Beware: The Incredibly Misleading “MagsforMiles” Program

You’ve probably heard of the “MagsforMiles” program, or at least received one of their letters imploring you to buy magazine subscriptions with your frequent flyer miles.  The program partners with most domestic airlines — Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, United, and US Airways — and sends it sales pitch to anyone who’s enrolled in one of those airlines’ loyalty programs.

MagsforMiles

You know the pitch.  It starts with a warning that your miles are about to expire, and then notes that you can avoid mileage expiration by purchasing magazine subscriptions with your miles.

But here’s the thing – sometimes your miles aren’t about to expire.  In these cases, the MagsforMiles letter will strongly – and I mean strongly – suggest that your miles are about to expire.  Here’s a great example that Eleni received last week, and keep in mind that her MileagePlus account is very active and her miles aren’t actually set to expire until November 30, 2014.

United Miles for Mags

The top right-hand corner of the letter wastes no time in communicating the gravity of the situation: “Important Notice / Respond by 6/14/13.”  This must be some sort of deadline.

The first line of the letter reinforces its serious nature: “A records review indicates you have 6,710 available MileagePlus award miles.”  They’ve reviewed my records – this sounds important.

Next, the heavy-handed threat:  “Please be aware the MileagePlus members are required to earn or use miles at least once within a consecutive 18-month period to preserve their active membership status.”  How would this warning make any sense if my miles weren’t going to expire imminently?

And finally the chance for redemption:  “Use this opportunity to keep your account active by using your miles for the premium magazines provided on reverse.”  Sold.  I don’t even care if your magazines are premium.  I’ll take’em.

And just for good measure, in the P.S. line: “please be sure to act before the June 14, 2013 deadline.”

* * * *

I can’t help but respect the devious bastard who crafted this language and figured out how to tip-toe so elegantly along the fine line between incredibly-misleading and patently-false.  The letter never actually states that your miles will expire if you don’t “act” before the completely artificial “deadline,” and yet it communicates the message so clearly!

In any event, don’t fall for this ploy.  You should absolutely be mindful of mileage expiration, and the MilesforMags program can be a good way to prevent expiration from occuring, but don’t buy magazines in a panic on the assumption that the purported “deadlines” in the MilesforMags letters are, in fact, deadlines!

  • Angry

    In addition, after your 1 year “free” subscription expires, your credit card will be charged for another year at a highly inflated price. You will not be asked to authorize this transaction and you will not be provided with a receipt or any notification that your credit card was charged. I don’t see how a class action lawsuit hasn’t been filed against this company, YET….

    • shadows

      where did it ask for cc info?? Nothing on my letter remotely comes close.

      • germtan

        It’s not asked for in the letter or form you fill out, but it is asked for if you order online. I am going to get a new credit card so that they cannot do this. btw, they screwed up my order anyway. They totally “eliminated” one of the subscriptions and duplicated another.

    • THINK ABOUT YOUR ORDER FIRST!!!

      I used several thousand miles to order 6 different magazines from Mags for Miles. After receiving the magazines in the mail, I am not really satisfied with 3 magazines I selected. I suggest going to the library or a book store to view the magazines before making your selections and placing your order with Mags for Miles because THEY WILL NOT MAKE ANY CHANGES OR ADJUSTMENTS ONCE YOU PLACE YOUR INITIAL ORDER. I asked if I could swap the 3 for different choices – they would not allow any changes – So, I have 3 magazines for the next 2 years that I will not enjoy! BE VERY CAREFUL – THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE ORDERING BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY PLACE THE ORDER.

  • Bob

    This company is no-doubt politically connected. After 1-year the charges appear on your credit card and you cannot have the entire amount removed, only a portion. Unethical, evil. They may be getting wealthy but some day they will pay – in this life or the next.

  • Linda

    I received a letter yesterday. I’m very glad I saw your article, thanks!

  • ok with this

    how can they charge a credit card?, they never ask for cc info when you order the magazines. i agree the whole expiration thing is misleading. but frankly if i have a small amount of miles which i will likely never use for air travel getting a few free magazines for a year is fine by me.

