Celebrating The Life Of US Airways Dividend Miles

Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be posting a couple of times per week. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.


Last night at midnight Central Time we said good-bye to an old friend in the frequent flyer world.

Like WorldPerks and OnePass before it, Dividend Miles is now one for the ages, a casualty of the era of airline consolidation. 

Dividend Miles will always hold a special place in the hearts of many of us.

But rather than mourn the loss of a friend, let’s instead celebrate the life of a great program by recounting all the fun we had together. I was far from a Dividend Miles expert but I still enjoyed the program and I’m sure you did too.

Here are a few of my favorite Dividend Miles memories. I invite you to add your own in the comments.

RIP US Airways Dividend Miles
RIP US Airways Dividend Miles

The Annual Grand Slam Promotion

This was consistently one of my favorite promotions of the year. It was like a scavenger hunt where you needed to collect a variety of “hits” from various categories. For example, you might need to stay at a variety of hotel brands, purchase products from specific merchants, and even transfer points to partners. (Yes, they would encourage you to send points out of the program!)

As a result, it was one big optimization problem with the objective of earning the maximum number of points at the lowest cost. If you succeeded in collecting the right hits — and getting them to post properly — you could earn around 100,000 miles for as little as a few hundred dollars. Acquiring points at under 1 cent each was common, and gave you the opportunity to try out merchants you might not otherwise.

US Airways Grand Slam promotion
US Airways Grand Slam promotion

Track-It-Back

This had to be one of the worst marketing ideas I’ve ever seen. The general idea of the company was decent enough — they would sell you a sticker that you would then put on your personal items such that if they were ever lost, somebody could contact you. The finder would also get some sort of reward in return. Since a simple return address sticker could probably serve the same purpose, the company had to run massive promotions to acquire customers.  At one point, it was possible to earn 140 US miles per dollar spent on these stickers.

In other words, you could buy US Airways miles at 0.7 cents each.  And get the stickers for free. Which is, coincidentally, exactly what they were worth. The company soon went out of business, but as far as I know, everyone got their miles.

Track-it-back
Track-it-back

No Rules Awards

OK, technically Dividend Miles did have award rules concerning stopovers, open-jaws, routings, and the like. The award chart was also based on regions. But it was somewhat up to the agent to determine which region your destination was in. Better yet, if they didn’t know, they’d occasionally ask you, the caller, where it was. Now I might have won a Geography Bee back in 7th grade, but I’ve become quite forgetful in my old age. Who really knows where North Asia begins and South Asia starts anyway?

My best US Airways redemption was for my Dad’s “round number” birthday a few years ago. My mom decided that she wanted to take him to Scotland and asked me to arrange their travel. A round trip from the US to Europe was going to cost 100,000 US miles in business, which really isn’t a bad deal. But of course, had I booked that, Ben would have disowned me, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing for OMaaT today!

So instead, I suggested to my mom that they actually go to Asia with a stopover in Europe for 90,000 miles. This way they’d get to have more fun while also saving 10,000 miles. I don’t think she quite understood — and who can blame her — but she said “go for it”. My wife and I had recently been to Bali and loved it, so I figured that would make a good destination for them as well. Was Bali in North Asia or South Asia?  Shucks.  I really couldn’t remember.  Oh well.

I proceeded to book them on xxx-IAD-FRA-EDI-(stopover)-BRU-BKK-DPS-(destination)-SIN-ICN-(overnight)-ORD-xxx on a combination of United, Lufthansa, Thai, Singapore, and Asiana. All for 90,000 miles each in business class. Dad had a blast flying around the world.

Around the world on a 90K US Airways award
Around the world on a 90K US Airways award

Share Miles Promotion

Once or twice a year, US Airways would run a share miles promotion whereby you could transfer miles to a friend or family member with some sort of bonus. At times, the bonus would reach 100%, meaning that if you transferred 10,000 miles to your friend, they would receive 20,000 miles. There were some fees to do so, but the net effect was that you could end up buying miles around 1.1 cents each.

The key was that you were limited in the number of “shares” and the number of miles in each sharing transaction. Commonly you could only transfer 50,000 miles into an account, though you could transfer as many as you wanted out. If you had a large family, you could set up a round robin share-a-thon whereby one person would transfer to another, and then that person could transfer to two more, and so on. Then one of those people could even transfer back to the first.

This always reminded me of playing Layer Cake on the Apple II when I was kid. The objective of that game was to move a cake with multiple layers from one platter to another, one layer at a time. You had to think about which pieces to move first, and to where, such that you ended up with the cake in the right place and in the right order at the end. (Please tell me someone remembers this game! Send me a screen shot if you can.) Well, the share miles promo worked similarly — you had to have it all mapped out ahead of time such that the right people ended up with the right miles at the end.

The Credit Card

50,000 miles for $89. And a companion certificate that’s actually worth something.

