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Sunday Reader Question: Are US Airways Miles Useless?

by on August 26, 2012 · 38 comments

in star alliance, Starwood, US Airways

TPG reader Pierre asked a great question regarding the usefulness of US Airways Miles:

“I have 40,000 US Airways miles, but unlike United miles I don’t see a lot of options to use them. US Airways doesn’t allow one-way award bookings, neither on their planes nor on Star Alliance partners.  Do you have any suggestion? Is there any way to transfer those miles to somewhere more useful?”

I agree that United miles are superior, but US Airways miles are by no means useless. USairways.com is just a horrible website for booking awards. US Airways is part of Star Alliance, which means you can use your Dividend Miles to book awards on all 27 carriers, plus other partners like Qatar and Virgin Atlantic. However, you need to call 1-800-428-4322 to book those awards. You should understand their routing rules and restrictions before calling, though.

Check out this post for my rundown on maximizing Dividend Miles, and just know that many people can push the routing rules to the limits because many US Airways phone agents are poorly trained, which you can use to your advantage.

My recommendation to you would be to increase your balance so you can book one of their gem redemptions, like 60,000 mile off-peak business class awards to Europe (55,000 if you have the US Airways Mastercard) or 90,000 miles roundtrip to North Asia on Star Alliance partners like ANA, Singapore and Asiana.

US Airways makes it pretty easy to rack up miles – they often sell miles at around 1.8 cents a piece and hopefully they will run their lucrative Grand Slam promotion again this fall.

Neither Chase nor Amex points transfer to US Airways, but Starwood Preferred Guest points transfer at a 25% bonus per 20,000 points transferred, so if you got in on the current limited time 30,000 point Starwood Amex offer, those 30,000 points would transfer into 35,000 US Airways miles, bringing your balance up to 75,000 (if you also got the business version, you’d be at 100,000 miles). The Barclay’s US Airways Mastercard also has a 40,000 point sign-up bonus with first use, which is a quick way to increase your miles.

Update: The 30,000-point bonus is no longer available. The bonus is now 25,000 points for the Starwood Amex business and personal cards.

So, don’t lose hope. As always with redemptions, the key is being flexible and using your hard-earned miles and points for the award that best suits your needs – or even finding one that you hadn’t taken into consideration before.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • James K.

    I had 40,000 from the Mastercard and planned a Spring Break trip for 2013 to Panama. Not as sexy as intl business, but it only took 35k miles and I’m excited to go

  • PJ

    OHHHH NO!! Dont waste the 30K SPG points for 35K US AIrways dividend miles . Buying to top off a reward is probably best way to go.

    US airways is a star alliance partner. However it was treated by Air China as a second class partner as compared to Aeroplan or United. And with Dividend miles I dont get to book the domestic flights which I can book with United . Would love to hear other readers’ experience.. ANybody knows the fuel surchage on Singapore ailrine to Far East ?

  • Dave Op

    Maybe it is just my luck, but everytime I have a trip and try to use US Airways miles, the miles needed are the at high level. So for me, I ranked US Air miles below Delta.

  • Mike

    No mention of the Barclays USAir Card? Even if the person looking for help already has it (since they have 40k miles it sounds like they do), maybe someone else reading this would think its a good idea. What about the Biz Barclay card? These are far better options than transferring SPG points. But there is a blogger referral for one of these cards, and not for the other.

  • Slomo63

    I’ve had great success using my USAirways miles (maybe due to my travel flexibility to be able to hit off-peak times). I’ve used them several times for first class off-peak travel to Aruba for my wife and I, and within the last couple of weeks, managed to secure 2 business class tickets from CLT to the Maldives with a stopover in Munich for a few days! The trip winds up taking us all the way around world and, ironically, only has 1 leg on USAirways. Without the info I’ve picked up from spending time on blogs like TPG, I probably never would have realized I could book that type of trip with USAirways miles!

  • thepointsguy

    My point about Starwood is that its one of the best transferrable partners. But you make a good point about the Barclays US Mastercard since it is 40k with first use so I added that in as well.