    • Tony

      I use Mags for Miles all the time – at least four magazines been subscribed to on and off for a few years. Mags for Miles have never asked for a CC card #. The only correspondence I get is from the publication as renewal comes up and the publication asks me if I’m interested in paying to subscribe. I’ve never taken the publishers up for their offer as I prefer to use Mags for Miles for free magazines.

  • Homer Simpson

    They *never* charge your CC – because they don’t require CC info. Letter is very mis-leading, but the program is legit. I am a mags4miles user for some time now – with no complaints. At the end of the subscription period – it just ends – no auto renewal, no CC charge.

  • LW Sparks

    Please not that Delta changed its Skymiles Program a couple of years ago. Miles no longer expire and that at Delta’s request MilesforMags has corrected the verbage used when soliciting Delta Skymiles members.

    • Leslie

      i just received one today for delta with exactly my miles are expiring by 12/12/13 verbiage

      • Rachel

        I received a similar letter from Delta. I would check the verbiage very carefully, mine does not mention that my miles will expire.

  • Infrequent Delta user

    Although they have changed their wording and no threat of losing your miles is used, I am SO GLAD I read these as I was just going to use the miles to mags since I don’t use Delta much. But, when I saw they said we ‘had to follow the rules’ for the Delta skyMiles program, I got suspicious. Then I see that the magazines are automatically renewed. I got the funny feeling that might happen so thank YOU so much.

  • Mike D

    So glad I saw this when I googled for their website. Thanks for making sure I didn’t waste my miles, or worse!!

  • Grateful!

    THanks a bunch – this article prevented me from using my miles needlessly. Just checked the delta.com website and miles NEVER expire :)

    • snarkylarky

      yeah thats delta, what about United??

  • Michael

    They do ask for your CC, *IF* after you place your order for the mags that are redeemed with miles, you take them up on their offer for additional 1-year subscriptions to other “special offers” for some trivial amount: $1-$3. In the rilly, rilly tiny print, they do say that they will auto-renew these “special offer” subscriptions once the initial period is up, but yeah, it’s buried in the fine-print..

    FYI, I’ve used miles, for mags that I want and used up miles on airlines that I don’t fly frequently enough to build up enough miles to get a free ticket. I’ve had no issues, as long as I don’t fork over anything other than the miles…

  • Smarter Now

    Thanks! I almost fell for it! The “NO CASH COST” should have been a red flag.
    This really is underhanded.

  • Lord Bowdon

    Not sure why anyone would provide a credit card. I use this service every year to utilize my kids miles from one trip a year they might take on my non-preferred airline.

  • Cheap Bastard

    This does not ask for CC#. I actually love magazines for miles, it’s a bargain compared to the price of a ticket. For the 25k miles it takes to book a $250 ticket, I can subscribe to the Economist and Wall Street Journal for 5 years, which is something like $1000 benefit. Been doing this for years, and I’ve never been charged real money.

  • Frequently Flying

    I am a frequent mags for miles user (every couple of years at least). I agree with the original article about the letters being misleading, but the program is totally legitimate. I have NEVER had a credit card charged, or anything autorenewed. My guess is the people on here saying this happened to them obviously did more than just redeem their miles for magazines. They signed up for additional issues or something additional, because if all you do is rdeem your miles you should have no problems. I have never given my credit card info to anyone when redeeming my miles. I am sure most of these folks think they have been truly wronged, but that is just not possible if you only redeem your miles and nothing else. It is a very easy process. For me the hardest thing was choosing what magazines to get so I got the most for my miles. Nice article and very appropriate for an english teacher to discuss in class. The pen is mightier than the sword, sometimes.

  • Bob

    I have done this for years with no problems until NOW. I used USAir miles to renew my print Barrons a few months ago and no Barrons account, and miles have been deducted. Having issue getting this straight at the moment.Any hints?

    • Fred

      I tried to renew my Wall St. Journal subscription using miles and encountered a similar issue. I reached out to Dow Jones (the publisher for Barron’s and WSJ) and they informed me I could not renew my subscription through this offer, as Barron’s/WSJ are only available for miles to new subscribers only. That being said, it’s odd your miles were deducted. I would contact the airline to see if they can get that sorted out for you.

