When an Airline Offers You Bonus Miles, Should You Buy Them?

AA bonus milesOne of my well-traveled friends asked me the other day if it would be a good deal to buy the bonus miles the airlines offer after you purchase a ticket. I was shocked that he didn’t know, so I figured I better make a tip so that those that don’t travel often don’t get suckered. My short answer is to just say no.

Frequent flyer miles are big business for the airlines, who are getting more and more creative with how they sell them. They’re also making it more and more difficult and expensive to use your miles. So when the airlines are selling their miles, it’s usually not a good deal.

The only time I recommend getting miles from an airline (without flying) is when they have a great offer on a credit card (like one of these). For example, above is a screenshot of a recent offer American Airlines had after I booked a ticket with them. 14,808 miles for $476 is not a good deal. Especially since 14,808 miles would only get me a one-way ticket in the U.S. during off-peak days and times. However, if you can pay off your credit cards each month in full, then getting an airline credit card—where they typically offer 30,000 to 50,000 miles for signing up—might be a good idea.

 

 

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I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

3 Comments on "When an Airline Offers You Bonus Miles, Should You Buy Them?"

  1. Martin Knutson | May 8, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Reply

    An important thing to remember is that typically these are not PQM (status) miles. When those are offered, they are an even worse deal, and only make sense if it’s just too late to fly those last few miles before the year ends.

  2. JOHN R CRAIG | May 8, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Reply

    I thought this way (ie no buy) but then tried it. Using the complicated search system for the airline (Air France) for my regular trip …the miles/trip page calendar revealed selected low mileage times. So with their offer to buy miles (and get 50% more during a short window), i bought the RT business class ticket for about 1/2 the real dollar cost. If one buys miles, and uses only some of them to buy a ticket, then the extra miles are stored (kept). So the AF offer was to add 1/2 more miles at their current rate, thus I bought all the miles needed for the business class ticket, even though I had almost enough to pay for the ticket without buying any. So, I recommend to analyze each airline offer and the appropriate destination of interest vs their calendar for lowest mileage cost seat. As usual, life is complicated and it pays to research…
    JRC

  3. Martin A Knutson | May 12, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Reply

    John,

    Interesting. I don’t see any way on United to buy additional miles outside of what’s offered when I purchase a fare, or when they are trying to drum up business. I am mostly interested in PQM for status upgrades, I get enough travel miles other ways.

    Doubtless my real error is being in bed with United.

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