Domestic Mileage Redemptions: Yay or Nay?

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This is an issue that has come up many, many times before, but it got brought back to the surface in yesterday’s Avios post.  The issue at hand is whether or not domestic/short-haul redemptions are a good use of miles and points.  I think there are very clearly two main types of miles and points collectors.  There are those who collect miles and points to use solely for long-haul trips, often with multiple stopovers, and often in a premium cabin.  That type of mile collector is getting a very high cent per mile (cpm) value for their miles.  For example, if they are spending 100,000 miles to fly on a ticket that normally costs $10,000 (and some international premium cabin tickets can go for much more than that), then they are getting 10 cents per mile “value” for their redeemed miles.

Then there are the miles and points collectors who will use their 100,000 miles to obtain four domestic tickets to fly to a vacation in Colorado, Florida, New York, or to Grandma’s house.  Let’s say that each of those domestic round-trip tickets could be had for $300 each – that would bring this family’s total to $1,200 value for their 100,000 redeemed miles.  That is a 1.2 cents per mile value.  It isn’t hard to see the argument that the far-better value for miles and points is to redeem them for expensive, long-haul, premium cabin travel, because in this case you are getting over 8x better cpm value for your miles in the first example than on the latter example.

I’m no fool, I get all of that.  However, a cent per mile ratio is not the only way to value a redemption opportunity.  There are lots of reasons that people travel that are far more valuable than any simple cents per mile equation can account for.  I have said this before, but most of the time my family isn’t traveling for the experience of travel itself, or to visit some luxurious destination, we are traveling to see people who don’t live within driving distance to our home.  In our case, those people happen to live domestically, so that is where we need to go.  Last time I checked, our middle-class budget (unfortunately) doesn’t often have $1200 extra dollars in it to obtain some domestic tickets.  True, we could afford that once a year or so, but I have no desire for Little C to just see her family members once a year.  We need miles to see family and build valuable memories for our daughter.  Miles and points are the only way that can happen on a regular basis.

In fact, I wasn’t nearly as serious about obtaining miles until our daughter was born almost two years ago.  Prior to that, I had the “luxury” of not being overly concerned about how often we saw our family members.  You could say I had my head up my own @$$ and was a bit self-centered until she came along.  I’m sure I still have some self-centered tendencies at times, but I certainly know the value of having family in your life, especially for C.  That is why I believe that domestic mileage redemptions are not only a very good value for some families – they are the undisputed best value for many families.  Spain, Easter Island, The Maldives, and Tokyo will always be there (well, more or less), but people unfortunately don’t last forever.  Kids grow up and do their own thing.  Grandparents get old and can’t travel to Disney World with you anymore.  We are making the most of the time we have together now in a way that makes sense for us and domestic redemptions play a key role in that equation.  My little family will get to some of those further off places in time, but that time isn’t right now.  I know there are many others in similar situations.

It frustrates me when I see comments on blogs and message boards basically making fun of people who redeem miles and points for short-haul trips.  I have very thick skin and I can guarantee it isn’t going to make me second-guess the way my family redeems miles, but that isn’t the case for everyone.  I know that some who are newer into the miles game can be very confused by those comments.  I have personally received many emails from people wondering if they are making a mistake redeeming miles to go to the Grand Canyon or another relatively close destination.  My answer is always this…..if there is award availability to somewhere you want to go, and you want to use your miles to do it, then do it.  The cpm’s do not matter.  If it makes sense for you, then it is a good value.  For some that will mean an around-the-world trip with multiple stopovers in several exciting countries.  For others that will mean flying from Houston to Wichita.  The traveler is the only one who can really determine the true value of either of those two redemptions.

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  1. Here’s the thing about those 1.2 cent redemptions: If you use a cash-back card you can almost certainly do better than that. So that $1200 that you don’t have lying around probably could be if you switched the CC patterns (assuming those points come from CC spend and not actually flying).

    I’ve used miles before for a few different short-haul or domestic itineraries. There are a few destinations which simply never see discounts on revenue fares but which seem to have decent award availability. Alaska and various Canadian destinations come to mind (like this one).

    But if I were earning most my points from CCs and only getting 1-1.5 cpm value I’d be seriously looking at cash-back cards. No need to show loyalty or to hunt down those 25K award seats. There’s a ton of potential value there if you’re just buying the cheapest fares rather than showing brand loyalty.