  • Fred

    Sounds like really great marketing to me… I’ve got to hand it to whoever came up with that copy. I bet it’s extremely effective.

    • Kyle

      Agree. Deceiving? Absolutely, Immoral? Probably. Unethical? Maybe. Smart? Absolutely. Illegal? Absolutely not.

  • seemjay

    My first notice also came 6 months prior (Dec) to my expiration date (June), with a “deadline” of the following month (Jan) and when I didn’t respond, I got another notice in Jan with a deadline of Feb and so on. So the “deadline” was malleable . . .

    • bryan

      I just did it and the reason folks are getting charged is because there is an option for mor mags for $2 each, to the left it says no thanks. It’s grey so it doesn’t pop out at you…..point, READ

    • seemjay

      I received email confirmation of my two mags and I see this when I log into my MP acct, with correct 1,500 miles deducted from my total, AND the expiration date for my miles has been updated from June 2014 to Aug 2015. So far, so good.

  • Stupid me

    I thought the magazine was free, so did not mind to pay extra $2-3 dollars for the magazine I picked. I did not write down the date, so when the magazine expired after one year, my credit card automatically got charged huge amount for the four magazines I picked. When I called them to cancel the magazines, the refund was very little and I found out the $70 I paid for the magazine actually was only for 6 months of subscription. Now everything is digital, so the magazine business can hardly survive, who can they charge from $13 to 26 dollars per 6 month subscription? I guess this is the way the company used for getting their customers. Unfortunately, this way doing business turned me off. I will never order anything for them again! I also advise everyone be aware the huge bill that later they are going to charge you!

  • Alex

    The site is absolutely LEGIT. I’ve used them for years and never paid a dime (but a very good use of my 3,200 Delta miles for a 1-year subscription to the Economist).

    • Dontbe anass

      Bull Crap. All these guys saying this is legit are paid bloggers to come out here and try to justify and sucker in the uninformed. THEY DO ASK FOR CREDIT CARD AND THEY WILL CHARGE YOU. Not on the first screen, but they say “oh, give us your credit card for automatic renewal” But they will charge you.

      • CannabisIsNotEvil

        Um, no. I’ve been using this for years. I don’t fly often, so the little miles I do accrue are enough for a few good magazine subscriptions. I’ve never been asked for a credit card because I’m only redeeming miles. Stop being upset at others and be upset at yourself because you didn’t read all of the text presented to you.

  • Will

    Thank you for this information. I was about to subscribe to some magazines with my wife’s miles that “expire” in 2 days. I went and looked at the airline’s site after reading this article… lo and behold the miles don’t expire at all under current policy.

  • Almost Duped

    Holy crap! I almost subscribed to 6 magazines that I kind of liked and would’ve lost 7000 miles for nothing. I pride myself on being a skeptic but these guys are smooth. After reading this article, I re-read my letter. It said “don’t let your miles remain unused”. Why? I can if I want. They aren’t going to expire. I was almost duped. Thank you Points on the Dollar. :)

    • CannabisIsNotEvil

      the subscriptions are legit though…. even if the pitch is slimy.

  • snarkylarky

    wait, this is confusing, so the miles expire or they DONT expire??

  • rosa

    I just subscribed to a few women’s magazines. So far I’ve received CIGAR AFFICIONADO and INC – which I never ordered. I think they’re dumping their unpopular magazines on me – like a big bait and switch. Anybody else have this problem?

  • Steve

    This program works great. I am diamond on Delta but occasionally fly a different airline. I never will have enough miles on other airline for flights, so I get tons of mags for free each year. They never ask for a CC and I have never had wrong magazines or anything else show up. I am about to order another year of mags right now with some old united miles.

  • Sarah Petroske

    Thank you for the many comments. After reading them all, I decided that this is a scam; and even though I only have 7000 miles, they DO NOT expire (according to USAir). So I threw the scam letter away, and now feel myself advised. Who knows, I may use this airline again to gain more points for future travel. Also, in as much as there were problems with getting the correct magazine order and having CC charged for some people, I will not take the chance.

