As I’ve said many times, you should always collect miles/points as long as there is no additional cost involved. Might as well, right? Many people assume that kids aren’t eligible to earn miles on paid flights, but that’s not usually the case. For example, Alaska Mileage Plan and British Airways Avios are among those programs that do allow it.
I would estimate that 90% of our flights are booked via reward points and are not eligible to accrue miles. But occasionally I find myself in a situation where it makes sense to pay cash, as in the case of Fiji Airways flights I’ve written about awhile back. I’ve booked them for my kids, and had to find a worthy program for the windfall of miles, all 14,000 of them.
Photo of my kids, who are hanging out at Marriott resort in Fiji without me…
A quick check on Wheretocredit website revealed that Alaska Mileage Plan would be the best candidate. This is an extremely user-friendly tool where you put in airline name/fare class and voila, the optimal program is revealed:
If your child is under 13 (mine are), you will not be able to set up an Alaska account online:
The phone call didn’t take a long time and the agent knew exactly what to do. Once I got the account numbers written down, we added them to Fiji Airways online reservation. Unfortunately, the miles didn’t post like they were supposed to. So, I had to follow up with another phone call to Alaska Air where eventually things got sorted out. So, as of now, each of my two kids has 14,000 miles.
I’m hoping to soon use them on positioning domestic flights, so wanted to take a closer look. The miles have been sitting there for almost a year, so I called Alaska Mileage Plan with a few questions. Here is what I found out:
1) The miles in minor’s account are not subject to the same expiration policy as adult’s.
The agent did tell me that if I don’t use them, I will need to call in 12 months and ask them to extend expiration date for another two years. I’m not sure what will happen if I don’t call, but that’s something I will need to keep track of. She also told me that they can actually extend the expiration date for adult accounts as well (when you ask nicely). YMMV
A reminder: if you have an online Alaska Mileage Plan profile, you can earn miles via shopping portal or burn them on a cheap magazine subscription in order to extend validity.
2) You can transfer miles from another Alaska account or use minor’s miles to transfer to someone else.
This will again need to be done over the phone and standard fees do apply. It’s not exactly a dirt cheap way to acquire miles, but is a steal when you are trying to book an award ASAP.
3) You can use miles in minor’s account for anyone.
How to choose the right mileage program for your paid flights
Very often you will have several options, so how do you pick the best one? Here are a few factors I personally take into consideration:
1) The overall stability/reputation of a mileage program
I prefer US-based programs, but will absolutely consider foreign ones like Virgin Atlantic or British Airways Avios. If I’m not familiar with a program, I usually try to avoid it. I’ve been burned in the past by sudden change in expiration rules, and ended up losing a sizable stash of miles as a result. However, size matters (in this hobby), and I would be willing to take a chance on an obscure program if the difference in mileage fare accrual was substantial.
2) The hard expiration of miles
With most programs you can extend validity of miles as long as you earn or burn some within a certain time period (usually between 18 months and 3 years). In some programs, like Asia Miles, miles expire 3 years after they are earned and there is nothing you can do about it, aside from paying an exorbitant fee. Obviously, such programs go to the bottom of my list.
3) Family pooling
I love airline programs that let you pull miles between family members. Avios and Jet Blue are most familiar to American travelers, but there are others as well. See this old post of mine.
Let’s say you are a family of four, and have an option of earning 3,000 Alaska miles apiece on a paid flight. Alternatively, you can earn 2,000 miles apiece in British Airways Avios program. Personally, I would go with the latter because once you pull the miles, you will have 8,000 Avios total.
Currently that’s enough for a one-way flight on many North American routes, though devaluation is looming on the horizon. Even so, if this band will increase to 9,000 miles as predicted on many blogs, I would still go with the Avios option. Of course, it depends on how often your family books paid flights, et cetera, et cetera.
Setting up and maintaining a mileage account for a minor can be a bit of a nuisance. That said, it’s worth it even if you have a small amount of miles on the line. You never know when they may come in handy.
In the case of Alaska Mileage Plan, the ability to transfer miles at 1 cent apiece (plus $25 fee) is the cheapest way to acquire them when time is of the essence. So always collect miles for your kids (and yourself) when it’s free. Period.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.