    • @Seth, very true, but if you are like me that cash would just get meshed in with all of life’s daily expenses and wouldn’t actually go towards travel. If you are a person who has the ability to funnel that cash into a separate account and save it, that may work very well. The other reason a cash-back card may not solve the issue is you aren’t always getting just a 1.2 cent value even on domestic travel. Sometimes you certainly are, but sometimes the tickets cost much more and miles somewhat shield you from that actual cost. One of the reasons I love cards like the Sapphire is that you can take advantage of low priced tickets by using points as cash, or redeem them as miles when the cash price is high, or just cash-out and use the points as “cash” on other purchases if you really need to. Great reminder that cash-back cards are actually the way to go for some families. 😉

  2. Preach on, Mommy Points. Redeem your hard earned points and miles for whatever you want to redeem them for. I splurged for Biz Class with my 100,000 BA miles last weekend, but I probably shouldn’t have. I won’t change it, but while 100,000 miles for Biz Class on a trip of a lifetime will be great, I’m the type who would rather have multiple trips with those miles than just one high end trip. That’s not my style. Even if you’re getting great value, there’s always an opportunity cost in making that purchase. Choosing a 1st Class flight instead of economy to Tokyo might carry the opportunity cost of not being able to take a 2nd trip to Paris on the same miles.

    Your Miles Experiences Will Vary 🙂

  3. Thank you for this post! I unfortunately was too close to one of those interchanges today on another blog, and it stung. I have a family of 5 and am a cancer survivor. After that experience, my plan is to stop putting things off and to show my husband and kids all the places on my bucket list, which mostly are places I love and they haven’t seen yet. A lot of those are domestic (Grand Canyon, Rockies). My husband and I have already been to Asia and Africa, and I’ve been to Europe. Everyone has their own things on their bucket list and their own reasons for their choices. You fill a very needed gap in the miles-points blog arena for those of us who don’t want to consider traveling without their little ones right now and who are focusing on flying many people domestically rather than 1 or 2 people first class internationally.

  4. Generally Nay, but having said that my wife and I used 65000 (32.5K x 2) miles this year for a trip NYC-LAS where the regular fare would have been $450+.
    Overseas flights is definitely the best value and use for miles but I guess it is highly subjective decision depending on fares, planned trips and amount of miles you have.

  5. Good post as usual! You know mommypoints, I never had a trip where everybody in my family was there and we were able to relax. Since I come from a closely knit family, it hurts to think about it since I’m getting older year after year along with my parents. I think it’s great that you are taking trips with Little C so she can cherish these memories. Yes, there’s the possibility of her not remembering the trips right now but the trips in the future she sure will. Once, she gets old as you said you can start doing your trips to Tokyo, Maldives, Bali, etc. etc. and enjoying the premium cabins! 🙂

  6. Nice post. We all fly the way we want and value points in our own way. Heck I cashed in my 50k SW AIR points for $600 sams/Wal-Mart gift cards for free food so I would not have to fly SW. At the same time I can fly all my ski buds to SLC for free in coach on AA (7 of them) for the cost of 1 first euro trip on BA…..hmmmm…

  7. Thanks Mommy Points for your fresh perspective. Personally I enjoy the premium class points but each person has different reasons and objectives for flying so go for what makes you happy.

  8. No big deal, use 25k miles all the time for my sis domestic trip where ticket would be always 500$. Not flying internationally any time soon so why hoard miles?? so that they become adios miles. 🙂
    Yes if ticket was prob 200$, it would have been altogether diff story but def not using miles for 60$ tickets

  9. Here, here MP! (or is it hear, hear?!) I’m not quite sure why people are so quick to get snipey/ judgmental, but at the end of the day it’s about what makes sense for each person, and no matter how much of an expert someone is, they will never have all the answers for everyone! For some people, the redemption is going to be all about CPM, and that’s fine. For others, it’s about memories made on that trip, and it’s something you can’t put a price on. Who’s to say you can’t have as much flying coach to Kansas as someone flying business to Bali 🙂

  10. I’m with you 100%. I collect points so that I can travel with my wife and kids. Your type of collecting definitely mirrors what I do more so than that of many other bloggers so I appreciate what you do.

    For domestic travel, the cards that work well for us are those that mirror cash, more or less, like SWA or Citi TYP. I wish Avios worked well for me but I don;t live in a Avios gateway city so I don’t think it’s quite as good. (BTW, do you know why Alaska Airlines cities dont seem to show up in the calculator? Do you have to call those in? Or does Avios not work with Alaska anymore?)

  11. I think there is a third type of collector. 🙂
    i redeem tickets in either business or economy to go to exotic location but relatively short haul.
    example. singapore to Mongolia round trip in business for 30000 miles (before the change of award chart).
    or HK to Cairns in economy (and receive complimentary upgrade) for 30000 miles. or 20000 miles to marshall islands from Xining, China. or going to Tibet from Bali. They are mostly complicated trips in Y from one so-called exotic locations to another.

