I had cards reissued due to loss/fraud.  I lost a debit card and it took me several months to get around to replacing my information in profiles. You would think I would have learned my lesson at that time.  Then I had a slow trickle of cards that got reissued due to suspicious activity.  Each time I had to figure out which of my recurring payments needed to be reset.  I updated all my card wallets for regular vendors like airlines and Amazon.  But I somehow forgot to update my card wallets in reward profiles.
  3. I applied for new cards.  I’ve been the absolute worst when it comes to playing the credit card churning game.  But I’ve gotten better about it in the last few months.  I’ve managed to open new accounts for bonuses that I haven’t previously pursued.  But in my quest and rush to earn those new miles, I never bothered to rotate the cards in my profiles.  So the ones getting the heaviest utilization were no longer helping me.

How Could I Have I Avoided This?

There are a few things I could have done to make sure this didn’t happen:

  1. Add rewards programs to new credit card to-do lists.  We all have the list of things we do when we get a new card.  Activate it.  Check the bonus requirements.  Change out the information in key programs.  Now I will also add “check rewards program enrollments” to that list.
  2. Check expiring/replacement cards.  When I receive a replacement for an expiring card, that is a good time to check that card in all of the reward programs where I use it.  If the card number has changed or other information needs to be updated, fix it then!
  3. Add rewards programs check-ups to quarterly lists.  When I started accumulating frequent flyer miles, I used to check my balances daily.  I now sometimes only glance at my programs infrequently.  But at least once a quarter I take a deeper dive into all of the programs I participate in.  I check my balances (earnings and usage), look at partners and rules, and try to understand any changes.  I’ll now be sure that I check these programs too.
  4. Maintain multiple accounts, if necessary.  The programs have limitations on how many cards can live in one wallet.  You may need to set up programs with different addresses and airline programs to accommodate more than five active cards.  I maintain accounts with American Airlines AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, and Delta SkyMiles.  This is to keep all of my various credit and debit cards actively in play.
  5. Know your program rules.  Remember to follow through on all the program requirements.  One of those is submitting dining reviews on time to qualify for the mileage posting.  I have missed a number of postings for active cards because I did not complete my reviews!

Lesson Learned

Thousands of lost miles is a big ouch, especially in an age of devaluation.  We could definitely have used those around here for upcoming trips.  It is a painful lesson to have so many lost miles.  I hope that by sharing my misfortune that I’ll prompt a few of you to go check your balances today!

Have you ever lost miles due to oversight or a careless mistake?

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