You gotta wonder about Delta SkyMiles. LifeHacker recently turned me on to a great new site called Points.Com. It allows you to easily swap and redeem points earned from one program to another. The site has garnered the cooperation of every major airline, and lots of major retailers, like Best Buy, Amazon, Target, and many others.

Ideally, when your crazy uncle gives you a gift card to a store that isn’t even in your town, you can now go online and swap that card for something you might more readily use. There are lots of online points earning programs that are exchangeable at Points.Com as well. I’m surprised no one has done this earlier.

In order to give retailers and airlines the greatest flexibility, Points.Com allows some restrictions. I noticed Amazon is perhaps the most flexible (no surprise there). So, I quickly signed up and added my 13,000 Delta SkyMiles to my account.

Delta doesn’t play well with Others

First, Delta, for some bizarre reason, doesn’t allow Points.Com to show my mileage in the “Balance Tracker”. Even though I’m in a secured site that only I can log into, Delta thinks it’s points are special. How inconvenient.

No matter, I think. I’m off to finally (finally!) redeem these miles that I’ve had for over 16 years with no way of doing anything with them. You see, I earned these miles when my parents lived overseas and paid for several trips for me. So, technically, they should be my parent’s miles all along. But, I’ve been stuck with them.

Turns out though that Delta also doesn’t allow Points.Com to swap out their mileage for anything (gee, even a $25 Best Buy gift card?) or to redeem them for anything but, of course, airline tickets.

But, of course, Delta spends a great deal of fanfare extolling the benefits of buying more SkyMiles, swapping other programs into their SkyMiles, or signing up for dozens of other third-party offers to get even more SkyMiles. If you haven’t received at least a half-dozen offers from American Express in the past three years telling you about how many miles you can get for signing up for a Platinum card, you are missing out. I have fun ripping up the papers and then putting them in the postage-paid envelope and mailing back to them. Of course, I always leave my name unripped, but they lovingly refuse to let go and mail me another offer in about 3-4 months. Delta stockholders should question heavily their continued investment in this type of waste.

You might think I should just hold on to my SkyMiles, right? After all, I’ve had them for 16 years without setting foot on a Delta terminal - eventually I’ll just use them, right? No, not anymore. Delta finally woke up from its slumber (thanks to SouthWest, 9/11, and a host of Clinton initiatives to “help” the airlines) and realized that maybe SkyMiles shouldn’t last longer than the time between Boston Red Sox championships. So, effective December 31, 2006, Delta is retroactively going to cancel my SkyMiles for the past two years of “inactivity”, which means I haven’t been a lapdog for Delta during that time.

Let’s Try Transferring the Miles

So, I thought that maybe I’d try to transfer the points to my parents since they should have been their miles from the start. Hmmm… Delta wants a “transfer fee” of 1 cent per mile, plus a “processing fee” of $25. I just love companies that are dumb enough to try and swindle people out of processing fees for internet transactions. Shouldn’t I earn the $25 since I’m doing the processing? Anyway, that means it will cost me $130 plus the $25 ($155) to “transfer” the 13,000 miles to my parents - or anyone else. I would probably call that a “sale” not a transfer. I notice that Delta refers to their transfers of airline seats for people’s money as “sales” in their annual reports, but they make an exception in this case. Worse, I can’t sell or barter the miles, at least according to Delta’s terms of service. I’d love to throw them on eBay, but why curse someone else with this nightmare?

Buy Some More Miles Maybe?

What about just buying some more miles so I can earn enough for a round-trip coach class ticket somewhere. Let’s see my wife has family in Colorado - round-trip to Denver from Orlando (or anywhere in the US) is 50,000 SkyMiles. What’s the cost to buy the additional 37,000 miles? This time Delta wants 2.75 cents per mile. Huh? So, I’d have to pay an effective.$1,017.50. I’ll pause here to allow for uncontrollable laughter. Is there a new kind of coach class I’m not aware of? Do I get a spa treatment on the flight? For comparison purposes, the most expensive ticket I could find from SouthWest Airlines was $312 which was refundable anytime.And with agreeing to a few stipulations, I get the whole trip for $220, nearly one-fifth as cheap as my Delta purchase would be. And I don’t even have any frequent-flyer miles with SouthWest.

Donate the Miles to Charity?

So, here’s my last option. Donate the miles to a charity that Delta approves on their very short list of charities (12). Believe it or not, they don’t charge a processing fee for this. The usual stock of charities are there, none of whom thrill me, and I could probably hold my nose and give them to Red Cross, assuming, after all of this, that I trust Delta to actually do that, and not simply steal the miles back. But, then, I wonder, what is Red Cross going to do with over-priced unusable SkyMiles? They could probably really use a Best Buy gift card so they could purchase a few handheld radios for folks. But Delta isn’t going to allow that. Of course, Red Cross probably gets millions of miles from dissatisfied people like me and that hopefully, they can buy a few plane tickets with all the hundreds of thousands of dollars frequent fliers have spent accumulating those SkyMiles.

Yes, these types of things can be frustrating. If anyone has any idea what to do with these SkyMiles, comment below. Else, I guess they’ll be expiring shortly.,Eventually, the airline who is so far out of touch with its customers (and the internet) might not be too far behind those 13,000 SkyMiles. Expired.

Technorati : airlines, delta, frequent flyer, gifts, online, points, redeem

Posted in: Management & Saving Money