    I normally have a cheap revenue ticket to fly to the region, and then redeem cheap award ticket to exotic locations. i am neither a domestic flyer nor long-haul premium flyer.

  12. The way I figure it, you’re only getting 10 cpm for that premium cabin redemption if you’d willingly spend $10k for the same ticket. I certainly wouldn’t! To me, travel is all about the destination; I wouldn’t pay extra (whether cash or points) to get pampered en route.

  13. I completely agree with you, Mommy Points. Almost all of the points/miles blogs out there are geared toward the high volume business (or young/single) traveler who travels in business/first then wants to redeem their points/miles for extreme luxury travel to exotic destinations while ‘leveraging’ top tier loyalty program status into further luxury. But for me – and I imagine, the vast majority of people – the reality is that we want good points earning opportunities to allow us to do ‘routine’ travel (domestic flights with stays at regular hotels) to visit family, take (reasonable!) family vacations and occasionally splurge on a fancy weekend.

    Thanks for being the points world reality check!

  14. Great post! Exactly, I think the consensus is that the miles should be redeemed based on the needs of the individual. Pricing wise, the best ‘value’ would be for the premium long haul, but that doesn’t negate the fact that domestic redemption still offers plenty of savings (rather than a direct out-of-pocket expense).

    A family member wiped out all her miles to treat the family on a trip on domestic first. Did I warn her that it’s not the best value? Did I warn her that domestic first on a legacy airline can’t compare to international First? Yes, and yes. And did we still end up having one memorable trip/vacation? You bet.

    If I have to choose between sitting in international first (which is a real treat) and having more friends and family come with me on trips (but in coach) I think I would still opt for the latter.

    In terms of my actual redemption, I’m basically all over the map and have redeemed for international and domestic in both premium and economy cabins. I’ve used miles and copay (a birthday present for someone), and also spent miles on hotel (using valuable Starwood points for that one). Having said that, I always weigh when it makes sense spend the cash vs using the miles, and generally do not redeem miles at or under 1 CPM.

    At the day of the day, the redemption just needs to make sense for the person using them.

  15. Great post as usual, MP! With two young kids in the family, four coach tickets are a lot better than two biz tickets. Take them to places when they still want to travel with you. 🙂 I don’t pay too much attention on cpm, either. If I can get higher redemption, great. If not, so be it. That’s why I never buy miles or points, or even spent money to get them at rate of 0.5 or 1 cpm, because the benefit is marginal. To me, CC signup bonus is the gold mine for my family low budget travel.

  16. Your post reminds us that the term “value” is highly subjective when it comes to miles and how we use them. We need to figure out what we currently value most in our lives (as well as what kind of experiences we value most) and utilize those miles accordingly!

  17. I like the perspective you bring in your blog and your posts. Though I personally do not use miles for domestic redemptions (unless absolutely necessary – and that is rare, maybe 4-5 times in the last 5-10 years), I do recognize that for some families, it is the only way to maintain some sense of closeness by helping to bridge distances.

    My family is fortunate that even though we have family on the opposite coast, they, and we, are able to travel multiple times a year to see each other. But clearly not everyone is in this situation.

    As I think you know, I am very much the “more bang for your buck / leverage the value” miles redeemer, preferring to spend the 300,000 miles on 4 international first class tix (thanks BA Chase Visa 2-4-1s) to “save” $48000 in cost.

    But having a seemingly (fortunately) endless cache of miles because of my elite status (and the 2x earnings that come with it) also means that I don’t worry about spending the miles for large redemptions in one chunk, nor do I think much of spending $300-$400 on tickets for myself or my family.

    If there is one thing I would suggest to you is that IF it’s possible, try to acquire elite status on at least one airline, and when you redeem, redeem or your family, but buy your own ticket to earn the bonus miles. Once you start to accelerate and multiply your earnings, you have much more flexibility in where/when/how you redeem.

    Again, on the whole, I appreciate the value you bring in your writing and in sharing your experiences. Keep up the great work.

    So mya

  18. Great post!

    I also like to think of my miles as an insurance policy. A couple weeks ago a rental property we own in another state had a plumbing issue and flooded. We had to get there ASAP. Instead of paying the $800+ airfare, we were able to redeem 25K Continental points. That’s a great return on a domestic ticket in a pinch. I did the same thing earlier this year to get to a funeral on short notice. Sometimes miles can be a lifesaver!

  19. I always thought that the 10cpm arguments are ridiculous. Few ppl at flyertalk would pay $10k+ for a 1st class ticket. The comparison should be to what you are willing to pay. I use points to visit family or bring them to us. I only consider coach. I could get my family here ~twice as many times in coach compared to business/1st class. To me, the value of seeing my family twice as many times is much greater value. For some people it makes more sense to focus on using a 2% cash back credit card such as Capital1 for domestic travel.

