Who’d have thought that airline miles would overtake dollars as the most popular form of currency? Well, perhaps we haven’t gone that far, but miles have proven to be a great incentive for getting people to spend greenbacks in certain places.
Up until now, you have been able to get miles for giving money to certain charities, eating in certain restaurants, using certain credit cards, sending flowers from certain florists, and, of course, for flying in an airplane. All of the miles you accumulate can be exchanged for free airplane tickets, though the number of “free” seats on each flight are limited.
Now, American Airlines, which has the leading mileage program, has introduced AAdvantage Home Program, a home repair and maintenance program that gives you additional airline miles every time you use a vendor associated with the program.
For an annual membership fee of $79 (you receive a special 3,000 mile bonus if you enroll before May 15th), you can call a toll-free number and “have a staff of trained professionals at your command to handle all your home repair and maintenance needs, from an unexpected emergency like a flooded basement, to the things that beautify your home like professional lawn care,” according to the
Of course, American Airlines realized that you have to actually own a home to maintain before you can use the program. So they’ve linked frequent flyer miles with real estate transactions as well. Five national mortgage lenders and real estate companies (three in each region of the country) will give you miles for using them to purchase or sell, finance or refinance your home. There is a membership fee of $39 for the home mortgage program, though there are no membership fees for the buy or sell offer.
The miles you can rack up are impressive. According to a spokeswoman from PHH Real Estate Services Corp., you will earn 15,000 miles for every $100,000 of sales price. So if you sell your existing home for $150,000 you’d earn 22,500 miles. Buy a new home for $200,000 and earn 30,000 miles. Finance your new home through PHH Mortgage Services Corp., or one of the other participating lenders, with a $160,000 30-year mortgage at 7.5 percent and you’d earn 11,950 miles — a mile for every dollar you spend on mortgage interest. Every year you pay interest on your loan you’d earn more miles.
At current award levels, which will likely rise, 25,000 miles may be exchanged for a free ticket within the 48 contiguous states. Sixty thousand miles may be exchanged for a free ticket to Europe.
“For the first time, the American dream of home ownership will be combined with the American dream of travel,” said Michael Gunn, American Airlines’ senior vice president of marketing. “The mortgage and brokerage rates will be fully competitive with other rates available in the marketplace, providing yet another innovative way for our members to earn AAdvantage miles.”
Should you choose a real estate broker, mortgage lender, home warranty, home security system, plumber, or maid service based on a company’s ability to add frequent flier miles to your account?
Probably not. While the companies that are affiliated with the AAdvantage programs are considered to be among the best nationally, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll hire the best lender, real estate broker, or home repair person or get the best value.
When choosing a real estate broker, lender, or home repair person, ask your friends and relatives for references of people they’ve used. Make sure they’ve had a good experience with this person. Thoroughly check out the company by making sure they’ve had no complaints registered against them with the Better Business Bureau and Attorney General’s office. Ask the broker or lender for references that you can check. A quality service provider should be happy to hand over their names and telephone numbers.
If frequent flier miles are that important to you, by all means, call the local ServiceMaster, Merry Maids, or Brinks Home Security office nearest you for a competing bid. Make sure the 30-year fixed-rate loan PHH Mortgage is offering carries the same interest rate and closing costs as other 30-year loans offered by other lenders in your area.
It’s foolish to pay an additional $1,000 just to get frequent flier miles. For that $1,000, you could buy 3 or 4 (or more) airline tickets to fly almost anywhere in the U.S., and not be restricted to a single airline.