How Much are Your Miles Worth?

by Michael on Nov 8, 2013 · 3 comments

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Earlier this week, I mused about whether it’s worth booking longer than necessary flights to earn extra frequent flyer miles.

The main point of doing this would be to maximize your elite qualifying miles, which count toward status upgrades.

That being said, the redeemable miles do have some value themselves. But how much are they really worth? Well, I’ve always valued them around $0.01/each, though I think that’s probably a bit low.

While airlines have gradually deflated the value of their frequent flyer miles by increasing the number that it takes to score a reward ticket (e.g., 40k seems to be fairly typical on Delta nowadays), ticket prices have also been increasing.

The end result has been that, in recent years, I’ve consistently been able to redeem miles for tickets for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 cents/mile.

Most recently, I picked 4 x $610 tickets for Christmas for 40k apiece. At just a bit over 1.5 cents/mile, that’s a little lower than my recent average, but I decided that I’d rather have $2400+ in my pocket than a bunch of miles.

I’m sure I could stretch my miles further if I used them for things like business class international travel but, with four kids in the house, most of our travel is domestic. Yes, I do travel overseas for work, but those costs are covered.

Of course, if you’re thinking about this in the context of an airline miles card vs. a standard cash back credit card, you have to keep in mind that the there are often other perks associated with airline cards.

For example, many airline cards offer things like free companion certificates, free checked bags, blocks of elite miles, club access, etc. So, when doing the math, you have to consider more than just the redemption rate.

1 krantcents November 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I use my frequent flier miles for overseas flights almost exclusively. I find I get more value for the miles and fly first or business class.

2 SuburbanFinance November 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I guess it depends on where you are flying. Flights within Canada are surprisingly expensive. We get at least $0.10/mile out of our frequent flier miles.

3 Michael November 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm

That’s surprising. Assuming that the redemption rates are similar, that would mean that you’re getting a $2500 ticket for 25k miles (or something similar). Are airfares within Canada really that expensive?

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