This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader James tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy—”If I book an economy ticket and then use miles to upgrade to Business/First, do I still earn miles as if I flew economy?” 

Using miles to upgrade from economy to business (or even business to first, like I recently did on a British Airways flight) can be a really great value, especially if you were planning to pay for business or first class out of pocket. However, if you upgrade using miles, airlines will almost always award you miles for the fare class you purchased, not the one you upgraded to, at least in most cases.

If you upgrade with points or miles, expect to earn economy miles. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
If you upgrade with points or miles, expect to earn economy miles. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This could actually work out in your favor if there’s a schedule change of some sort. If the airline sees that you’re in business class and then books you in business class on a new flight, they might not be able to tell that you were in business class due to an upgrade booked with miles. It all depends on the airline and the operating systems.

Some airlines may just boot you back down to economy and say tough luck. If that ever happens to you, you can always call and say you booked the economy ticket solely because you saw upgrade space. I always point out that I’m too tall to fly in economy and ask what they can do to help me. Being friendly can go a long way.

If you switch flights (even on the same day), that can sometimes trigger re-booking into the actual business fare class as well, but typically if you use miles to upgrade, don’t expect to earn those extra miles for a full fare business or first class ticket.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.