US Airways 25-100% Bonuses On Purchased Miles Through March 31, 2013

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Much like my posts from last week on the 50% transfer bonus British Airways is offering Canadian Amex members or the 40% bonus offer from Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program, US Airways is now offering members bonuses of between 25-100% on miles purchased between now and March 31, 2013.

Members can receive up to 100% bonus miles on US Air through March 31, 2013
Members can receive up to 100% bonus miles on US Air through March 31, 2013

Unlike this November 2012 offer where all Dividend members received a 100% bonus on purchased miles, bonuses under this promotion vary between 25-100% depending on your Dividend account, and to see what bonus you’re being offered, you need to log into the Buy Miles page to see what you’ll receive. There’s no need to register as this isn’t a targeted promotion, but there are some rules to note:

1. 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).
2. This promotion limits mileage purchases to 50,000 miles not including bonus miles.
3. For each purchase there is a processing fee of $30 and a 7.5% tax recovery charge, and GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents.
4. These transactions are processed by points.com so it won’t count towards airfare multiplier categories like the 3 points per $1 on the Premier Rewards Gold or 2 points per $1 on the Sapphire Preferred, or for reimbursements through the Amex Platinum $200 rebate.

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I got a 100% bonus offer.

I received an offer for a 100% bonus. I suspect that I got the full bonus because, even though I don’t have Preferred status on US Airways, I do buy miles from them on a regular basis thanks to former 100% promos and as part of the Grand Slam in 2011, so they’re hoping to reel me in again. By contrast, TPG Managing Editor Eric, who has never bought US Airways miles, only got the 25% offer.

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Worth It?

Although 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, every so often there are some buy-miles bonuses like this one that might be worth it to some travelers and depending if you have an upcoming award in mind.

To give you some hard numbers to crunch, The cost to buy 50,000 miles is $1,911.25 including the 3.5 cents per mile plus tax and the $30 transaction fee. Depending on the bonus percentage you personally receive, that equates to the following costs per mile:

  • 62,500 total miles (25% bonus) = 3.1 cents per mile
  • 75,000 total miles (50% bonus) = 2.5 cents per mile
  • 100,000 total miles (100% bonus) = 1.9 cents per mile

While perhaps not a great deal at the 25% or 50% levels, the rate of 1.9 cents per mile you get with a 100% bonus can be a great deal if you redeem for expensive awards. For example, looking at the Star Alliance award travel chart, you’ll see that to get from North America to North Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, S. Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) in business on any Star Alliance carrier only requires 90,000 US Airways miles. Also note that the 90,000 US Airways miles required for this roundtrip itinerary is 30,000 miles less than the 120,000 United would charge you for it.

Those tickets easily go for around $5,000. However, with this promo, $1,723.13 ($1575+ taxes/processing fee) will get you 45,000 base miles plus 45,000 bonus miles, for a total of 90,000 miles, so you’ve basically just gotten yourself a $3,700 discount. 

With a 50% bonus, you would need to purchase 50,000 through this promotion (for a total of 75,000) and then buying another 15,000 miles separately at a total cost of about $2,500 – still a deal but not nearly as good.

At 25%, you would again have to max out this promo by purchasing 50,000 miles (receiving 62,500) and then buy an additional 28,000 miles separately, at a total cost of about $3,000. Not so great.

Pricing out an Itinerary

When searching for awards to use your US Airways miles on, 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. It’s not 100% perfect, since it will automatically display United results first, so always scroll down to see partner availability. 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.

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 also let you put an award on hold for 48-72 hours, so you can always book something as soon as you see it then cancel later.

To take a quick example, let’s say we wanted to fly from New York JFK to Tokyo aboard an ANA 777-300ER. I found some great Saver Award (see the blue columns below) availability in December.

So I booked a sample trip departing December 2 and returning December 9 (on a 777-200). The total cost would be 120,000 United miles (but really 90,000 US Airways miles) and $51.90 in taxes and fees.

That same ticket would cost $3,824 on Orbitz, so I’d be saving $2,100 on this ticket by purchasing 45,000 miles and getting my 100% bonus for the 90,000 total miles necessary for this award redemption.

By contrast, if you only received a 25% bonus, buying the 90,000 miles you’d need for this itinerary would cost you a total of about $2,995, so if you found award availability, you’d still be saving just over $800, but your trip would be dependent upon finding award availability.

Just to give another quick example, in order to buy the miles necessary for a domestic economy redemption at 25,000 miles, someone with the 100% bonus like me would just have to purchase 13,000 miles for $520. Someone with just the 25% bonus would need to purchase 20,000 miles for a total of $783. Chances are your domestic coach ticket won’t cost anywhere near that, so be sure what you’re getting before you make any purchases.

As always, whether a promotion like this is worth 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.

Do the math for yourself before deciding to jump on this promotion, but this is another good US Airways offer, and I don’t know how many more we’re going to see.

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