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Household Finances Why we hate redeeming reward miles, and other airline-perk bugaboos

Travellers at Pearson International Airport in Toronto

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

When it comes to travel rewards, not all airline perks are created equal. A recent survey of 150 Globe readers suggests while some upgrades are appreciated, many are just not worth the money.

The best travel perks are the ones you don't have to pay for, readers say, with customer loyalty rewards such as airport lounges with wifi and priority check-in services topping the list. "Time and organization are the most valuable commodities for people who travel a lot for work," one reader said.

Loyalty reward miles were frequently cited as among the worst perks airlines offer, mainly due to the administrative hassles that accompany their use. "You can never get a flight for a reasonable amount of points at the time that you want it," a reader complained. "Not to mention that the amount of fees and taxes is usually almost the cost of booking the flight with another airline!"

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"Airlines rarely offer the ability to use cash plus points for travel," said another reader. "Travellers are frequently required to purchase required miles at non-competitive rates."

Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents -- 71 per cent -- were not willing to pay for extra frequent-flyer points. Even among respondents who fly seven or more times a year, only 12 per cent said it was worthwhile to pay extra for reward miles.

The perk respondents were most willing to pay for was the privilege of pre-selecting their seats, with 27 per cent agreeing it was worth the extra cost, and 31 per cent saying it would depend on how much the airline was charging. Among frequent fliers, 40 per cent said it was worth the cost.

Extra legroom was also deemed to be worth an extra fee by 25 per cent of respondents overall, and 47 per cent of those in the frequent-flier group.

Few readers are willing to pay for early check-in (9 per cent) or a seat at the front of the plane (13 per cent).

You can see the full survey results here.

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