  20. Right on Mommypoints. With children, the entire equation changes. Do you think I would leave my 1 year old (or future 2 year old, or 4 year old…) in a first class cabin, even if I had a million miles? And going to far flung places is fun but would I want to deal with the time zone changes and all the other details of caring for a baby in multiple new cities?

    Almost all the big blogs are written by single or recently married young people with no kids. If they mock our use of short haul flight award tickets, then their lack of perspective gives them little credence. BTW, we’re heading to Maui this week with our little guy and we are looking forward to the flight!

  21. +1 on @Seth’s comment. Low CPM does matter in measuring value when you’re comparing lower value redemptions precisely because cash-back cards enter the picture. I think CPM becomes less of a precise measure of value when you’re getting into mega-redemptions that you would never pay cash for (e.g., for me, 120,000 skymiles for an $18,000 roundtrip biz class ticket to Seychelles).

  22. After going to the Chicago DO, I, too, have realized that people collect and spend points for quite different reasons. As for me (and my family), it is ALL about the destination and not so much about getting there that matters. I have not flown on a PAID ticket for probably 8 years. I use my points to get there (x2 or 4) and only pay for the taxes. My gig is international travel. That is what I love and I do feel guilty using miles for domestic purposes, which does keep me from flying domestically as much as I should, (as I know there are some great places here in the US to visit.)

  23. I’m young and single, so I’m in the “blow your miles on grandiose redemptions” camp, although that might change in 10 years. But the people who brag about getting $10K tickets for 100K value are overvaluing their miles, since few people would pay $10K for that ticket.

    For example, I just redeemed 120,000 Delta miles for business class when an economy class ticket for the same days was $2000. If I was paying I’d probably go up to maybe $3000 for business class, but Delta was selling business for $7200 = no go. So the value of the 120K miles was more like 2.5cpm instead of a higher 6cpm. In fact, it was 80K miles to fly in coach, which would have been the same value for miles.

  24. hi MP, we are a middle class family who lives in Hong Kong. this BA avois devaluation has made it impossible for me and my family to fly back on economy and visit my parents in the states. so i guess my little D will not be visiting their grandparents in Washington DC this year. your point of view is valid but limited to having family living near by (a hub).

  25. I would prefer to use my miles/points on international premium awards, but I can now fly RT to ORD for 9K miles!! That means, on a short notice flight, those miles are worth over 5 cents!! The bad: the only AA flights from BUF are to Chicago so I need to connect to go anywhere else. (= more Adios, ah I mean Avios points).

  26. I have been waiting a long time for a blogger to write this post.
    Having been at this points/miles game for years, I have met quite a few of these scornful “maximizer” types. Eventually you will find that many of them are male and in their 20s and childless. Often they work in technical fields and are obsessed with efficiency and “value.” I can often pick them out by sight, having once had some of those characteristics myself.
    They are in general too young to understand that people have immensely varied life circumstances that come with unpredictable timelines. They may not have spouses/girlfriends. They may not have to worry about elementary school schedules. They probably don’t have aging or ill parents or siblings. They possibly don’t have crushing student loans. They probably don’t run their own businesses. They may not own a house with a mortgage.
    All these things can put a serious crimp in one’s flexibility and cash flow.
    They often don’t truly understand that children have a “life cycle” and that getting your daughter to Disneyworld when she is 6 with her aging grandparents for that one-time trip may be more important than ANYTHING else, the points/miles cost be hanged. If you don’t have the money and need to get 5 people RT to MCO right now, you may only get 1.2 cents on your points, but you do what you have to do.
    So always do what’s best for you and be happy and ignore the catcalls from someone who has no idea of the constraints under which you live.

  27. I agree completely. Just last weekend we flew to see the grandparents (3 day weekend). We couldn’t have taken the trip if we drove as it would have been impossible. Everyone uses them for different reasons that is why there is a variety of different ways to redeem.

  28. @Seth – I think you miss the point of sign up bonuses. With the “new norm” of 50k sign-ups that is basically $500-750 for travel off the bat. Cash-back cards rarely come with sign-ups over $200 credit. For ongoing spend I agree with you more, though even there you can get better value often from domestic points than pure cash

    @Everyone else – I agree with Mommy on this one. In fact while I have had some remarkable experiences in CX F, BA F etc etc I would say probably the most enjoyable vacation our family had was a couple of weeks in California where the flights (which would have cost us $2k for four of us) cost us 100k miles. A lot of the hotels we stayed at were on points/FFNs (e.g. St Regis Monarch Beach). The BIG problem with a lot of the FT/mileage/blogging crew is they quickly end up in the mindframe where the trip is more important than the actual destination.

