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In recent days I have been seeing many posts on other blogs about “so and so is offering 30% bonus on purchased points” or “100% bonus or 84.3% bonus if you buy 27,534 miles” (okay, that last one was added for dramatic effect). Regardless, it seems that either more companies are trying to provide incentive for you to purchase their miles and points, or these deals are just getting way more coverage than they used to.
Presumably like most of you, I like to get my miles and points “free” through credit card sign-up bonuses, 5x bonus spending category bonuses, hotel and airline promotions, etc. Of course they aren’t actually totally “free” even via those methods, but you know what I mean – I prefer to not open my wallet to buy my miles and points. However, even though I dramatically prefer to get my points the painless way, it can sometimes make sense to go ahead and just buy them outright. For this to make sense, a few general criteria need to be met.
1. The miles or points must be priced at a level below the value you will get for redeeming them. For example, if you want to purchase 50,000 miles at 2 cents a piece for a total of $1,000, then the flights you are redeeming them for should cost over $1,000. Also take into consideration that you won’t be earning elite qualifying or redeemable miles on the flights you are using miles for, so that can swing the economics of the decision as well.
2. In order to determine #1 you should either have an exact plan for how you will redeem the purchased miles, or at the very least a reliable general idea. If you know you need 50,000 more miles for your dream flight that would cost thousands if purchased with dollars, and you know the availability is there, then it can make sense to go ahead and buy the miles. Alternatively, if you know through history and research that the price the miles/points are selling for is definitely below the threshold you redeem for it can also make sense…if you don’t already have a stockpile of miles so large that you have no idea when you will possibly use them all (what a nice problem to have!).
3. You just need a few miles to top off to obtain an award. If you just need a few miles or points to redeem for the trip you want, then it can be worth it even if the cent per mile isn’t fantastic.
4. You have to have the available cash to buy the miles. i don’t care how inexpensive the miles are, if you don’t currently have the disposable cash to pull the trigger, then don’t give the deal another thought.
Bottom line is don’t buy just to buy, do the math and have a plan for the miles or points that you buy. The more specific and immediate the plan the better. I have bought US Airways miles before, and probably will buy miles again if and only if doing so will clearly benefit me based on the criteria above. For example, if you have the US Airways card, it cost 55,000 miles to fly off-peak to Europe in an Envoy Suite. To purchase 56,000 miles via the current 100% bonus promo (can’t purchase 55K exactly), it would cost $1,053.50 all-in. That is a big chunk of change, but it is also a pretty decent deal to fly round trip in a lie-flat Envoy Suite to Europe and back considering economy tickets to some destinations aren’t always that much less than that amount.
…of course that is dependent on availability, the award chart not changing, etc. However, if the stars align correctly, it is a pretty solid deal for what I hear is a good product. One week until I find out for myself! So, there is no one-size-fits-all answer on whether or not it is a good deal to buy miles and points, just use your head. With that said, here are some of the current limited time offers:
- Purchase 1,000 to 9,000 points and get a 10% bonus
- Purchase 10,000 to 29,000 points and get a 20% bonus
- Purchase 30,000 to 40,000 points and get a 30% bonus
- With the 30% bonus, points cost approximately 1.85 cents each
- Valid through February 6, 2013
- Get 100% bonus on purchased miles (though this is targeted to some degree)
- There are some service fees/taxes, and the max number purchased is 50,000 with a 50,000 bonus
- Miles as low as 1.88 cents each all-in
- Valid through February 28, 2013
- Up to a 50% bonus on purchased miles
- If you purchase exactly 40K, 50K, or 60K miles then you get a 50% bonus on miles purchased – other amounts purchased result in a smaller bonus percentage awarded.
- Miles as low as approximately 2 cents each all-in
- Valid through February 28, 2013
For many of us getting 50,000 points or more via signing up for a credit card makes more financial sense than buying a ton of miles, but like I have said, it can make sense to purchase some miles for time to time. Do you ever like to buy points? What is the threshold at which you pull the trigger?