Top 10 Miles/Points Program Deals of Times Past

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.

1. Pudding Guy. Enough said. The dude is famous.

What great mileage deals, on par with these, am I forgetting about? Hit the comments and let’s build a better list.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A few UK ones from recent years:

    Marriott to Tesco to BA conversions. At one point Marriott was letting you buy unlimited points which you could convert to Tesco and then to BA for a very low price per mile.

    Amex Travel Card – you could buy a prepaid Amex travel card with your BA Amex and withdraw the money from an ATM. Meanwhile, the BA Amex charge counted as a miles-earning purchase and towards the £10k spend needed for a free ticket.

    Travelex – offered 1 mile per £1 spent on Travellers Cheques. They forgot to exclude Sterling Travellers Cheques. Off you go the airport with a BIG pile of cash, buy some £ TC’s and immediately pay them into your bank the next day. Meanwhile, you’ve got a pile of miles for a nominal fee (used to £3 per transaction). Probably laundered £50k with this one.

    Tesco food bonuses – 240 BA Miles for a £1 pack of burgers, coffee etc etc with no limits

    BAA Worldpoints – the equivalent of booking 375 BMI miles for booking pre-paid parking spots for next to nothing, which were also cancellable at a later date

    Tesco Life Insurance – at one point you could get the equivalent of 7,000 BA Miles by signing up for life insurance, paying 1 month at £5 and then cancelling. There was initially no limit on the number of policies.

  2. LatinPass Million Miles required flying 10 LatinPass member airlines although two airlines were already not operating by the time of the promotion and doubling up on LatinPass member airline segments was substituted for the nonfunctioning airlines.

    Also needed 3 segments on partner airlines to LatinPass (TWA, KLM, and remember Las Vegas’ National Airlines?) , 5 car rental days, and 3 hotel partner nights.

  3. What’s the ATT/Avis deal? I couldn’t find anything regarding that on the Avis or ATT sites.

  4. Point of the post is it’s a deal of the past 🙂 There was once an offer of free silver for signing up w/ AT&T quite awhile back.

  5. Happened twice – like 4 and 5 years ago: Test drive Jaguar – get 10k BA miles. Do it for 4 people in your family – get 40k ba miles in your household account (then limited at 4 members).

  6. @al613 – that one almost made my list, was a great offer.

    @Ric Garrido – thanks for the correction, the memory grows hazy… but I certainly also remember was the constantly changing rules and the fights to get LatinPass to honor.

  7. I liked the 25,000 mile signups for long distance service from the big three telephone companies.

    Some peopl were getting very short term loans on their homes from LendingTree, paying them off immediately, and getting mega miles for them, then repeating many times. Hundreds of thousands of miles were claimed by some of my readers.

    And this one is not from the past, but is happening right now: Buy $1 presidential coins from the U.S. Mint, get miles, deposit the coins, often before you have to pay for them. No service or shipping charge.

  8. I can’t believe I missed most of these….

    My best was the 25K Delta miles for playing a game online. That was 2-3 years ago. 25K from 5 seconds of clicking is really good.

  9. The best deal I’ve been involved in was for AMEX MR in Australia last year. They gave 5000 points for every 5 transactions and they forgot to include a cap in the T&C’s of the promo (and the promo ran for 3 1/2 months). I thought I did OK getting a few hundred thousand points from it, though some people made millions!

  10. i’ve been trying to find this avis pres club status offer for a whille, you say it’s still active…?

  11. Here are two of my favorite:
    1987 was a very good year as frequent flyer programs were becoming more popular. For one, it was the year of triple miles. That was on top of elite bonus or other promotions. Another some of the less popular rental car firms were giving away as much as 3,000 (or more) frequent miles with each rental.
    Flying across country on Contential that year racked up nearly 300,000 miles. (Over 100,000 of those miles still remain in my One Pass account as those miles never expire).
    Conversion programs are usually a losing proposition. (Hotel points to miles, miles to hotel points, etc.) However in 1996 United doubled the amount of Hilton Honors points tranferred using United miles. So 30,000 United miles generated 120,000 Hilton Honor points instead of the usual 60,000. Good deal at the time.

  12. Gary , you forgot the famous Steve Belkin (BEAUBO on
    FT)story.He has just told it again in last week’s FTU in
    Over 10 years ago he has hired 20 Thai farmers to fly an
    $8 fare route in northern Thailand 100 times each.
    The result was :4 million Aeroplan miles for Steve.
    ( Need to add that Steve paid them 6 times their normal
    wages for their effort ).
    Michael in YUL

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