Whenever I think of black markets I picture ridiculous looking pop stars in sun glasses and black sweatshirts trying to buy illegal animals, diamonds or more likely, drugs. Black markets, generally reserved for pop stars, dictators, warlords and seedy drug dealer are also quite common amongst frequent fliers. Have a million miles you have no use for? One mans trash is truly another’s treasure. You can purchase anything from second hand miles and  airlines tickets all the way to elite status and amenity kits. Just remember, all that glitters is not gold….

a man holding up a shirt

Buying & Selling Miles:

Buying and selling miles from any third party platform is strictly forbidden by virtually every airline and hotel program, even the ones that tell you selling your miles to them is completely safe. Essentially, unless you are buying miles from the airline directly (which occasionally makes sense), you are taking a great risk whether you are the seller or receiver. Airlines have fraud teams just like credit card companies and these days, the dogs are off the leash. Air France/KLM has had such an over zealous team that they’ve even shut down legitimate accounts just for earning miles in clever ways! It’s very easy to track transfers of miles and generally there is a paper trail leading back to the site, auction or posting in which you discovered or listed the miles in question. If you are caught buying or selling miles outside of airline purview, you won’t just lose the miles in the transaction, your account faces being shut down and audited for fraud. You’ll lose everything. Do people successfully buy and sell miles in the black market? Of course they do. Do I recommend it to anyone? Never. If you must, keep it offline. It takes months, years and effort to earn miles, I don’t want to risk losing them at any cost. 

a man sitting on a car

Too Good To Be True Tickets:

I have miles, you have cash. Simple. Knowing how to use your miles is the first step in unlocking their value. Many with too many miles or not enough time to use them sell “too good to be true” tickets. Say you are looking to fly from New York to London and the cheapest ticket sold is going for $1000. If I have miles I can’t use, I might be willing to sell you a ticket for much less, say $500. You win and I turn miles into cash. We all win. The ticket may be genuine, the rate may be exceptional but if the airline is able to prove, or even just suspect that someone profited from the sale, they will void the ticket. The problem once again is that it’s all risk. If your ticket is voided you will need a new one, often at a near to date “gouging” rate. If you’re on the other end of the deal, despite the cash in hand, you’re not out of the woods either. If their ticket was flagged, your account is now under review via the fraud department and they will likely ensure that you lose out on all of your miles. There are many instances, most family oriented where tickets are purchased using miles for loved ones or associates. If your ticket ticket is ever flagged or cancelled, be proactive in offering reasoning and explanation for the ticket and challenge the airline to prove otherwise while demanding that the ticket be honored. Your miles are yours. 

a room with a television and a table

Churning Credit Cards Too Aggressively:

We want your business but we don’t want you to rob us. Some credit cards can be applied and approved for over and over again. When there are major airline miles at stake with each sign up  bonus, people pay attention. Gary Leff recently mentioned an instance where people were applying for the Alaska Airlines credit card which comes with 25,000 miles for no spending. You could apply and get approved for up to four cards a day (assuming excellent credit) which opened a window for aggressive churning which essentially means signing up for rewards, reaping and then cancelling. It didn’t take long for the bank and Alaska Airlines to figure out that this activity was a manipulation of the system and frequent flier audits began. Chase has similarly tightened restrictions for approvals for anyone who has successfully received more than five credit cards in a calendar year. All banks and airlines have terms and conditions which prevent you from selling your points for profit or “specifically” receiving points solely for the benefit of using them. Whatever that means.

a wallet with cards in it

What You Can Do With Your Points & Miles:

They are yours, they can be valuable and I am all about maximizing them. There is nothing stopping you from using your miles for a relative, household member or friend. Though it doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally have to explain your relationship with the person in question using the ticket to a nosey airline employee, it’s perfectly above board. Miles can be the key to a free honeymoon, a last minute emergency trip or just a fun day in the sun. If you don’t want to risk losing them, don’t hoard them and don’t sell them on the black market! 

a bed in a plane

If you ask me, there is no real need for the black market. There are amazing tools for finding award space for your miles, there are plenty of partners to use them on and you have blogs like mine to give you ideas. There are so many amazing fares being offered that black market tickets just are like old pop stars. 

As Always: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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