New Flying Blue promotion: Buy miles with a 75% bonus
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Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France and KLM, has launched another buy-miles promotion. Until March 11, 2020, you can earn a 75% bonus when you buy at least 4,000 Flying Blue miles. After that, you can earn a 60% bonus through March 29, 2020.
Normally, Flying Blue sells miles for 3.07 cents each at current exchange rates (2.75 euro cents), but with the 75% bonus, you can purchase miles for just 1.76 cents apiece (1.57 euro cents). TPG values Flying Blue miles at 1.2 cents each, so to get the most out of this bonus you’ll need a high-value redemption planned, either on Air France-KLM or on SkyTeam partners like Delta.
Fortunately, there are cheaper and easier ways to earn Flying Blue miles.
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Should you consider buying Flying Blue miles?
With this Flying Blue buy-miles promotion, you’ll earn a 75% bonus when you buy at least 4,000 miles until March 11, and a 60% bonus after that until March 29, 2020. If you don’t have elite status, you can earn a maximum bonus of 56,250 miles, and elite members can earn a bonus of up to 100,000 miles.
Unless you have an otherwise-pricey award flight planned or need miles to top off your account, you should probably give this promotion a skip. Flying Blue uses dynamic award pricing, so the price of an award varies; you can use its online award price estimator to calculate the number of miles you’ll need for a flight.
Flying Blue also runs monthly Promo Reward sales which discount the price of economy, premium economy or business-class awards between specific cities and Europe by 25% or 50%. This can represent a good value, especially if the paid ticket price is high. But it doesn’t often make sense to buy miles to book these awards.
Here’s an example: The March 2020 list of Promo Rewards (valid for travel from May 1 to June 30, 2020) includes discounted economy awards between Washington, D.C. (IAD) and Tel Aviv (TLV) for just 19,500 miles each way (39,000 miles round-trip). Note that you’ll also pay taxes of 221 euros ($247) round-trip on top of the mileage cost, but it’s still worth considering if you already have Flying Blue miles in your account. Most other airline programs would charge at least 80,000 miles plus taxes for a round-trip economy award between the U.S. and Israel.
The exact same flights, if paid with cash, would cost a total of 876 euros ($978):
If you were to buy 39,000 Flying Blue miles with a 75% bonus to book these award flights, you’d spend 660 euros ($737) for 42,000 miles (because you must purchase in 2,000-mile increments). Add $247 in award taxes and fees to that amount and you’re looking at a cash outlay of $984 — more than the cost of a paid ticket. Plus, you wouldn’t earn miles on the award flight.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to find flights where buying Flying Blue miles with this bonus would be a better deal than paying cash, but you’ll want to crunch the numbers carefully before you do so.
Smarter ways to earn Flying Blue miles
Most award travelers actually have Flying Blue miles at their disposal, because the program partners with all five major transferable points programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1 ratio, instant transfer time
- Capital One miles: 2:1.5 ratio, instant transfer time
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1:1 ratio, instant transfer time
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: 1:1 ratio, instant transfer time
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred, three-day transfer time
If you’re short Flying Blue miles, it’s a better idea to boost your account balance by moving miles from one of these programs, especially if there’s a transfer bonus as we’ve seen from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Rewards in the past.
Again, you’ll want to run the numbers before you make a transfer. For instance, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue at a 1:1 ratio. TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, so before you transfer you’ll want to be sure you’re getting close to that value from the award you want to book.
Bear in mind you might even get a better deal by booking your flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With all the cheap airfare deals to Europe we’ve seen recently, you could end up spending fewer points by booking directly through the portal. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a value of 1.5 cents per point when they book flights this way, and here are the same dates and route between Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv, albeit on Turkish Airlines:
On the surface, it looks like you’ll spend more booking through the portal versus transferring 39,000 Chase points to Flying Blue. But remember in the above case, taxes and fees are included (with Flying Blue, you’d spend an additional $247), and you’ll earn miles for the flight.
Use the right credit card
If you choose to buy Flying Blue miles through this promotion, you’ll want to use a card that earns the most points and miles for everyday spending. Flying Blue miles purchases are processed by Points.com, so you won’t earn a bonus for a travel purchase with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. Instead, use a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% cash back or 1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar), Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (2x miles on all purchases) or The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (2x Amex Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 you spend per calendar year, then 1x).
Buying miles and points without a bonus is almost never a good idea. Even with a promotion like this, it’s important to do the math before jumping on the deal, because there are often better ways to save your hard-earned cash (and points).
Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
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