Q: 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.

photopixel / Shutterstock |
photopixel / Shutterstock

– Joseph F.

A: 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.

Start saving money in under a minute.

See how much you can save in just a few steps.

Get Started

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).


The 5 Best Airline Credit Cards: Spring 2013

Related Stories:

Top 5 Credit Card Bonus Offers for Summer 2013 Travel

Money Challenge Results: Does Clearing Cookies Mean Lower Airline Prices?

Credit Card Hacks You’ve Never Tried

Follow me

Simon Zhen

Simon is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations and financial technology.
Follow me
  • Nate

    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.