When to use airline miles vs. paying for flights

When to use airline miles vs. paying for flights

Should I use points or cash for flight bookings? It’s a common dilemma we all face when booking a flight. There are no clear rules about when to use airline miles versus when to pay cash for a flight.

Here’s the rundown of your best options.

When flights are cheap use cash

If flights to your preferred destination are cheap, it’s better to use cash. That’s because you can then save your miles and use them to fly to expensive destinations. If you have enough points or miles, you can even fly first class or business class on domestic AND international flights.

Besides, you never know when you need to book a last-minute flight and your points can come in handy then.

Don’t waste miles for short flights  

Airlines set their flight prices based on the length of the flight, the distance between destinations, and the region. But, if you use miles to book, you’ll quickly realize that shorter flights might cost the same number of miles as long-haul ones. That’s because different zones are priced differently.

Redeeming your points for a short flight between Seattle and New York might cost you the same number of points as New York to L.A. Chances are, you can find a cheaper ticket and pay cash. Save the miles for longer flights.

Check the mileage price

The goal of booking flights with your miles is to get the lowest mileage price possible. Check the award availability when you book or look at your airline’s award chart. This usually reveals the base price for each flight. If your travel dates are flexible, try to book on dates when the airline lets you book those baseline-priced flights.

Book international flights with miles

As I mentioned before, you can find good deals on domestic flights and you should use cash to pay for them. When it comes to transcontinental flights, the prices can be extremely high. That’s when you should use your airline miles to book.

Booking international flights is generally the best use of your points when you consider the cents per mile value. You can use the points to splurge on trips you might not be able to afford otherwise.

The bottom line is that it’s best to save miles and use them to book expensive flights to overseas destinations. It’s much easier to find cheap domestic flights you can pay for with cash. Miles are hard to earn and you should reward yourself with foreign destinations.

Are you confused about redeeming airline miles? Check out this helpful video:

If you don’t plan on flying, you can sell miles for cash.

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