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5 Escape Plans for When Your Frequent-Flier Miles Are Going Down

Go "all in": If you're still feeling antsy about your accumulated miles in the face of a liquidation, go ahead and use them up. By redeeming your fight miles you're guaranteed to gain the maximum amount of benefits of your program, and can start from scratch with another airline -- presumably one with a more solid financial foundation.

Opt for the "honor role": If you're in a "move on" mood over your miles, there are rare but sure ways to go ahead and transfer them to a more secure program. For example, there is a Hilton HHonors "points" program in which you can easily trade miles from selected partner airlines for points toward hotel stays as well as airline travel. The downside is that just few airlines participate in Hilton Honors. (American and many other airlines have a strict policy that you cannot transfer earned points balance elsewhere.) You can use your earned points to book travel with any airline that is a member of an alliance, though, so if you were planning to book an award ticket with American but fear flight delays or cancellations you can use AAdvantage miles to book with any of Americans' "oneworld" alliance partners. (You likely won't get a decent mile-to-mile exchange, though, losing some value in the points-based "exchange rate.")

Trade points while you still have them: Companies such as Points.com allows consumers to trade miles with other travel consumers. Expect to pay a fee; don't expect a pure one-for-one transfer; and be watchful of minimum balance requirements (AAdvantage customers, for example, have to have 25,000 points to trade.) But major carriers such as Delta (DAL), United (UAL), Virgin Airlines, American and many others participate.

Turn to "plan ahead" seats: In a post-bankruptcy airline market, expect more frequent fliers to opt for this program, in which frequent fliers hitched to troubled airlines can buy seats with no restrictions (called "anytime" seats) on partner airlines. (Expect to pay double the price in terms of points you would for regular partner flights.)

By and large, most frequent-flier miles emerge from a bankruptcy situation intact and unscathed.

But if potentially troublesome frequent-flier miles are keeping you up at night, consider one of these protection strategies and make the most of your points - bankruptcy or not.

Michael Germanovsky is an expert in personal finance with in-depth knowledge of credit cards, charge cards, and pre-paid cards. He began his writing career at the Novoye Russkoye Slovo, a partner of the New York Times International Weekly; and later authored a personal finance column at The Epoch Times. In 2011, Germanovsky created the Student Credit Card Education Initiative, designed to promote financial literacy and smart credit card use by young people. He is editor-in-chief at Credit-Land.com.
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