    Now the new Avios model which makes short haul domestic trips very cheap has real uses. Twice a year I take my family from RDU to NYC for a nice weekend in the big city. Usually I spend around $8-900 on the flights. So let’s take the mid point which means my Avios points are worth 2.36cpm. This is real worth as this is spending I absolutely would make without doubt each year (we always go labor day for the tennis and christmas for the nice vibe). Now my Chase card earns me 1.5 ba/avios miles per $ spent (not to mention the 100k they gave me upfront). So value wise I am getting 2.36 * 1.5 = 3.54% effective rebate rate. God bless anyone who can find a cashback card that rebates across the board at 3.54%! And then all my airline bookngs I put on my Amex PRG card at 3x points. And I converted a big chunk to BA with a 50% bonus so effectively earned 4.5x on those points. With a conservative value of 2.36 then I was being rebated a whopping 10.62%. That is a very good use of points no matter how boring a 500 mile American Eagle flight may seem next to a 7000 mile jaunt in CX F

    And of course one has to add that many of these high end redemptions are only possible because of the points. Nobody in this group would actually pay $25k to flight JFK-HKG in CX F. So the value calculations are very off. But for domestic trips, these value calculations are very fair as these are the kind of spends people actually make

  29. Great, great point. We all need to assess our own situation and act accordingly.

    How much effort will you put into earning points? What’s necessary, what’s important, and what’s just nice? What are you willing to give up?

    We fall into the young childless couple category. In our case, I put too much time into this hobby but constrain the money we put in. Meanwhile, we also moved away from family so getting back to our very dispersed family (within the US) is important.

    In our case, I throw gobs of time at accumulating points of all sorts (esp. sign-up bonuses) so we can have it all… Lots of “poor” domestic redemptions so we can save cash on trips we’d have taken anyway which can be used to faciliate the spending money on an occasional big, premium trip.

    Then again, if we have kids, my time will become more valuable and will change the dynamics once again to a model where we earn fewer points (due to time) but have to spend more points!

    Just thinking about it has me planning out our next big churn to keep building those balances up (I’ll avoid the whole mileage devaluation and whether to burn or accumulate discussion).

    When the sign-up bonuses are factored in, I think we’re all doing better than with a straight cash-back card.

    Happy travels from the concorde lounge at LHR! 😉 After returning though, we visit family “up north” for Christmas on a domestic 32.5k delta redemption with a “poor” CPM and are looking forward to it!

    — msp2msy

  30. international first class redemptions are the biggest waste of miles out there. Business class for long haul is more than adequate and provides tremendous value.

    like toomanbooks has posted it must be the WOW factor for some. All you doing is flying in an aluminum tube for X number of hours. Be comfortable, read a book watch a movie or go tp sleep. it doesn’t take first class to get that done in comfort. Business class will work just fine.

    we use our miles all the time for domestic coach flights. if I’m getting two cents per mile, it is more than 8 times what I paid for the miles getting credit card sign ups.

  31. Great post and POV MP!

    I personally don’t have a lot vested yet as I am just started, but I see it as the loss of potential or choice in regards to using mileage for these biz or first class award tickets that were very reachable with the old system. I guess there is no “free lunch” at the premium levels.

    As I mentioned earlier, it would have been nice to fly our family to SG via BA on CX for free (as this is my wife’s version of domestic), but maybe we will use it for conventional domestic travel to see family and friends in the midwest and left coast. We are fortunate enough to live in a hub (NYC) so it would make sense to use it that way. But, it would have been nice to fly biz on our trips to SG. Those 20+ hours aren’t so bad in coach (SQ, CX, NH – not legacy…) right now, but as the two kids get bigger (use up more of their chairs) and a third coming, the upgrades would have been handy…:) just saying…

    btw, did you ever sign up for the Ink Bold?

  32. i would go balls-out southwest on this one. both husband and wife should get both of the chase (personal and biz) cards totaling 200k points between them. additionally, get an extra 10k points (pretty easy to do, transfer 30k marriott if you want), or spend 10k and you’ve got the companion ticket.

    play it properly and you’re looking at over $5k value in domestic airfare.

    thanks MILFpoints for pointing out an entirely different side to the miles game.

  33. @ toomanybooks & phil –

    Don’t be suprised when BA fill’s the loophole on AA domestic redemptions with YQ. That will change the value proposition a bunch.

    The value depends on individual situations. But the standard of CPM is still the one that works. It all really comes down to where you set that bar.

