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US Airways is known as the official liquidator of cheap Star Alliance miles and they are back at it again this June with a 100% bonus on purchased miles now through June 30, 2012. Unlike some past promotions, this one isn’t targeted and there is no need to register as you will receive the 100% Bonus Miles automatically when you go to the Buy Miles page. However, one rule they have when buying miles, is that you must be a Dividend Miles member for at least 12 days, so sign up now if you are not and want to take advantage (sign-up here for a free account). This promotion limits mileage purchases to 50,000 miles (100,000 miles with the bonus).
The cost to buy 50,000 + 50,000 Bonus miles is $1,881.25, thus making it 1.8 cents per mile, which can be a great deal if you redeem for expensive awards.
Purchasing miles from a frequent flyer program is usually a high-price/ low-value way to add some miles to your account, and is generally only a last resort if you need to top up your account for a particular award. But every so often there are some purchased-mile bonuses that might be worth it to some travelers and depending if you have an upcoming award in mind.
Some people think that US Airways has awful award availability, but the main problem is that their website does not show any availability for the other 26 Star Alliance carriers. They have the same Star Alliance availability as United or Aeroplan, it’s just that they don’t show it on their website – you have to call 1-800-428-4322 to book an award and they will waive the phone booking fee since partner awards are not bookable online.
Note: These purchases are processed through points.com so they generally do not count as “Airfare” (for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold 3x category) or for reimbursements through the Amex Platinum $200 rebate.
Let’s take an example where this might be worth it. $1,693.113 ($1575+ taxes) will get you 45,000 base miles plus 45,000 bonus miles, for a total of 90,000 miles.
90,000 US Airways miles will earn you a trip to Asia in business class (Star Alliance award travel chart) from North America on any Star Alliance carrier. Those tickets easily go for around $5,000, so you’ve basically just gotten yourself a $3,700 discount.
Remember, don’t use usairways.com as a judge of what flights you can get – I recommend using united.com for award searches because the site also includes Star Alliance airlines like ANA, Thai, United, US Airways, Lufthansa, TAP, bmi and Air Canada. Generally, any Saver Award on united.com will be bookable with US Airways miles so you just write down the dates and flight numbers that show availability and then call in to book through US Airways. US Airways will let you put an award on hold, so I recommend holding the award you want before buying the miles.
The easiest way to check Star Alliance availability, in my opinion, is to use United.com. Let’s say we want to go from Los Angeles to Sydney – just go to united.com, enter the origination, destination dates and select the “Award Travel” dial. It will pull in options on both United via Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as partners like Air Canada via Vancouver. Any Saver level award (see the three columns below), should be bookable with US Airways miles and remember, when you use US Airways miles, you price the award at the US Airways level, which is only 110,000 miles roundtrip in business class for North America to South Pacific vs. 135,000 using United miles. It will automatically display United results first, so always scroll down to see partner availability. It’s not 100% perfect, but you can double check the availability using the ANA tool, which is a bit more burdensome, but more a more accurate judge of Star Alliance availability.
As always, it depends on your travel needs and the award you intend to redeem your miles for. If you are hoping for low-level domestic coach redemptions or even awards on competitive international routes, you’re probably better off just buying tickets. However, US Airways is a Star Alliance member and has a pretty generous award chart, so if you are hoping to redeem premium class awards on expensive routes with low taxes, then you could definitely reap some value from this promotion.
Feel free to post any questions about the promo or US Airways in general in the comments section below.
Offer available for purchases made between June 1 and 30, 2012, 11:59 MT. All purchases are non-refundable. Bonus miles will be awarded upon completion of the transaction. The maximum number of Buy Bonus miles that can be received by one member for this offer is 50,000 bonus miles. All miles purchased beyond this limit will not be eligible for a bonus. Offer is subject to change. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Share transactions are not eligible for bonus. Only purchases made online are eligible for the bonus. Miles are sold for $0.035 per mile plus a tax recovery charge of 7.5%. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents. Miles purchased through Buy, Share or Gift Miles do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred status. All other Dividend Miles Terms and Conditions apply. Miles may be used based on award availability at the time of booking. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift Miles. All purchases are non-refundable.