By: Travis Cormier
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Hey Travel Junkies,
Airlines and hotels frequently offer massive sales to purchase points. I’ve certainly been tempted by some of these sales. But, before you jump to make a purchase you need decide if it’s worth it. In this article, I’ll share with you when it’s really worth it to buy miles.
Why Buying Miles Is Almost Always A Bad Idea
Assuming you are able to open credit cards, buying miles is rarely a good idea. Thanks to credit card sign-up bonuses and bonus categories, there are plenty of ways to earn the necessary miles for flights.
When you think about it, why spend beyond what is necessary just for some miles? If you’re spending money, you should be getting something for it. Considering the fact that nearly all of your purchases can be made with a credit card, you’re better off not buying miles in almost all cases.
Only Buy Miles for Immediate Use
If you decide that buying miles is worth it because it saves you time and energy, only buy them for immediate use. Sales can make it tempting to buy for future use but, remember, miles are not an investment that become more valuable.
Buying miles to use later is a risky proposition. Devaluations aren’t a regular thing but they can happen without notice – Delta actually does this somewhat regularly. If you buy miles to use later, the value of the miles may drop leaving you in need of even more miles.
This happened last year, when Alaska Airlines had a 40% off sale on miles. The day after the sale ended, Alaska Airlines devalued its redemption rates with Emirates, one of their partner airlines, which nearly doubling the cost for some flights!
For this reason, you should only buy points when you are ready to redeem them right away.
Topping Off Your Balance
Speaking of redeeming immediately, topping off your balance for an immediate redemption is where you can get the best value from buying points.
Award availability, specifically business and first class, can be sparse at times. If you know you need a flight on a day that award space is available but are short the required miles, it might make sense to buy some.
In this case, you aren’t spending a ton of money on miles and you’re using them immediately.
Pick the Right Credit Card to Buy Miles
If you do find yourself needing to buy miles, make sure you know who is selling the miles. Some airlines allow you to buy directly from the while others let points.com run handle the process.
If the airline handles it, the purchase will code as travel so you should use a card that will earn bonus points such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2 points per dollar), Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (3 points per dollar), Citi Prestige Card (3 points per dollar), The Platinum Card from American Express (5 points per dollar), The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (3 points per dollar), and more!
These airlines sell their miles directly to you:
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
If points.com runs the sale, the Blue Business Plus from American Express (2 points per dollar) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5 points per dollar) are great choices.
These airlines sell their miles through points.com:
- Alaska Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
If you need miles there are better alternatives to buying them. One of my favorite ways of topping off my account is using shopping portals. If you’re going to spend money on miles, why not get something in addition to miles!
Nearly every major airline program has a shopping portal, and many of the bank programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards have them too. If you need to top off your account, you might even be able to ‘buy’ miles for cheaper through a shopping portal.
The only drawback is shopping portals don’t post immediately. So, if you have a specific flight that you want to book immediately, your only guaranteed way is through buying miles. If you can wait a few weeks for the points to post, portals are a great alternative!
Let’s be clear though, you should just spend money for the sake of it. Buy things you know you’re going to need if you must take this route.
Buying miles is rarely worth it. With credit card sign-up bonuses and plenty of other ways to earn miles, buying them is often a very pricey way to go.
If you don’t have time to earn the required miles, buying miles might be worth it though. In these rare situations, it’s much better to top off an account with a small purchase rather than spending a ton of money on a large purchase of miles.
If you don’t need the miles to book an award flight immediately, consider the many other options you have to earn the miles. It might not happen as quickly, but you’ll save a lot of money.