  • thepointsguy

    Maldives via Munich- nice! Are you flying Austrian?

  • thepointsguy

    If you redeem on partners the miles are always at the low level.. trick is that you have to call. US Airways/ Star Alliance is way, way, way better than SkyTeam/Delta as a whole

  • thepointsguy

    Nice- its not about how many cents per mile you get- its the person satisfaction from a redemption that matters most (in my opinion). Enjoy Panama and check out this post if you need a rundown of Panama City http://thepointsguy.com/2012/04/destination-of-the-week-panama-city-panama/

  • http://twitter.com/TheDealMommy The Deal Mommy

    I had success using 40k US air miles for a RT first class ticket to Vegas for my husband’s best friend. Best. Gift. Ever.

  • Adam Cash

    I’ve been wondering the same thing about usefulness. I’ve have a ton of UA miles, so feel like I’ve got access to Star Alliance inventory. How valuable do you see building up Dividend Miles via getting credit card, Grand Slam, etc. vs. using churns to diversify into AA and working on hotel points (Priority Club, Hilton…have already maxed out SPG opportunities). Thanks for the advice.

  • dale m

    Just got back from a trip using USAir miles, to Greece via Brussels – 3 airlines (plus domestic commuter) United, BrusselsAir, and Aegean, all first / business, note that none was on USAir. Worth the aggravation!

  • Schmenge

    …not when they become US AAmericanways miles…

  • iahphx

    US Airways miles are INCREDIBLY valuable, because you have access to the unequaled Star alliance inventory. And they have some great award level redemptions, like biz class to Asia. 40K won’t get you that far, but every year you can get a free US Airways credidt card for a 40K bonus, so it’s not hard to build up a balance by doing pretty much nothing.

    As a point of reference, I used 70K US miles for a coach trip to S. Africa (nonstop on SAA), with a stopover in Europe on the way back. Award inventory is excellent, as long as you stay away from US flights.

    But it seems like most folks just don’t know how to do these things.

  • Suzannehendrix

    Good luck getting one of those US Airways off peak biz class awards to Europe. It’s only from Jan 1-Feb 28 and the seats are very few and far between-especially outbound.
    That being said, I do have a ton of miles on US Air and I always search for flights using United’s (the old Continental) search engine, and I then call quickly to use my US Airways miles to book. Usually works.

  • Suzannehendrix

    Same here, Dave. Never can find seats on US Airways.com…as bad as Delta. Have to use United.com to find seats.

  • Slomo63

    No – Turkish Airlines. CLT-MUC via Lufthansa; MUC-IST-MLE via Turkish; MLE-SIN-ICN via SQ; ICN-ORD via OZ; ORD-CLT via US. Use the Air Canada website to find availability – only took a couple of hours to nail down the itinerary and book the tickets. It’s our 25th Anniversary next year, so we wanted to do it up right. Cost 120,000 miles/person + $180 in fees.

  • Iris97

    On a somewhat related note – I purchase several R/T tickets every year for my son to fly direct from DCA to BTV where we live. We have a small airport, and USAir has a monopoly on this direct route – if I book far enough in advance it costs $230 but goes up from there – holiday times of course cost more. Not too terrible, but I typically am spending over $1000 annually. I usually book through Ultimate Rewards because I think that is more valuable than booking through USAir for miles. I also have an Amex Gold. Is there a strategy to get more value out of this frequent purchase?

  • http://milevalue.com/ MileValue

    Per the US Airways award chart PDF, Qatar awards are temporarily unavailable. I assume that “temporarily” means “permanently” since United’s partnership with Qatar ends permanently on 9/14.

  • Brian L.

    Awards on VS are only available in economy, I believe.

  • Mtpohl

    Been doing it for two years in a row now.

    Feb 2012: 30k mi, RT ATL-FRA, plus $120 fees.
    Feb 2013, 35k mi, RT ATL-FRA, plus $170 fees.

    SWEET!!!!

    Of course, it ain’t non-stop! But I can deal w/ a lay-over in CLT and/or PHL. Plus, US Airways Lounges are OK. I use my Amex_Pt for access.

