Is It Worth Buying Miles From The Airlines?

I’m late to the game with these promos, I know. I’m so focused on getting miles for free that I tend to tune out opportunities like these, especially in a year like this one where the card offers have been incredible.

Just in the past half a year or so I’ve been able to pick up 100k miles twice (along with $400 in gift cards) on the Platinum card, the BA card, and a couple of AA cards, 75k miles twice on the Premier Rewards Gold, 50k miles on Sapphire, Continental, United, and Southwest. Picked up 2 free nights in a suite at any Hyatt worldwide. And I’m working on 80k on the Ink Bold. Gotta’ love all the offers out there! Between my 9 active Chase credit cards I could go and buy I house on them if I wanted to 😀

Not everyone is as crazy strategizing their next credit card churn though, so these offers may be of interest to you.

Through September 15th USAirways has a BOGO offer on up to 50,000 miles.  They normally sell 50,000 miles for $1,478.13 with taxes and fees and with this promotion you’ll get 100,000 miles for that price.  That’s a cost per mile of 1.48 cents.  Well if you account for the ~1,500 Starpoints you’ll also earn on the purchase (not to mention it will help you closer to spending that $4,500 you need to spend on your Starwood card to get the 30K signup bonus) and value Starpoints at a conservative 2 cents a piece then the cost is just under 1.45 cents per mile.
US Airways accounts must be at least 12 days old in order to buy miles.

-Through September 30th Delta is matching mileage transfer with a 100% bonus. Transfer 30,000 miles to a friend for a $330 fee and Delta will match the transfer, giving your friend a total of 60,000 miles. Rinse and repeat back and forth for up 150,000 miles transferred from an account and up to 300,000 miles that can be received in an account per year.  It’s a cost of 1.1 cents per mile, and more like 1.075 cents per mile after factoring in Starpoints gained on the credit card purchase.
-Delta accounts must be at least 10 days old and have already earned at least 1 mile to be eligible for the transfer bonus.

So is it worth doing?  With USAirways you have access to their vast network of Star alliance and non-alliance partners and a pretty decent award chart. Don’t expect to find partner availability on USAirways.com though, you’ll need to check that on a better site like Continental, Aeroplan, or ANA.

The real value here and of miles in general are in the premium classes on international flights. While a business class ticket to the far east would normally set you back $8.000 and a first class ticket $15,000, those can be had for a small fraction of that when using or buying miles.
Plus on an award you can check out 2 or more cities with free stopovers and connections.

If you need some extra miles to top off you account it’s definitely worthwhile.
Or let’s say you have 40,000 Starwood points. You can transfer those into 50,000 USAirways miles and then buy the remainder that you need to get an award.
But even if you are starting from scratch it can make sense.

USAirways rates from the US to/from:
-North Asia (Japan, China, South Korea, etc): 60K Coach ($870 at a rate of 1.45 cents per miles), 90K Business ($1,305), 120K First ($1,595)
-Europe: 60K Coach ($870), 100K Business ($1,450), 125K First ($1.813)
-South America: 60K Coach ($870), 100K Business ($1,450), 125K First ($1.813)
-Australia: 80K Coach ($1,160), 110K Business ($1,595), 140K First ($2.030)
-Israel: 80K Coach ($1,160), 120K Business ($1,740), 180K First ($2,610)

Delta’s saver availability is poor and their Skyteam partners are weak. Their policies like the new non-changeable/non-refundable award tickets within 72 hours of departure along with fuel surcharges on some partners like V Australia are just asinine. However at under 1.1 cents per miles there are definitely scenarios where it can make sense to “buy” the miles via transferring with the bonus.

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31 Responses to “Is It Worth Buying Miles From The Airlines?”

  1. zeke Says:
    1

    Dan,
    Can I transfer chase miles/points to delta (and then swap points with my wife to get the matching)? I know that I can easily transfer my chase points to continental, but what about delta? Also, is it worth it. For example, I would like to book three tickets to Israel sometime this coming year purely with miles. If I had, say, 60,000 miles and then did the transfer with delta and ended up with several hundred thousand miles, would that translate into such tickets?
    Thanks!