US Airways Credit Card
How many of these do you have in your sock drawer?

What are your favorite memories of US Airways Dividend Miles?  What was the most creative rule-breaking award routing you ever booked?

Comments

  1. Managed to do DEN-DFW-ORD-HKG in Cathay First class then return HKG-DOH-MIA-DEN on Cathay and Qatar in Biz. That was for two passengers together for all segments. Going around the world is fun.

  2. I’m a bit later to the miles/points game so missed the earlier promotions, but USDM helped us with our first first premium cabin travels for the last couple of years. I will miss it dearly.

    Had a toast to the end of USDM last night at dinner and my wife thought I was crazy. She doesn’t seem to mind the premium travel though. Haha.

  3. Track-it-back was the greatest mileage promotion of all time. I bought 1.5 million miles through this deal, and regret not buying 10 million. And, I donated the stickers (before TIB went under, so they still had value) and got a tax deduction, lowering the net cost to ~.5 cents per mile

  4. Is this revisionist history? What I seem to recall about US Airways and Dividend Miles is that they were the butt of the joke among *A carriers — at least they seemed be on FlyerTalk….

  5. Back in the days when they actually were in Star alliance. I would love a good mileage program for Star Alliance now that Lifemiles, Aeroplan and Mileagplus are all from not great to useless

  6. Man, I’m gunna miss this program, over the years I’ve had so many great redemptions…..

    My best “value” redemption from Dividend Miles was right after the switch from Star Alliance to Oneworld I got quoted 15,000 miles for a ticket that was PVG-HKG-NRT-HKG-PVG in CX First Class. Needless to say, I ticketed it in a heartbeat (supposed to be 40,000 miles). Brilliant time.

    Back in the day when they sold miles even cheaper (circa 2010), I flew PVG-SFO-DEN-ATL (Dest)-FRA-CDG::ZRH-PVG for around $1500 using United, Lufthansa and Swiss in First Class. Was only 19 at the time.

  7. There was a time when they offered double miles promotions if you registered. However they had multiple registration codes and did not limit you to 1 registration. During the Get out More (referred to as GOM) promotion people were getting 5x or more miles, which included preferred miles and redeemable miles. A friend went from having no miles to gold after 1 trip from the east coast to London.

    The promo ran for several months and there were people who were doing transcons weekly and racking up the miles.

  8. Yes! Andrew beat me to it – the infamous GOM (Get Out More) stack-able EQM bonus codes! There were five of them mailed and emailed to DM members. I was Gold at the time and very quickly became a Chairman’s Preferred in addition to racking up several hundred thousand miles while the promo was in place. A few mileage runs to the west coast and one over to LGW (I think).

    And while everyone likes to bash US, I always liked flying the under-dog. US Dividend Miles took me lots of places and always in the premium cabins: Australia on QF, lots of CP roundtrip upgrades on cheap $500’ish European fares, ANA/TG business class for my honeymoon in HKG/Thailand, LH FC to Europe, SWISS FC to Europe, CX FC to HKG and lots and lots of European trips in US Envoy or UA business. No complaints here…. RIP!

  9. mwwalk — I did read about the Tower of Hanoi while doing my google research. Didn’t know that. Still looking for a pic of the game! Somebody needs to port it over to iOS!

  10. RIP USDM 🙁

    My best redemption: BOI-SFO-PEK-SIN(overnight)- DAC(overnight)-IST(destination) – DAC(overnight) -SIN-BKK(stopover)-ICN-SFO-BOI all for 100K in Biz on 5 airlines

  11. “Off-peak” awards to Europe in business for 60k miles round-trip, and with the 5k credit card discount only 55k miles. Only got to do this one year PHL-MUC for a ski trip for 110k DM for 2 passengers.

  12. Probably too soon to go with the eulogy format following an event that killed hundreds of airline passengers. Obviously unintentional, but it’s a bad look.

  13. This became fairly well known on Australian forums but a few of us worked out that GUM and SPN were zoned SWP, the same as Australia, despite them being geographically located in North Asia, so 30k for J and 40k for F. We also worked out that the only way to get there was going via North Asia thanks to UA hubbing there and although stopover were technically not allowed on intra-zone awards after a few of us found agents who forgot this rule, provided you were willing to go all the way to GUM or SPN you suddenly had Asia awards for a third of the price.

    In the few months before US left *A seemed to be the best period for booking them – agents were very relaxed on the rules and let you literally cherry-pick your own random itinerary jaunting around Asia however you wanted. Rather than a ‘I’ll take whatever I can get’ situation it became a ‘who can book the most ridiculous itinerary’ challenge. I ended up booking 4 GUM trips but the best was definitely:
    I flew SYD-BKK-HKG (TG F stopover)-TPE-GUM (BR J dest)-NRT (UA J)-ICN (OZ F)-HKG (TG J)-BKK-SYD (TG F) in Nov last year, for 40k booked first call in less than 20 minutes.

