Which Airlines Offer Cash + Miles Redemptions?

Jul 17, 2018

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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

Stretching points and miles can be an important priority for many travelers. Fortunately, many hotel programs have introduced the option to use a combination of points and miles when redeeming for an award night, which can sometimes deliver outsized value. But TPG reader Michaela wants to know if airline mileage programs offer a similar redemption choice …

Do either United or American do like a cash plus miles thing? If so, what are some tips for that?

TPG Reader Michaela

The short answer to Michaela’s question is no, neither United nor American offers a way to pay for flights with a combination of cash and miles. However, a few other airline programs allow you to redeem both cash and miles. Generally this won’t be the best use of your miles and can leave money on the table, but it can be useful if you’re short on miles for a regular redemption.

Delta’s Pay With Miles allows Delta co-brand cardholders to redeem miles and cash for Delta flights if you hold one of these cards:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express,
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

This option allows you to redeem SkyMiles in increments of 5,000 miles to take $50 off your ticket cost. So for a $200 ticket, you could redeem 10,000 miles $100 in cash for the ticket. It only gives SkyMiles a value of 1 cent each, slightly lower than TPG’s valuations of 1.2 cents per mile, but not horrible considering Delta no longer publishes an award chart and rates can be astronomical. Another nice perk of the program is that you’ll still earn MQMs, MQSs and redeemable miles on the portion paid with cash. 

Delta's 3-3-3 economy seating. Photo by Benji Stawski.
Delta’s 3-3-3 economy seating on its retrofitted 777-200. Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy.

For those who don’t have a Delta credit card, there’s the Miles + Cash option for general SkyMiles members. This method can allow you to use a smaller portion of your points + cash, however the rate appears to be random and there’s no way you can control how many points you’d like to use. Regardless, we’ve found that it’s usually not a great use of miles.

Alaska Airlines offers a “Money & Miles” option that seems to be a combination of Delta’s Pay with Miles and Miles + Cash. With Alaska’s program, you can get up to 1 cent per mile, redeeming them at two tiers — either 10,000 miles for up to $100 off a fare or 20,000 for up to $200 off a fare.

After doing some rate comparisons, you’re definitely not guaranteed to receive the full 1 cent per mile. It’s better to save your miles for a standard award redemption since Alaska miles are some of the most valuable in the points and miles world.

British Airways offers “Part Payment” for British Airways and American Airlines flights departing from the UK. You can use five to six different set amounts of Avios to knock down the price of your ticket. This can sometimes be a decent deal, netting a little more than 1 cent per point — but usually the more Avios you use, the more they go down in value. Iberia, British Airways’ sister company, has its own “Avios & Money” scheme that can offer solid value when redeeming for BA’ business class award flights.

British Airways Part Payment can knock the cash fare down when using Avios.

Additionally Alitalia, Singapore KrisFlyer, Lufthansa’s Miles & More and Emirates Skywards give loyalty members the ability to pay with a combination of miles and cash, but again, we’ve found that they’re usually poor redemptions if you value your miles at more than 1 cent apiece.

Vacation Packages

There’s one creative way you can redeem miles with cash, and that’s with vacation packages. American allows you to book vacation packages (i.e., a flight, hotel and rental car) through American Airlines Vacations. This allows for the entire vacation, or just part of it (except taxes and fees), to be paid with miles. You’ll be getting about 1 cent per mile.

If you have any JetBlue points laying around, its vacation website offers a similar option to American’s but without a slider tool.

Finally, it’s possible to redeem a combination of flexible bank points and cash, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, for flights or hotels. By booking through either bank’s travel portal, you’ll be able to choose the exact amount of points and cash you want to redeem for your tickets.

Redeeming a combination of Citi ThankYou points and cash for flights through the Citi ThankYou travel portal.

So while it’s possible to use a combination of cash and miles with some airlines, it’s generally not the absolute best use of the currency, especially if you’re trying to maximize their value by redeeming for premium cabin awards.

Thanks for the question, Michaela, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

*The post was updated to include mentions of British Airways and Iberia.

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