Need to top off your frequent flyer account? Sure, there’s the traditional ways like putting your butt in a seat or staying in a hotel. However, it may be worthwhile to take advantage of these airline miles sales to to reach that next mileage award — without traveling.
Breaking It Down:
Current Airline Miles Sales
These airline reward programs have deals currently. Let’s go through what they are and any limitations and restrictions.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Currently, Alaska Mileage Plan is offering a 40% bonus when you purchase at least 20,000 miles through March 17, 2019. I used Alaska Miles recently for my trip to Japan.
Alaska’s Mileage program has a few airline miles sales each year. Alaska is generous with their program in that there’s a high limit in the amount you can purchase per year.
- Mileage Plan members are now limited to buying 150,000 miles per account, per year (Mileage Plan members with status are exempt)
- You can use the same credit card for at most four points.com transactions per 30 day period (this is the company that processes Alaska mileage purchases)
- Alaska now limits the purchase of Mileage Plan miles to members using credit cards with billing addresses in North America
- You can use Alaska miles, as I have, to get awesome redemptions especially for travel on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Japan Airlines and other partner carriers.
Currently, Avianca LifeMiles is offering a 100% bonus on all miles purchased. This offer expires on March 14.
Colombia-based Star Alliance Avianca is the third biggest airline in South America by passengers carried. Their airline loyalty program is called LifeMiles. It’s a program I’ve been using and benefiting from for years now.
We might say that in 2018, Avianca’s program went mainstream. In November, Avianca became a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Next, Capital One added transfer partners and included Avianca. Cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards and Capital One Spark Miles for Business can be transferred over.
Transfer Ratios of Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles
You can now transfer credit card points to your Avianca LifeMiles account from three major credit card programs:
- Amex Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio)
- Capital One (2:1.5 ratio)
- Citi ThankYou Rewards (1:1 ratio)
This now makes it super easy to have enough LifeMiles to book Star Alliance flights. Last year alone, I used my Avianca LifeMiles to book trips in business class to Denmark and Sweden, experiencing some Star Alliance partners I’d never flown before.
The LifeMiles program bonuses come around often, sometimes even offering up to 200% bonus miles. Their airline miles sales are tier based on how many LifeMiles you buy. The purchase limit per calendar year is 200,000 miles, though bonus miles gifted to you are not included in that limit.
When you buy and transfer LifeMiles, the transactions are all processed directly by Avianca so the purchase qualifies as travel spend.
United Airlines MileagePlus
United Airlines is offering up to 70,000 bonus miles, depending on the number of United Airlines MileagePlus Miles you purchase. The offer expires on March 25. Keep in mind this offer may be targeted.
The regular price for buying United miles is 3.76 cents per mile ($35 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% Federal Excise Tax). This offer is a bonus of up to 67%.
Here’s the promotion and the math:
- Buy 5,000 – 14,000 miles and get 1,000 – 2,800 bonus miles
- Buy 15,000 – 29,000 miles and get 6,000 – 11,600 bonus miles
- Buy 30,000+ miles and get 20,100 – 70,000 bonus miles
Here’s the actual cost of the miles:
- Buy 5,000 – 14,000 miles at a cost of ~3.14 cents/mile
- Buy 15,000 – 29,000 miles at a cost of ~2.69 cents/mile
- Buy 30,000 – 88,000 miles at a cost of ~2.25 cents/mile
As you can see, the best rate on this airline miles sale is to buy a minimum of 30,000 miles.
Buy Miles Promotion Rules:
- Purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Bonus miles count towards the 175,000 mile annual limit per account.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
While this is not the best offer that comes around from United, if you have an immediate and specific use for these miles, this bonus could work for you. When purchasing United’s miles, the purchase is processed by Points.com so you won’t earn a travel category bonus for it on most credit cards.
Credit Cards To Use For Airline Miles Sales
When buying points/miles through points.com, purchases are not categorized on your credit card as an airline or hotel purchase. In the points.com case, use a credit card you’re putting spend on to unlock a bonus.
If you’re not working on minimum spend, use a card that maximizes your return on everyday, non-bonused spend, such as The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express or my favorite, the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card.
When purchasing miles and points do count as airfare purchases, the best cards to use are:
- The Platinum Card from American Express which earns 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar of spend
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve card which earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar of spend
I’m stating the obvious when I say premium cabin fares are expensive. When you can find award availability that works for you and you need to top up your account, using bonus sales like this one can make sense.
When looking at buying miles and points, it’s good to view each offer on its own merit and how immediate a redemption is. Perhaps a 40% bonus offer has more value than a 100% or even 200% bonus offer.
Personally, if I don’t have a redemption opportunity within the next six months, I don’t buy them. That’s my guideline. Yours may be different. Whatever personal rules you have in place, you should always do the math.
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