10. Free status offers for Marriott Gold, Avis Presidents Club (still active…), Virgin Silver, Hilton Gold, Starwood Gold, Continental Silver just for becoming an AT&T customer.
9. Class of Service Bonuses on Upgrades (Earn more bonus miles on United than it took to upgrade US-Hawaii, the upgrade more than paid for itself).
8. 1-800-Flowers 100 miles per dollar with Delta. On December 30, 2003 1-800-Flowers sent out an email saying they would award 100 miles per dollar spent on flowers. Presumably they had bought a ton of Delta miles which needed to be awarded or else they would expire. So they thought they would generate some cash with this rapidly expiring asset. The email was targeted, but anyone could use the promotion. And it wound up being much bigger than they anticipated…
7. Double, triple, quadruple bonus dipping (Continental, US Airways, Priority Club). About 9 years ago some members earned six-figure mileage flying cross country on Continental. Once upon a time you could fly a handful of flights and earn Chairmans Preferred (100,000 mile flyer status) on US Airways. And many folks have earned several free nights with Priority Club with single night stays. All because computer systems let folks stack different bonuses — many of which were targeted for different members, but those same computer systems didn’t check to see whether the member signing up had actually been targeted. A double error! Sadly computer systems have gotten more sophisticated with time.
6. Savings bonds, travelers checks, prepaid visa debit cards. Over time there have been huge opportunities to buy money with your mileage earning credit card, at little or not cost, and then pay off your credit card with the money you purchased. Rinse, repeat. Whether savings bonds, travelers checks (thanks, AAA!), or visa debit cards which you then turn into money orders, these eventually get shut down — because the company offering them winds up eating the credit card transaction fees without generating real business. But many frequent flyers have earned many millions of miles.
5. KLM Status Match and Millions of Free Miles: In the Fall of 2001, KLM wasn’t just matching status — they were matching the account balances in your competitor elite account as well!
4. LatinPass 1,000,000 Miles: During the first half of 2000, you could earn a million miles (with the dreaded LatinPass program) for flying a total of 9 international segments on 9 different partner airlines.
3. InsideFlyer-Starwood. In the Spring of 2002, Randy Petersen was giving away 2500 Starwood points with each Inside Flyer magazine subscription. Back then Starwood points converted 1->2 into Qantas, including bonuses. 52,500 Starwood points yielded Qantas points. Doing the math, it was possible to buy 21 Inside Flyer subscriptions, transfer the Starwood points to Qantas, and redeem for travel on the Concorde. Donate the magazines to charity and further reduce your cost basis.
2. Goldpoints/valumags: Around Christmas 2001 it was possible to earn more than 100 miles per dollar with your choice of several airlines by purchasing magazine subscriptions from Valumags through the Goldpoints shopping portal. Some members donated the magazines to non-profits for the tax deduction, reducing their cost basis even further.
What great mileage deals, on par with these, am I forgetting about? Hit the comments and let’s build a better list.