When It's Worth Buying Airline Miles

Jul 22, 2016 | 4 Comments

buy airline miles

Question: I’m planning to book a flight through Delta Airlines with my reward miles but I’m short about 1,500 miles from redeeming the flight. I know that I can buy miles to make up for the difference. But at 3.5 cents per mile, is it a good move to buy miles? I have the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, which earns 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile on everything else.

- Joseph F.

If it is an expensive flight that requires a large amount of miles to redeem, then buying miles would be a good move. For flights that cost fewer miles, purchasing miles becomes less attractive.

Delta charges 3.5 cents per SkyMiles in addition to a 7.5 percent federal excise tax. And, there is a purchase minimum of 2,000 miles. A single purchase for 2,000 miles will cost $76 -- the 1,500 miles is responsible for $57 of that cost.

Now, let’s say you are planning a week-long trip in August. A round trip flight from New York City to Honolulu requires a redemption of 65,000 miles. The flight costs $1,100 through regular pricing. Paying $57 for the missing miles doesn’t seem so bad because it is equivalent to roughly 5% of the regular ticket price.

Then, compare the above example to a round trip flight from New York City to Chicago, which requires a redemption of 32,500 miles. The flight costs $300 through regular pricing. If you paid $57 for the missing miles, you would’ve paid 19% of the regular ticket price.

So the right way to approach your decision would be to compare the costs of paying for the Delta flight regularly and through miles. You might be better off paying the regular ticket price for the flight, or consider a different airline with lower prices.

If you are going to purchase miles, be sure to use your Gold Delta SkyMiles card to make that purchase because you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent (it counts as a Delta purchase).

Miles Value by Airline

Airline Point Value (in cents) Notes
Aeroplan 1.2-3
Air France 1.3
Alaska Airlines 2
American Airlines 1.7
ANA 1.5
Avianca 1.7
British Airways 1.7
Delta 1.2
Emirates 1.2
Frontier Airlines 1.1
JetBlue 1-1.7 1 cent per mile for airfare.
Singapore Airlines 1.5
Southwest 1.4
United 1.5
Virgin America 1.5
Virgin Atlantic 1.5

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papersoul
Thursday, 05 May 2016 8:36 PM
<p>What? You can buy miles?? Seems like such a great thing to do if you have the Gold Delta Skymiles card. I've been wondering what to do with the miles I have considering I don't have quite enough to redeem anything. This really gives me something to think about.</p>
kelly_sheldrick
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 12:16 PM
<p>I have this discussion with customers all the time (I work as a travel consultant at Flight Centre), but to be honest I never know what to tell them as I don't really use air miles. I will have to refer to this post the next time I get asked.</p>
disqus_SnNZ1olkOI
Monday, 02 May 2016 4:32 PM
<p>If you can, postpone your trip a bit longer. That way you can earn more points on your credit card and you won’t have to buy any miles. They’ll be given to you as a reward.</p>
Sunday, 21 Dec 2014 3:36 PM
<p>It's also worth mentioning that many cards will let you pay partially with miles, but in this case you will not earn miles on the award flight, just like if you had purchased it entirely with miles.</p>