Crediting miles to your frequent flier club account by renting a car or staying in a hotel is nothing new. But miles for buying your favorite detergent?
A Boston-based company called Loyalty Management Group is lining up airlines and sponsors for a program called Air Miles. Successful in England, such programs allow mem
bers to win free airline trips by purchasing a wide range of goods and services, from filling up at the corner gas station to buying detergent. One may earn free miles without ever leaving the ground.
USAir this week joined rivals American, United and Air Canada in signing up for Air Miles. Sponsors pay Air Miles to become the exclusive company in a given product category. Air Miles then pays the airlines for each mile credited and members fly a free mile for every mile they accumulate.
The program will debut in the United States early next year. Negotiations are still under way for sponsors.
The program is operated apart from the airlines' own
frequent flier clubs, with Air Mile members receiving statements directly from the organization. Mile awards are subject to certain restrictions, such as advance purchase and staying over a Saturday, said Philip Beard, vice president of Loyalty Management Group.
"The idea is for the consumer to have a pretty substantial reward pretty quickly," Beard said.
For example, a British consumer buying a Toshiba television set from a participating retailer and using a participating credit card -- called a "triple dip" -- can rack up 450 miles. That's enough for a round trip from London to Paris, Beard said.