As someone who more than dabbles in the “travel hacking” community, collecting frequent flyer miles and points is a daily part of my financial and travel planning. Miles and points save my family thousands each year on travel.
I realize, however, that not everyone is quite as geeky as I am when it comes to miles. Nevertheless, I must admit that my mind is a little blown when I hear about traveling families who leave tons of free travel for their family on the table – specifically when it comes to their kids. Every few months, I am reminded in a conversation with a friend or from social media that most people either a) don’t know that their kids are eligible for frequent flyer accounts or b) if they do, just haven’t gotten around to enrolling their kids yet. Many others opt not to collect miles for their kids because they believe their kids don’t fly often enough to avoid expiration problems.
So, I’m here to educate and motivate the less geeky among you. Time to get with the program when it comes to frequent flyer miles and your offspring! Here’s what you need to know about getting frequent flyer accounts for kids.
Yes, Your Kids are Eligible For Frequent Flyer Accounts
First things first: every major US airline allows minors of any age to accrue miles in a frequent flyer account, as long as they are traveling on their own ticket. So as soon as you buy a seat for your child, you should get an account opened.
My almost three year old son had a Southwest Rapid Rewards account since he was 4 months old, when we opted buy a seat for him on a long cross-country flight rather than carry him as a lap baby. His flying on Southwest has slowly added up. He now has enough miles for a moderately-long round trip vacation on the carrier.
Note that not all international airlines allow mileage accrual for kids, which is perhaps where some of the misinformation comes from. But some foreign airlines actually have programs that are even more flexible for families – British Airways, for example, offers a “Household Account” option that lets family members easily combine points (US airline JetBlue also has a family pooling option).
No, It Doesn’t Take Much Time to Open Frequent Flyer Accounts for Kids
The other refrain I often hear is that “I’ve just not had the time to get around to opening accounts for my kids.” Given how easy it is to open frequent flyer accounts these days online, don’t let that be an excuse.
Opening a frequent flyer account for a child with most airlines takes all of about 3-5 minutes. Just a few days ago, I was booking flights for a trip with my toddler son on American Airlines when I realized he didn’t yet have an AAdvantage account. While I was filling in the flight reservation data, I popped open another browser window and signed him up for AAdvantage in minutes. I could have waited and added the account number to the reservation later, but it’s actually often more work to even do that. Best to get the frequent flyer account before you even book a flight for the child!
The only outlier that takes a little more time to set up is Alaska Airlines. Alaska allows you to open a Mileage Plan account for your child but not to have online access to it, so you actually have to call their call center to get an account opened. Their call center is easily the best of the US airlines and hold times are very short, so you should be able to get an Alaska account in under 15 minutes if you call at the right time.
It’s Easy To Keep Your Child’s Miles Active
The final excuse I often hear from family travelers for not getting mileage account for their kids is that they don’t travel enough. They assume that their children’s miles will just expire before they accrue enough for a free flight.
First of all, if you are flying on Delta at all, that excuse is no excuse at all. Delta has a no expiration date policy on SkyMiles accounts these days. That means even very infrequent travelers should have Delta SkyMiles accounts no matter what.
Second, it’s easier than ever to keep other airline accounts active. All it takes is a nominal redemption or earning transaction. One mile in or one mile out will do it. You can easily earn miles now through various social media promotions that airlines sometimes run, through renting a car and linking your airline frequent flyer number, through some hotel stays, through having an airline’s credit card, or through using an airline dining program or shopping portal. You can easily redeem miles through programs like exchanging for a magazine subscription or even just buying an MP3 download.
Afraid you’ll miss the expiration date in time to do one of these simple redemptions or miles-earning transactions? There’s an app for that. The best way to track mileage expiration dates is through a site called Award Wallet. Plug all your login data for each airline (for every family member) into the tool and it tracks expiration dates for you, even sending e-mail reminders as deadlines approach. I track over 25 different airline mileage programs (not to mention 16 more hotel and other loyalty point programs) for my family with this tool with minimal effort. For a regular family tracking just two or three different programs for their household, it should be a breeze.
When and Why Should You Wait?
For the most part, I say don’t wait to get mileage accounts for your kids. If you think there is a good chance you will want to book a flight on a certain airline this year, go ahead and get accounts for everyone in your family now when you have a free moment.
But every rule has an exception, and there is one instance in which you might want to wait. Occasionally, Southwest Airlines has refer-a-friend bonuses. I watch for those and have used those opportunities to send a refer-a-friend invitation to my child so that both the child’s account and mine get bonus points. I’m not aware of any US airline other than Southwest having a similar promotion in the last several years, so go ahead and get those accounts if you are likely to fly the others. But you may want to hold out on Southwest and wait for a promo if you don’t have any definite plans to fly Southwest in the near term.
Frequent Flyer Account Links
Have I convinced you to dive in with mileage earning for your kids? Here are the links for several major US and international carriers so you can easily cross this off your to do list today.
- American AAdvantage
- British Airways Executive Club (Avios)
- Delta SkyMiles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Lufthansa Miles & More
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin America Elevate
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (call: 1-800-252-7522 for enrolling kids under 13)
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Frequent Flyer Miles & Points