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Frequent Flyer Miles May Frequently Have Legal Limits

file photo (credit: Getty Images)

file photo (credit: Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - What are your legal rights to use your frequent flyer miles?

Entrepreneur Peter Shankman made headlines in December when he donated his frequent flyer miles to six people who couldn’t afford to fly home for the holidays. Many of us who’ve actually tried to use our own miles might be tempted to do something with them because we certainly can’t figure out how to use them.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use your air miles, except maybe everything else associated with airline travel.

What does the law say about when an airline has to honor your air miles? Not much.

When you sign up for a frequent flyer club, you agree to the terms of service, which basically say that the airlines can set the terms they choose, including limiting when they can be used, when they expire and how many it takes to get a free ticket.

But, although they have expiration days, some programs run from the date you last used or accrued the miles. So if you use a credit card that gives you miles, you may add to the miles with regular purchases so you keep resetting the expiration date.

And while you can’t likely expect to get tickets on Christmas, if you plan well enough for unpopular dates, you should be able to use those miles.