    My mourning is not today with USDM vanishing completely, it was much more when they left *A. Moving into a much smaller alliance meant much less availability and routing options and they simultaneously greatly reduced Gum MPM and were much stricter on the rules. What was an incredible offer now became a real struggle.

    I was fairly late to the USDM party but still booked 6 USDM trips in about 2 years. I will really miss this program but its been dying a slow death ever since they announced the merger anyway.

  14. My best redemption bookings were:

    SFO-LHR(overnight)-MAD(12 hour layover to visit the city)-PMI(1 week destination)-FRA(overnight)-HKG-NRT(2 week stopover)-LAX-SFO. Mostly in First (BA, CX, JL). No BA fuel surcharge. 125k miles + $200

    SFO-LAX-HKG-KUL-AKL(destination)-KUL(20 hour layover)-HKG(5 day stopover)-KIX(22 hour layover)-LAX-SFO. All in business, 110k miles + $200

    I miss the Grand Slam. Not only was it a great way to get miles for cheap, but it was actually kind of fun. Beyond the initial credit card signup bonus, their periodic 15k for $500 in spend each month for 3 months was also nice.

  15. All these promotions really took off after America West / Doug Parker grabbed USAir from the bankruptcy court. A lot of industry people don’t like the guy, but let’s face it, Parker has twice now grabbed DOA airlines and brought them back from the dead. And in the case of the old USAir, we are talking about an airline that was withing weeks of having its assets physically seized.

  16. My favorite was our trip to Australia last year booked prior to US leaving Star Alliance but travel was when they were in OneWorld. EWR-LAX (UA F), LAX-ICN (OZ F – right when Asiana started flying its brand new A380 with an overnight in ICN), ICN-BKK (TG J), BKK-SYD (TG F), SYD-BKK (TG F – stopover in Bangkok), BKK-MUC (TG F – arriving early evening in Munich and the connecting flight was not until early afternoon the next day so we had a chance to have late dinner in Munich and walk around Munich the next morning), and finally MUC-EWR (LH F). All of this for only 140K. I thought the agent would give me a hard time with this routing. Actually, she actually had to put me on hold for a few minutes because she said that she needs to check with her supervisor because my routing appears to be round-the-world. But in the end, I was only charged for a roundtrip to South Pacific for 140K.

  17. Going waaayy back (to when Lucky probably hadn’t been born yet), US Airways offered a single award with 3 round trips to Europe for 60,000 miles total (yes, it was in Economy, but at 20,000 miles per passenger who’s complaining?). And, back in those days, you could redeposit unused awards with no fee.

    OF COURSE Bali is in North Asia. It’s north of Australia, isn’t it???

  18. US’s Grand Slam promos were what really got me started as a serious points and miles collector. They put premium class travel within fairly easy reach. Trackitback was the best ever, though. I bought so many of those darn things. I probably still have a few in the back of my desk drawer! Oh, BTW, the reward for returning a TIB-tagged item? Can you guess? ……… CORRECT! More TIB stickers. Seriously.

  19. I’ve booked a number of outstanding USDM awards, but the best had to have been:
    SFO-YVR-MUC(stopover/open jaw)//ZRH-AMS-BKK-TPE(dest)-SFO all in biz for 90k miles for 2 pax.
    Took a couple calls and a graveyard shift supervisor who didn’t normally book these awards to get the open jaw + stopover combo to fly. Got a good laugh out of “So you’re flying Brussels Airlines from Taipei to San Francisco…”

  20. God, will I miss Dividend Miles.

    My favorite award redemptions were:

    1) GRU – LHR (BA – no fuel surcharges as the flight originated in Brazil) // LHR – HKG (CX) // HKG – MNL (CX) // MNL – SYD (QF) // SYD – DXB (QF) // DXB – LHR (QF) // LHR – MAD (BA) // MAD – GRU (IB) —> all in J for 120k miles (after 12 calls)

    2) SYD – KUL (MH) // KUL – NRT (MH) // NRT – GUM (JL) // GUM – NRT (JL) // NRT – SYD (JL) —> all in J for 30k miles (after 1 call! Now, 30,000 miles for 30 hours worth of flying, including 3 long hauls, are you kidding me? Best program ever!)

    The thing is, I only got to know DM a year ago or so. It was still amazing.

    RIP Dividend Miles. You were the best. Thanks for letting me explore the world.

  21. Well I never had those fancy redemptions. But it worked well for me last year when I took my girlfriend to Paris and Prague (from Shanghai) in business.

    And earlier this year I took my parents to Europe on TK/CA business. And the best of the story? Somehow that agent didn’t manage to deduct any miles from my account. Therefore the three of us literarlly flew from China to Europe and back in business, for a total of 0 miles (I did pay tax…).

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