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With the announcement of yet another US Airways 100% Buy Miles Bonus this week, TPG Reader Vincenzo tweeted me to ask:
“@thepointsguy Is it ever a good idea to buy US Airways bonus offers in order to redeem them for economy seats? The difference between economy and business class is a lot – 30,000 miles +!”
The answer to Vincenzo’s question is maybe. A little math reveals the answer. If you purchase miles for about 2 cents per mile, a 25,000 mile domestic round trip saver award would cost $500. So, if your flight is under $500 and you redeem 25,000 miles that you bought at 2 cents each, then you probably aren’t coming out ahead. You may as well just buy the ticket, because then you’ll earn elite status miles (as well as points for buying the ticket), and you don’t have to go through the hassle of redeeming. Additionally, US Airways won’t let you change an award after you take the first leg, meaning there is always some additional risk involved when booking an award ticket.
That being said, it might make sense to use purchased miles for some economy tickets where. For example, economy tickets to Europe can be pricey ($1800 or more at the last minute), so using purchased miles for an award ticket (for example, $1200 to purchase enough for a 60,000 mile award ticket) is a good deal. You also can get good value by buying miles to book business or first class award tickets, since the difference between first/business class and economy is disproportionately higher for purchased fares than for award redemptions. These awards are generally not even double the amount of economy awards, but purchased business or first class tickets can be up to six times as expensive.
In conclusion, do the math before you shell money to purchase miles, and consider whether it’s worth it or not to you to purchase depending on your future travel plans.