Ask Randy: Delta, NWA begin to merge mile rewards

ByUSA Today
March 2, 2009, 3:25 PM

— -- These are tumultuous times for frequent fliers, as struggling airlines continue to add new fees and restrictions to their loyalty programs. So we've invited frequent-flier expert Randy Petersen to take your queries and offer advice on how to make the most of your miles. Here are some recent queries; join him in his ongoing forum to post one of your own or help answer a question from a fellow reader.

Thanks Delta for making me look so good. In my post on Dec. 18, 2008, I said that it was my best guess that in early February Delta would start to merge the two programs and allow mileage transfer. On Feb. 3, they did make the announcement and here's my advice:

You can now link frequent flier accounts and transfer miles between both accounts (SkyMiles and WorldPerks) at no charge (this counts as a money-saving tip these days with the airlines!).

Members who link their accounts before March 15, 2009 will earn 500 bonus miles. This new feature is another step toward total integration of the two frequent flyer programs later in the year and allows members who have either SkyMiles and WorldPerks accounts to visit the links below, link their accounts and transfer any amount of miles into either account on an unlimited basis. Both accounts will remain open and functioning until late 2009 when Delta plans to merge the two programs.

The question is: Should you do this now? Chances are it is a good idea for most members as it allows you to merge your miles into one account which will give you the ability to be closer to an award ticket, an upgrade and various other things like merchandise offers. As well, doing this so that all your flights on the two airlines will go into a single account so that you can qualify for elite status sooner is key, though this happens if you have already linked a single frequent flyer account to the various airline reservations you make during the year. Obviously with split accounts you may not be getting the very best situation for this.

NOW, having said that, it may not be a good idea to totally merge the two accounts because each will continue to offer distinctively different promotions and if you merge too early, you may find yourself locked out of the best of the other programs offers. I'm of the opinion right now to do this if you have minimal activity annually between the two programs. I love what WorldPerks does for their members and don't want to miss out on the "Miles and Money" promo and as such will likely not merge my two programs together for now (toward the ultimate merger into a single SkyMiles account at some point in the future).

WARNING: Almost everyone I know misses this fine print, so make sure you really do know what I am referring to when thinking of your elite status. Only SkyMiles and WorldPerks miles can be transferred between accounts. Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM), Medallion Qualification Segments, Elite Qualification Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualification Segments, which are used to qualify for elite status, will not be immediately affected by linking or transferring, but will be combined when linked accounts are merged later this year which is why you may want to make sure that any flights you have going which you want counted toward elite status are to a single account, not split because any merger at this point will not merge the elite qualifying activity.

If the 500 bonus miles intrigues you, use the links below to make your transfers and mergers, but remember my advice above.

Delta SkyMiles Account Merger

Northwest WorldPerks Account Merger

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