  • Billlll

    Brian-

    What are your thoughts from both a points prospective and also a consumer prospective regarding the possible AA-US Airways takeover…

  • Stephan

    Nicely done – especially SQ and OZ!

  • arcticbull

    You can book the exact same domestic inventory within the US you can with United miles through US Airways miles, with the exception of some United Express routes, which United blocks from all partners. Also, US Air doesn’t charge fuel surcharges at all, so Singapore to the Far East is $0. But don’t plan to fly in Business or First, as Singapore keeps all that award space for themselves over the atlantic and pacific.

    If you’re referring to domestic awards within China on Air China, I’d be surprised if US Airways was blocking it like they do Lufthansa First. They should have the same access as everyone else, but you may have to ask the agent to long-sell or direct-sell it if they can’t see it. They really hate doing that though :P

  • arcticbull

    [edit] I looked at the chart again, I guess this is a Business award. Looks pretty good :) Enjoy yourselves, happy anniversary!

  • arcticbull

    Can you even redeem on Austrian anymore? I can’t ever seem to find space. I flew them November 2010 from VIE-IAD and their food and service were really stunning for a Business product. I’d love to fly them again, but I can’t find a single seat over the atlantic, ever :(

  • arcticbull

    My bet is on AmericanAirways :) But still, I wouldn’t mind using Dividend Miles on Cathay!

  • arcticbull

    Good review, the only thing I don’t like is that you implied you could use a 90K North Asia Business award on Singapore. Unless there’s another error/feeding frenzy you’re never going to be able to book a Singapore long-haul award. Those days are long gone :( You can probably snag something intra-asia but they will not release any seats to partners over the atlantic or the pacific.

    If you want to fly SQ J/F longhaul you’ll have to transfer miles to KrisFlyer from SPG or Amex. I’m looking forward to my SFO-HKG flight on SQ1 in First. 70,000KF miles + $128, so not entirely unreasonable!

  • arcticbull

    They’ve been “temporarily” unavailable on QR and RJ since about 2006 ;) I’m not going to be holding my breath either haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deepakvalecha Deepak Valecha

    Since i moved back home, ive noticed a gem of an intra-south asia redemption – 30k miles for business class – im holding out for an award on my dates on the sole 777-300ER BOM-SIN flight, dont want the angled flat 772 :/

  • SWHEEL

    If the USAir website does NOT show low-level award availability but the ANA DOES show award availability on the same flights–does that mean that if I call USAir, they’ll be able to book those tickets for me at the low mileage rate?

  • T3pleShot

    +1, this has got to be one of the best values out there. I booked MAA-BKK-DPS roundtrip in business for 30k miles. Thats 4x ~4 hour flights in business with access to orchid lounge/spa!

  • Mike

    I’ve got 78K us airways miles and I wanted to get 2 award tickets to fly DFW to YHZ next summer for 50K. On Usarways.com they wanted 60K miles for 1 return ticket! I called the star alliance number and gave them 2 options on United/Continental and Air Canada (as looked up on Aeroplan.com) and they said they don’t have access to either itinerary. Is US Air the red-headed step child of the star alliance??
    I called twice, got put on hold twice and was basically shot down off twice.

    Any suggestions?

  • Pingback: United Domestic First Class for only 50,000 US Airways Miles | The Points Guy

  • Suzannehendrix

    I think my problem is that I have to fly outbound from PHX and I run into stumbling blocks getting to the point of European departure. I never can seem to find a ticket both ways in that time frame. I think the whole trip has to be on US Airways to get the lowered miles requirement.

  • Haterus

    My wife and I are using 80,000 Us Airways miles each to fly RT from Denver to Brisbane, Australia
    next year. We booked the tickets on Star Alliance partners–United and Air New Zealand. The total
    cash outlay for taxes, fees, etc was $328.

  • Antonio

    Don’t bank on the conversion being too good to one world lol

  • Varun

    Any tips on how to earn us airways miles sitting in India ?

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