    I can tell you that the only thing that makes Avios anywhere near appealing is the fact that BA now gives 100% RDM on all fare classes. But as a lifetime AA plat earning a 100% bonus on RDM, those paid tickets have a nice effective boost when I credit to AA.

    We need to enjoy the large sign up bonuses while we can, the issue is the at banks are chasing a shrinking pool of eligible low-risk CC customers. When/if that pool expands again, you will see the large bonuses start to fade away. This really won’t effect me because I earn 80% of my miles the old fasion way… Flying.

  34. @purplnurpl

    Be careful on the biz&personal WN offer. New reports are coming out that they are only awarding the bonus on one card.

    I guess someone at WN is actually watching the numbers of CP’s and adjusting accordingly.

  35. Great post, which generated good response.
    I’m doing my bucket list and I don’t even use miles for flight! Too many of my miles come from renting cars; but I’d need that rental car anyway!
    In the earlier years of my life I saw alot of country staying at Motel6. Now I use my points and miles to stay at hotels that I would normally consider beyond the range of my travel budget.
    The biggest mistake I see frequent travellers make is not having a really clear idea about what reward they personally truly want to get from their ff activities.
    And a secondary mistake I see is failure to understand is that in general the older most people get the more they appreciate Dorothy’s words, “There’s no place like home.”

  36. @Cory, enjoy the heck out of your 100K trip and don’t look back. You can choose to redeem for two flights next time. 🙂

    @CU, I saw that exchange yesterday and it was actually one of the reasons I did this post. People laughing and answering sarcastically essentially at domestic mileage redemption questions just got to me. I’m a huge proponent of do what works for you, and that is different for everyone. I started this blog to help others who were in a similar situation as me, because while I very much love and appreciate the other blogs out there, they didn’t exactly speak to what I was doing. Congrats on beating cancer and I look forward to hearing more about your travels – wherever they may take you!

    @JosephMay, I agree it all depends on the situation. Domestic redemption when flight prices are high is a good solution.

    @Jimgotkp, well said and I hope you are able to have a nice relaxing time with your whole family soon.

    @deltagoldflyer, gasp – you used miles for gift cards! You are hereby banished from the miles and points community. 😉 Ha ha – way to do what worked for you. Sounds like a great trip with your ski buddies!

    @Chris, thank you. I hope to enjoy the premium class travel at some point myself. 😉

    @dracs, so true. Miles pretty much never go up in value, so hoarding large numbers probably isn’t advisable.

    @Kris, I agree that being judgmental really helpful or necessary. I agree that you can’t really put a price on memories – if you could, I would be rich. 😉

    @bluecat, I am happy to be able to help. I’m not sure that you could ever book Alaska online. When I looked yesterday, I couldn’t find any clear info so I am guessing you have to call in. Let me know if you find out!

    @Alan, you are right that there are endless numbers of types of collectors and redeemers. Sounds like those trips worked out well for you. Good job!

    @Elizabeth, very true. I would love to be pampered, but getting there is by far the most important part for me as well!

    @Todd, I really do think you are right. I love reading about the luxurious travels that are written about on other sites, but I highly doubt that is how the majority of people travel, or need to travel. I hope to travel like that some at some point, but the much more common redemption for me will be the short domestic hop.

    @BOShappyflyer, you don’t sound all over the map, you sound like you consistently do what is best in any given situation. That is awesome. Good job!

    @Allen, the sign-up bonuses are a gold mine, no doubt. Very true that our kiddos may not want to travel with us forever (though they should – ha ha!).

    @Ted, absolutely.

    @Jetsetr, I appreciate your comments, especially coming from someone who does usually redeem at a maximum cpm rate. I also do hear where you are coming from with purchasing one seat to maximize the EQMs while saving miles redeeming for the rest of the family. I think we will get there one day, just probably not quite yet.

    @Man of 1000 Places, so true. My mother-in-law just flew last minute to be with a dying relative. The ticket cost $1000, but it was available or only 25K AA miles, so the choice was clear. Fantastic insurance policy.

    @chaos, seeing family twice as much is the better choice in my case as well – at least for most family members. 😉

    @Charles, I think kiddos change every equation! Ha ha! Have a blast in Maui with your family, that sounds amazing!

    @Andy, it is important to make sure that your spending is being maximized for your situation. Credit card sign-up bonuses also come into play here, but daily spending should be evaluated on a case by case situation.

    @worldtraveller2, do what works for your family. If international travel is your thing, that is great. I would say don’t feel too guilty if you do visit places in the US. I have been some amazing places here as well. Or, just use cash here and miles overseas. Whatever works for you!

