Using Up My Leftover Miles — Reader Success Story

Jul 26, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Christina, who got a great redemption value from miles she wasn’t planning to use:

A lot has been written about how to use points and miles for travel, but what about the orphaned miles that aren’t enough to book flights or hotels? I often have a few thousand miles in an airline account that I have no intention of using in the near future. These miles often have an expiration date, and I have lost miles in the past by ignoring the few I had.

Recently, I wanted to subscribe to a financial journal, but I was reluctant to shell out the roughly $187 cost of a year’s subscription. I noticed I had a small number of Delta miles left over in my SkyMiles account, and saw that I could buy that same subscription for 3,200 miles. Using The Points Guy’s valuation of 1.2 cents per mile, I calculated I would only be redeeming $38.40 worth of rewards. I was thrilled that I could get the newspaper I wanted while ridding myself of miles I wasn’t going to use otherwise!

We tend to focus on redeeming points and miles for travel, not just because those awards are the most exciting and inspiring, but also because they offer the best value. You can top 2 cents per mile on flights and hotels without breaking a sweat (even with SkyMiles); if I could consistently get 2 cents per mile by redeeming for groceries and utility bills, I’d do it. The problem is that non-travel awards (like gift cards and merchandise) generally offer a dismal return in comparison. The key word there is generally’, because as Christina’s story shows, that isn’t always the case. Assuming the subscription price she found was the best available, she got a stellar redemption value of over 5.8 cents per mile — nearly five times what TPG considers average.

Christina found a good use for her miles, but don’t be overly eager to get rid of your own small points and miles balances. First, get familiar with the expiration policy: SkyMiles don’t expire, so there’s no rush to redeem them, and you can often keep other rewards from expiring with minimal effort. Also, make sure you’re familiar with how awards are priced: Delta offers frequent award sales, during which you can book domestic flights for under 6,000 miles each way. Other airlines have similarly discounted awards, so you might need fewer miles than you think.

Related: Best Sweet Spots With Delta SkyMiles

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Christina a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Rawpixel / Getty Images.

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