    ReplyReply
  2. Dan Says:
    2

    @zeke:
    AMEX Membership Rewards points and Starwood points transfer to Delta.
    Chase points do not.
    That said I would rather have 1 Continental mile than 2 Delta miles.

    ReplyReply
  3. Gabbai Says:
    3

    Not quite sure why you Dan and so many others slag Delta points off so much. Two months ago I booked a TLV-NYC return ticket in Business at the end of December 2011 for 120,000 miles and just $45 in taxes. That is a pretty good deal especially as the 120,000 miles came from transferring 80,000 miles from AMEX MR when they had the 50% bonus offer and a chunk of MR points came from bonus offers. The price of a revenue ticket in Buisness for the same flights is $3,600. Continental would cost me the same in miles and points but for my 80,000 MR points I would only have got 40,000 Continental miles.

    ReplyReply
  4. Bewildered Says:
    4

    Dan, I have to say you know EVERYTHING about this stuff! I only started following your flights stuff recently and i still very confused at all this stuff. But, i did get the 2 free nights at any Hyatt. Where do i start to get stuff like this?

    ReplyReply
  5. Ink Bold Says:
    5

    What did you mean when you said you are working on 80k ink bold? Is that targeted or can you get it matched?
    For business too?

    ReplyReply
  6. Ink Bold Says:
    6

    @Ink Bold: Found My answer in the forums. Haven’t checked it since last night….

    ReplyReply
  7. Yossi W Says:
    7

    Hi Dan,
    What’s going on with the BA switch to Avios miles. Please let us know what type of game they are playing with us.
    Thanks.

    ReplyReply
  8. Anonymous Says:
    8

    Wow, so i can get non stop to israel for sukkos for $1,160.

    Dan, i have 30k miles with delta, any way to tansfer those over to us airways, even at a loss?

    ReplyReply
  9. david Says:
    9

    dan

    where do you see the Bold for 80 000 miles?

    thanks

    ReplyReply
  10. Anonymous Says:
    10

    Also, I am new to all this. Are there any promo codes for signing up to usairways? or promo codes for creating a starwoods account and then transfer over?

    ReplyReply
  11. Someone Says:
    11

    You wrote it costs 1.1, thats before the bonus after the bonus its much less, right?

    ReplyReply
  12. Someone Says:
    12

    does anyone know if the transfer and bonus happen instantly or do they take a few days?

    ReplyReply
  13. Ben Says:
    13

    I also go two business class tickets to TLV with a stopover wach way in europe for 120 Delta each. With the Amex bonus, that is pretty cheap

    ReplyReply
  14. Dan Says:
    14

    @Gabbai:
    Miracles happen 😉
    The reason we hate on Delta has been a combination of terrible policies they keep adding that are making their mils worth very little.
    Also you get 80K Continental for 80K AMEX MR.

    @Ink Bold:
    It’s an offer you can try to get matched to.
    Although its much easier to get matched to other offers like 50K Continental, 100K Platinum, and 75K Premier Gold.

    @Yossi W:
    Hard to say at this point.
    Prices to Israel will go up, but Israel was never a good use of BA miles in the first place.
    Prices to Hong Kong and London will go down.
    Fuel surcharges will still be a rip-off though I’m sure as always.

    @Anonymous:
    Yes, if you find Star Alliance availability.
    You can’t transfer airline miles to another program once they are at an airline.

    @Anonymous:
    Nope.

    @Someone:
    No, you pay 1.1 cents to transfer 30K miles and Delta gives you 30K bonus miles, so you are paying 1.1 cents per mile.

    @Someone:
    Instantly!

    @Ben:
    Yup, it is a good deal as long as you are aware that Delta’s miles have many shortcomings.

    ReplyReply
  15. Anonymous Says:
    15

    thx. where can i go to check availability on star alliance? i am having errors on the us airways

    ReplyReply
  16. Dan Says:
    16

    @Anonymous:
    Already answered in the post.

    ReplyReply
  17. Deal Guy Says:
    17

    Dan, where do you see that BA to Israel will go up? From what I see, even though London to Tlv will go up, Nyc to London will go down, thus cancelling each other out.

