When It's Worth Buying Airline Miles

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).

Mile 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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