Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Greekonomics 102 - Lunar Real Estate

I used to have a friend who worked for a private company. Part of his compensation was in what the company called "shadow stock." He used to joke that they called it this because "only The Shadow knows how much it's worth." (ok, those of you born after the baby boom have no idea what this references). Anyway, he went on to call these shares "lunar real estate" because he really couldn't cash them in, and they were of questionable value.

All of us have mileage in certain programs that we are tempted to call lunar real estate. And I am here to tell you that with few exceptions, that's not the case. Unless you are talking about a few hundred miles in some strange overseas program denominated in cubits rather than miles, you can probably squeeze some value out of them. You just need to know how.

What I've found is that magazine redemption often fits the bill in these cases. The reason is that you can usually get pretty good value. I know someone who hates his huge Delta Skymiles balance because they require so many miles for his trips to Asia. However, Delta offers 51 issues (a year) of the Economist for 3200 miles and 190 issues (6 months) of the Wall Street Journal for 2800 miles. The Journal costs $120 per year if you subscribe and the Economist is $127 per year. 3200 miles for $127 of value is about 4 cents per mile. If you were 1) planning on subscribing anyway and 2) your company won't reimburse you - as many are now cutting back, this is a pretty good deal. Additionally, you can give these out as gifts to others for things like graduations, birthdays, etc.

Delta also offers hotel night redemption for miles, and I will review that feature in a later post. Based on my preliminary review, it looks promising.

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