EBay Joins the Points Game
||:: Late-Breaking News
(Posted: May 20, 2003)
For years, members of frequent travel programs have clamored for more and better non-travel award option.
Clamor no more -- now members of the American AAdvantage, Midwest Miles, Asia Miles and Hilton HHonors programs can redeem their miles/points for an astonishingly large assortment of items thanks to eBay's Anything Points program.
Anything Points are eBay's own form of currency. Each Anything Point is valued at $0.01 USD and points are stored in an eBay member's PayPal account and used just like real money to purchase items on the eBay site. And, unlike previous miles-for-shopping schemes (remember MilePoint?), Anything Points can be used to cover the entire purchase price, or just a portion of the price. So, if you're $50 bid for that six-slice toaster with super duper ejection springs comes out on top, you could pay with 5,000 Anything Points or 2,500 points and $25 additional from your PayPal account.
Now for the bad news. Those who choose to transfer their frequent travel miles/points into Anything Points will suffer a significant devaluation. AAdvantage miles convert at a rate of 13,889 miles to 10,000 Anything Points -- and that's one of the better transfer rates. Midwest Miles convert at 20,202 to 10,000; Asia Miles at 22,222 to 10,000; and 10,000 Hilton HHonors points convert to just 1,000 Anything Points. It doesn't take a math wiz to realize that this puts the value of your miles at less than one cent when transferring from any of the airline programs, and one-tenth of a cent with Hilton HHonors.
And a quick look at the program's Terms and Conditions revealed some more troubling aspects, such as:
- "Members should consult with their tax advisors regarding the accumulation, conversion and use of Anything Points" (we all know that frequent travel miles/points aren't subject to taxation, but what will the government think about a form of currency that can be used as cash?)
- "If there is no Activity in a Member's Account in a twelve-month period, a service fee of 100 Anything Points will be deducted from the Member's Account per month" (in other words, if you aren't very active on eBay, don't convert your miles/points into Anything Points until you absolutely have to, and then only convert the minimum you will need to make the purchase)
- "Anything Points ... are not transferrable upon death, as part of a domestic relations matter, or otherwise by operation of law"
So, if you have a few orphan miles sitting around doing nothing in one of these partner accounts, you might be able to put them to use on eBay -- but on the whole you can certainly get better value out of your frequent travel program's own award chart.
One other point to consider -- though there are currently precious few ways to earn Anything Points other than through transfers (the only other way to earn points currently is by signing up for Sprint service), the points can be converted back to airline miles and hotel points, albeit, at a substantially lower conversion rate than when moving in the other direction. Someday, when more ways to earn Anything Points are introduced, the program might provide another useful alternative to top off your frequent travel accounts.
To learn more about the Anything Points program, go to http://anythingpoints.ebay.com/index.html.
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