    @AK, good for you for doing those trips while you can! I agree that cpm calculations are a bit skewed when you would have never paid that much to begin with.

    @david, I am very sorry to hear that you no longer have the miles to make a visit to family. My point isn’t that I am glad the Avios system changed, my point was simply that it is still a good program for some people – just maybe not the same people that it was good for before. It sounds like in your case, it is no longer a great value. I hope that you are able to find a new way to get back to visit family. Maybe time to focus on a different alliance or program. Good luck and let me know if I can help.

    @JohnnieD, it is good to know how and when to maximize for your situation. 9K to ORD last minute sounds like a great value in your case.

    @toomanybooks, I couldn’t say it better myself if I tried.

    @boilers, we did the same thing last weekend and it was well worth it.

    @Phil, thanks so much for sharing!

    @CU, he did say it well!

    @msp2msy, way to maximize your current situation while still keeping an eye on the future!

    @Rick i, you crack me up! Thanks for weighing in!

    @Singapore Flyer, it is kind of nice when the kids don’t actually take up all of the room in their seat. 😉

    @purplnurpl, I agree that SW will be a great domestic option for some families and maximizing the credit card sign-ups is a great way to do that.

    @eds1830, always a possibility. Take advantage of the current situation because it is guaranteed to change one way or another in the future.

  37. I love this discussion. What a great topic you’ve chosen, Mommypoints – clearly a nerve has been struck!

    Just wanted to add to those making the distinction of “those with families and how they redeem vs. those without and how they redeem” debate. They are not necessarily distinct and separate.

    As an addendum to my earlier post, my family consists of my wife, me, and two sub-8 year old children. We love travel, both the transport and the destination. We travel domestically and internationally. And let me say, that those long-haul trips are definitely easier in Business or First than in economy, so in my case, the value of spending 75K-150K for a child’s ticket is absolutely worth it? Now would I spend $10-$12K out of pocket for those seats? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that that’s not the price at which I value those seats. This is where leveraging miles really adds value in my particular situation.

    Again, I’m not taking “sides” in this debate. I agree wholeheartedly that each family’s situation is different, and the value of points and miles means something different to different people.

    I just wanted to share my perspective that even those with young kids like to travel in the front of the plane as well. And I reiterate my perspective that if mommypoints can acquire even basic elite status and start to earn bonuses for her paid flights (and redeem awards for her family members only), that this *might* be a way to increase leverage, and change the perspective and value she currently derives from miles and points.

    Again, great article and subsequent discussion!

    • @Jetsetr, trust me, as soon as the economics make sense, I think having elite status would be a very useful thing – especially now my preferred airline (Continental) will be United with Economy Plus seating. That alone is a strong argument in my case. Just haven’t quite convinced my bank account that it is a strong argument quite yet. Always great to hear your thoughts.

  38. Great post! I have a 6 and 4 yr old. We’re excited to use our points/miles to experience Latin America and Europe with them, but I also want to take them to NYC, Yellowstone, and CA. These domestic trips will be just as valuable an experience as international travel.

  39. Each air program has it’s bargains and rip-offs. Example the new Avios is a bargain for east coat big cities to Mexico and Carribean and west coast to Hawaii.

    But most domestic coach rewards are poor value. About 1 cent per mile used. About the same value as redeeming for gift cards (which many people do too).

  40. @toomanybooks – my friend. We think alike. Redeem your points for what you like; for what you want to do. Be smart about it, but don’t do something you don’t want to do just because it gets you a higher cpm. That’s like buying junk you don’t need simply because it’s on sale. For instance… I could use my miles for two Biz to Hawaii on a two week trip and be pampered. Or I could take two additonal friends/family of my choice instead and sit in coach (for less miles). For me, it would almost always be the latter. In the end I’ll make the choice based on what I want, not what gets me the higher cpm.

  41. “If it makes sense for you, then it is a good value.”

    True dat.
    As a person who has done RTWs and has never lost the thrill of planning my next big trip, I acknowledge that what I want from my miles isn’t what the next person necessarily wants. Your comment is accurate…we’re all different…and that’s what makes the world go ’round. ;~)

  42. I am with you! I try and use my miles and points to be smart, but I often wonder about people thrilled to get a $15,000 first class seat on a plane. Is that award really worth that? I mean would you pay that for that seat? If so you probably don’t need the miles and points to fly anyway. I say use your points for what makes sense for your situation…for what you enjoy!

  43. Yay!
    Not only for domestic travel but also for short-haul international.
    It works perfectly for my flights from MEL-SYD-AKL, 50k with BA miles, only 29k with Avios in Business! That would have cost over $1200, of course I would not be able to afford premium class without the miles. Not a bad redemption of 4.1 CPM.