    • CannabisIsNotEvil

      it isn’t a scam. the expiration of the miles is never really directly mentioned – it simply says this is an easier way to keep your account active in case you don’t plan on traveling between now and when your miles DO expire. the subscriptions have always worked out for me – i have never been asked for my credit card… and the people who have given a credit card paid to extend or add a subscription. They didn’t read the “fine print” and are taking it out on the company. I personally didn’t see it as a scam because I always received whatever I ordered – and usually faster than anticipated.

  • caroljo

    I have gotten my Wine Spectator Magazine through this offer for many years. It is a $50 magazine – where else can you get a deal like this? No problems at all.

    • MarkN

      Here’s what happens. You get your free magazines, then after the completion of that transaction it says, “Thank You” “Your order is being processed”. When you see that you can scroll down to another offer that says, “You’re entitled to something more”. “Choose your favorites for just $2 each”. “Select up to three and see details below”. If you pick up to 3 of those magazines you have to give your credit card information. Right below it, in small print, it indicates that those magazines will be renewed at whatever the full price is when the prescription runs out. Don’t go for that unless you are organized enough to follow up and cancel the subscription 2 months before it renews. I don’t do it because it may cancel all 3 magazines. I get the free magazines, only.

      • MarkN

        I meant subscription, not prescription. I’m disabled and am on a lot of medications. That is a very easy mistake to make if you were me. I apologize.

      • AlinPA

        This is what happened to us. I missed the fine print. When I saw the charge appear on our credit card, I called the number and managed to cancel and get a refund fairly easy. I figured they must get a lot of cancellations since the whole call was an automated systems.

  • David

    Hi All, it seems that a lot of readers have interpreted this post to suggest that the MagsforMiles program was fraudulently obtaining credit card information, charging credit cards, or somehow not delivering the magazine subscriptions as promised. I didn’t mean to suggest anything of the sort. I simply meant to highlight the fact that the program often sends highly misleading letters that falsely suggest that one’s miles are about to expire.

  • Tom

    I just got one of these letters, and wasted time looking over it carefully for the fine print. I came to the same conclusion as the author, but I wanted to hear what the rest of the world thought about this slimy practice by the MagsForMiles people. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t fall for it and recognizes it for the scam that it is. When I see this kind of stuff (along with similar scammy letters from car dealerships, etc.), I make a mental note to never, ever, ever patronize these companies. I don’t want one penny from my pocket to reward these slimeballs for using obviously-deceptive advertising.

  • dhee

    Soo how am i gonna cancel Automatic Renewal? I ordered 7 Mags!!

  • MG

    Just received this letter and was about to place an order, and chanced upon your article. Thank you!

  • Leo

    Just got my letter and after reading this and then re-reading the letter, I’ll be damned. It surely does not say my mile points will expire but that is what I thought it said. Thank you so much for putting this out there!

  • http://www.joetaxpayer.com JoeTaxpayer

    The magazines I ordered on the Mags program all auto-renew after expiration. So instead of a gentle ending of delivery I got reminders and late payment notices for these magazines, and had to write notes to ‘cancel’.
    I recently stated getting spam mail from companies they sold my name to. I know mags sold my name as I own a number of domains, and use a directed address, eg magsformiles@mydomain.net. This was a great way to see who is selling my email address to others.
    I’ll never use this company again.

  • Joe

    Just got hit with $150 in autorenew charges on my credit card from these “free” magazine subscriptions. Don’t know how they got my credit card information, and I sure as heck did not authorize $50/year renewal of three magazines.

    What a scam – makes me even think twice about supporting the associated airline at this point.

    • CannabisIsNotEvil

      It isn’t a scam. You just didn’t read. See MarkN’s post up above: “MarkN: Here’s what happens. You get your free magazines, then after the completion of that transaction it says, “Thank You” “Your order is being processed”. When you see that you can scroll down to another offer that says, “You’re entitled to something more”. “Choose your favorites for just $2 each”. “Select up to three and see details below”. If you pick up to 3 of those magazines you have to give your credit card information. Right below it, in small print, it indicates that those magazines will be renewed at whatever the full price is when the prescription runs out. Don’t go for that unless you are organized enough to follow up and cancel the subscription 2 months before it renews. I don’t do it because it may cancel all 3 magazines. I get the free magazines, only.”