    ReplyReply
  18. yuda Says:
    18

    Dan please let me know as of now what’s the best way to meet a spending limit is it amex gc or what? And please give all the info. What to do like the free shipping and waiving all the fees thank you

    ReplyReply
  19. stever Says:
    19

    Dan, Someone was telling me that virgin merica has a great rewards program with 3 points for every dollar spent. a typical flight from jfk-lax on virgin costs 15k points- so that is only $5000 spent as opposed to starwood you need to spend 20k. does this make sense or am i missing something

    ReplyReply
  20. Dan Says:
    20

    @Deal Guy:
    Israel was moved to zone 4 from zone 3.
    Either way it seems BA may be massively devaluing their miles when used for partner travel, but I’m not going to post about that until there’s more info to work with.

    @yuda:
    http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/15353
    http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/15503

    @stever:
    I’m not familiar with the program, but generally those programs are a poor value because when flights get expensive they charge a lot of points and they don’t have the option to travel internationally like the major program do.

    ReplyReply
  21. MILES Says:
    21

    is there any signup bonus for joining there dividendmiles program

    ReplyReply
  22. Gabbai Says:
    22

    Dan, sorry you are right 80K MR translates into 80K Continental. It is Starwood who have a 2:1 ratio of their points for Continental. To get 125,000 Continental miles from Starwood would cost 200,000 Starwood points in several transactions. Much better to convert to LH Miles and More where if you are an Israeli it only costs 105,000 for a Business ticket TLV-North America, even LAX and including stops both ways in Europe; that is 85,000 Starwood points. For TLV-EWR they will look for Continental availability for you.

    BA – Avios. Fuel surcharges and taxes within Europe on the new BA Avios Reward Flight Saver are a flat fee of about $38 in economy or $50 in Business. Given that some of the routes even in Zone 1 are reasonable length flights, within Europe BA are making their points worth much more. 9000 for London to Prague return or 20000 London to Moscow return with $38 in charges are quite good deals, if there is reasonable flight availability. They are moving Israel out of Zone 3, which will have the flat fee for taxes etc. which is why Israel will remain a bad use of BA Avios miles.

    ReplyReply
  23. Dan Says:
    23

    @MILES:
    No.

    @Gabbai:
    Lufthansa/Miles And More charges massive fuel surcharges.

    For Starwood points transfer to USAir where a business ticket US-TLV is 120K with no fuel surcharges and they can book you on any Star Alliance carrier including Continental.

    ReplyReply
  24. MILES Says:
    24

    when u use the sapphire preferred u will get 2 points per dollar

    ReplyReply
  25. Dan Says:
    25

    @MILES:
    And 3 points per dollar with the Premier Rewards Gold!

    ReplyReply
  26. Anonymous Says:
    26

    Dan, I found a ticket non stop perfect dates to Israel, but its 145k miles (sat night after sukkos).

    A) how many times can I transfer and rinse?
    B) how long does it take for the points to show in the account?

    Thx

    ReplyReply
  27. rivkie Says:
    27

    Someone told me they saw on your sight a credit card offer with 100k amex points. Can you send me the link or just le me know when it was posted so that I can find it?
    Thank you.

    ReplyReply
  28. shmuly Says:
    28

    Hi Dan, I already have 2 chase cards BA and co that I got on May, I applied yesterday for another 2 cards from chase I afraid they will tell me to close those cards to get approve for the one, if I will do it will I lose my BA and CO bonus thet I got on May? Thanks

    ReplyReply
  29. MILES Says:
    29

    @shmuly:
    No

    ReplyReply
  30. Shlomo Says:
    30

    I have a flight available right now on continental and I want to use my starwood miles to transfer it to one of the Star Alliance in order to book this flight. What can I do not to loose this ticket until the miles goes through.

    If I would transfer it to Aeroplan it can take upto 30 days. Until then, no doubt the flight will be unavailable.

    Any suggestions Dan?

    ReplyReply
  31. Mark & Stella Says:
    31

    Dan, Thanks for this incredibe site. We are with Delta we have “silver status” -basically worth nothing- an we’d like to switch to another program. what would you recommend? We travel mostly between LA and NY. Thanks in advance. Happy Rosh Hashana!

    ReplyReply

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