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Buying Airline Miles For An Awards Ticket? Is It Worth It?

I got this email from US Airways giving me the option to buy miles with a 90% bonus. I already have 142k miles in my account because of the AMEX/SPG/US Airways transfer bonus I took advantage of in March.

Is it ever beneficial to buy miles? Yes and No… it depends and here is why.

If you already have miles and lack a few thousand from reaching a rewards ticket, then buying a few thousand miles might make sense. Where I find value in buying miles is from taking advantage of First Class tickets. The higher the cost of the ticket the more valuable your miles will become. With this current deal from US Airways, they are technically selling the miles to me at 3.5 cents/each, then giving me a 90% bonus, which will drop the cost of the miles down to about 1.8 cents each.

My wife and I are looking to fly to New York sometime this fall for a week get-away. Economy tickets from Alaska to New York currently cost $710/each. I really hate flying that far in economy class and would prefer First Class any day. If I had to buy the miles it would cost me $770.00 for 41,800 miles. The cost in miles for the same ticket is 40,000 plus $35/each. I would be paying more if I purchased miles than if I just purchased the ticket outright.

Cost of buying miles for an economy ticket from Anchorage to New York:

Cost Of Buying Miles – Economy Class

Cost of economy tickets flying from Anchorage to New York:

First Class is where I want to fly! This is where I find the most value and since I already have 142k miles I won’t be needing to buy any miles with this promotion. For 65k miles we can fly First Class from Anchorage to New York or we can spend $2,329 for the same tickets. If we were to buy the miles, 66,500 miles would cost $1,225. This is where I find the sweet spot.

Cost of First Class tickets flying from Anchorage to New York:

 Cost of buying miles for a First Class ticket, includes the 90% bonus:

Cost Of Buying Miles – First Class

I normally never buy airline miles just to redeem for a rewards ticket. Most of my miles come from either flying or from credit card bonus offers. Everything I spend goes onto a credit card that will either get me more rewards points or airline miles and therefore, I never have the need to buy miles. I would also never ‘pay’ for First Class because I can always get it for free. When my wife and I fly from Anchorage to New York we will each spend between 50k-65k miles for a First Class ticket, which cost us nothing, but the taxes and fees. The same two tickets would have cost us close to $5,000!

Buying airline miles is only worth it if you need the few thousand miles to reach the rewards ticket price, otherwise spend your time and money on building free miles through credit card offers and paying for everything you buy on a rewards card.

Flying First Class and saving close to $5000 is an awesome deal! What kind of great deals have you found and taken advantage of? Please share your experiences with us!

About Derek

I currently live in beautiful Alaska with my wife! Living in Alaska i have learned that it cost so much more just to travel anywhere! In order to fly anywhere it cost us an extra $250+ a ticket. We use miles and points to fly nearly everywhere for free, usually in First Class. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or why not signup to receive new blog post via email or in RSS reader
  • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    Agreed, buy miles to top off an account for an award, otherwise only when the math makes sense.  Sometimes it does, sometimes the deals are so good you just shouldn’t pass them up, but it goes back to having a firm grasp of what you are after.

    • http://www.thepointsguide.com/ ThePointsGuide

      I hope I never get into the position of ‘needing’ to top up an account just so I could take advantage of a current deal. I know great deals come and go so its more of a waiting game for me! Especially waiting for the AMEX/DELTA transfer bonus! Its been over a half year since they have offered a bonus transfer and my AMEX points are accumulating.. just past 600k points now!