    And DFW-CUN for 30K RT (3.2 CPM) in Business, I will take that.

  44. After reading all I can for the past 7 months about miles and points, I really like the phrases “do what makes sense for you” or “do what you value the most.” Not everyone has the time or ability to take an F trip around the world and get the most “value” for their points and miles. I wish I did – that would be a dream. In my case I knew I wanted to get back to Asia, where I grew up. I do not have the ability to pay for a complete trip like this out of pocket. With our 200K BA miles, my wife and I can get to Asia for significantly less than one coach ticket across the ocean. That’s affordable for me. I chose business class because I’m 6’ 8” and sitting that long crammed in coach is something I want to avoid.

    Great – we get to Asia, but where do we stay? Hotels can cost a premium in cities like Singapore and Hong Kong, and as grad student, I can’t afford that. We don’t need the most luxurious accomodations, so redeeming MR points for HI or CP stays is something I value. Sure I could use my 100K MR bonus points for another premium flight or even two nights at a fancy IC property, but I value staying for free and I can do that for 4 nights at an HI or CP.

    In a couple years, we’ll do this all over again with our AA miles, but this time for my wife’s first trip to Europe. In between, I forsee a couple domestic redemptions to the east coast to visit family.

    I don’t know what my long-term future holds, but I know that by using miles and points for what makes sense to me gets us 2 weeks next year in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore (flights and hotels) for about $1100 out of pocket. I can save $100 a month for a year to cover the travel expense for a trip that I would never have dreamed I’d be taking.


  45. I am probably the only person in the world who has redeemed 50,000 miles for a ticket to Detroit, and I don’t regret it one bit. I wanted to go to a Michigan football game and see some of friends.

    For those of us who don’t always have cash on abundance but earn more miles than we often know what to do with, domestic awards make sense. It is a good way to justify the pure extravagance of that weekend bender in Ann Arbor or simply flying to Mexico for the weekend because I was bored at home and wanted to sit on a beach. In both those cases if it wasn’t for the miles, I simply would have saved the cash and stayed home.

    The miles will always be there, and for those of us who make a hobby out of earning them, they will be there in abundance. The experiences and memories are what are the most valuable.

  46. I think this is a great post…ever since I stared reading this blog, I’ve always understood that it’s from a more family (with kids) perspective, and while I am not in that situation, it’s always been interesting to hear about deals intended for that perspective. There were useful things that come out of this perspective that apply widely, such as your pursuit of the US Airways Grand Slam.

    There are plenty of other people focusing on upper class international redemptions, such as Ben, Gary, and Brian, so I don’t understand why people have to come on here and complain that you’re not say the same things as the others…why don’t they go back to hanging out at other blogs and get max cpm??

  47. To me the question isn’t which is better as that is subjective…the only bad thing is a FFP where short domestic redemptions are the primary sweet spot…which is Avios’ problem

  48. Hi Mommypoints- I’m very glad you put a fresh perspective on the Avios program and getting awareness of the flexibility and value of short hauls under the new program. I do agree with you that we now have another tool available to us for short-haul flights.

    I also do really believe that losing the amazing international with unlimited stop-overs using BA miles was a huge blow. There are few other (if any) programs that did this, so losing this option is really what everyone is so upset about. With short haul flights, you still had the LAN award option(or pay by cash 🙂 ). But now, I don’t know of anything that can compare to BA’s old international award program (OneWorld distance based awards is similiar, but nowhere the value of the South America/SE Asia awards you use to be able to get on BA).

  49. The airlines inflate the first class ticket prices hoping that the wealthy or certain business travelers will pay it. However, most who sit in premium seats aren’t paying the full retail price. I flew first class to Hawaii and many other places for free when my dad worked for Delta. Others who sit in first class include elites that were upgraded for free, people using system wide or reward upgrades, people using miles to upgrade, people using miles to buy first class, people paying to upgrade, airline employees, or those who bought an instant upgrade ticket. Very few actually pay the full first class fare so it’s using Enron accounting to say you’re getting 10 cpm unless you’re actually willing to pay the 10k for the ticket. If the airline decides to inflate the ticket price to 50k, are you now getting 50 cpm? Of course not. As others have said, the best way to value your miles is to do what brings you the most joy.

  50. ‘If you are a person who has the ability to funnel that cash into a separate account and save it, that may work very well.’

    Statements like this are usually made by people who think that ‘this dollar’ is different than ‘that dollar’, and as such are very poor money managers. Actually, you’ve already confirmed that for us by your allusions to a ‘second house’ that you are unable to sell.

    I suggest you go back and take a course on micro-economics and don’t quit your day job.

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