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Basic question: miles vs. paying for ticket

Basic question: miles vs. paying for ticket

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Old Feb 11, 12, 8:58 am
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Basic question: miles vs. paying for ticket

I'm wondering how to make a decision about using miles. Is there a general principle that you all use?

I'm traveling to Munich in April and can use 60,000 miles from United Mileage Plus, or pay $1,250 for the fare.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 10:19 am
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Generally, if someone else is paying for the ticket- use cash! If it's for me, use miles, so long as the redemption fee is reasonable (read: NOT BA).
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Old Feb 11, 12, 11:00 am
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Originally Posted by roguetraveler View Post
I'm wondering how to make a decision about using miles. Is there a general principle that you all use?

I'm traveling to Munich in April and can use 60,000 miles from United Mileage Plus, or pay $1,250 for the fare.
The general principle is use the one that's worth less. Generally, 60k UA miles are worth less than $1250.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 12:12 pm
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Most people would say that points are generally worth about 1.25 cents each. Of course, your own value may vary from that. For someone who travels overseas only occasionally but really really hates flying coach on those routes, they might be willing to "pay" $2000 or $2500 or $3000 for an overseas business class ticket, which they can get for 100,000 points (sometimes). For someone like that, it would probably be a mistake to use 25,000 points for a $400 domestic ticket because they are getting "value" of 1.6 cents per point.

Lacking some special consideration though, you are getting reasonably good value for your 60K points. No one here would say you are foolish to use the miles. (But with the miles what will the ticket cost in fees and surcharges? That's a key point. Are you really saving $1250?)

Any use of miles for a value under 1 cent per point is almost always foolish, unless you really see no good redemption opportunities in the future.

It's also always good to have enough points on hand for an emergency. I remember one time before my wife and I got married, she had a sudden surprise 5-day weekend and a last-minute ticket would have been $2000, but there was a 25,000-mile award ticket available. I'd have been REALLY sad if I didn't have 25,000 points around.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 12:43 pm
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When using miles, I generally try to get $.02 in value per mile, vs. the price in $$ I would otherwise have to pay for the ticket.

e.g., faced with a choice of paying less than $500 for a ticket or using 25,000 miles, I will usually pay cash.

Of course there are other variables involved, e.g., DL miles are less valuable to me than AA or UA miles.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 12:52 pm
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[QUOTE=yojimbo;17995272]When using miles, I generally try to get $.02 in value per mile, vs. the price in $$ I would otherwise have to pay for the ticket.

e.g., faced with a choice of paying less than $500 for a ticket or using 25,000 miles, I will usually pay cash.

Well put, $.02 is a good rule of thumb. I wouldn't go less than $.015 and anything over $.02 is very good. Fuel and other charges also have to be figured into it.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 9:37 pm
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I am lucky because I am broke. So any flights I take with miles are flights I never would have been able to get regardless of what the cpm is.

But I still look for 2 cpm at minimum on my awards and since I travel so infrequently and mostly international I am usually around that number.

It is also the intrinsic value of the flight. Intangible factors that make this trip PERSONALLY more valuable because many times cpm does not reflect the impact this trip has on your quality of life.

It is a general rule of thumb but not something to beat yourself up about if you are a 1/2 penny less.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 10:05 pm
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60,000 for this flight isn't a good redemption.

$1250 for this flight is an even worse purchase.

I look at it this way: What is harder to get, the 60,000 miles or the money for the fare? With the exception of nice credit card bonuses, it's a lot easier to come up with the $800 or so that a ticket normally costs. I routinely pay under $500 for tickets between Europe and the US.

Unless you are completely incapable of using flexible travel dates or looking at nearby airports like ZRH or FRA, you have no reason to pay this fare in APRIL!
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Old Feb 11, 12, 10:32 pm
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Originally Posted by roguetraveler View Post
I'm wondering how to make a decision about using miles. Is there a general principle that you all use?
I'm traveling to Munich in April and can use 60,000 miles from United Mileage Plus, or pay $1,250 for the fare.
In simple terms that is OK, i.e., 2 cpm.
Actually it depends on where you are, whether you care about status, if there are double EQMs and if this is a deductible expense.
60000 miles + 100$ fees = 1250$ + 10,000 miles flown +/? elite bonuses and 10,000 EQMs
Assuming non elite, so no double bonuses and no worry about status for next year,
60000 - 10000 miles = 1250-100
or 50000 = 1150 = 2.2 cpm = OK value for use.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 11:00 pm
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Originally Posted by ffI View Post
In simple terms that is OK, i.e., 2 cpm.
Actually it depends on where you are, whether you care about status, if there are double EQMs and if this is a deductible expense.
60000 miles + 100$ fees = 1250$ + 10,000 miles flown +/? elite bonuses and 10,000 EQMs
Assuming non elite, so no double bonuses and no worry about status for next year,
60000 - 10000 miles = 1250-100
or 50000 = 1150 = 2.2 cpm = OK value for use.
This is not a great equation, because the fees are things I PAY, while the miles flown are things I GET. This looks like you're paying the 10000 miles; they should have a minus in the first equation.

Say I have $1250 and 60,000 miles right now. I can either
A) Take the award and have $1150 and no miles.
B) Buy the ticket and have $0 and 70,000 miles.

The real tradeoff is 70000 miles or $1150, roughly 1.65 cpm. That's not great value. I wouldn't do it, because the EQM also have substantial value to me. However, if I had not much cash and didn't worry about EQM, it's not terrible either.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 11:07 pm
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This particular example isn't necessarily a bad idea given the $1250 price tag, but I'm just shocked that the OP has to pay $1250 for that flight.
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Old Feb 11, 12, 11:09 pm
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Flight is economy? If so are you sure you can't find 1 cheaper?
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Old Feb 11, 12, 11:36 pm
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Originally Posted by roguetraveler View Post
I'm wondering how to make a decision about using miles. Is there a general principle that you all use?

I'm traveling to Munich in April and can use 60,000 miles from United Mileage Plus, or pay $1,250 for the fare.
Do you have any AA miles? It would only be 40,000 R/T for an AA Off Peak award if you could still find availability. Maybe you have these points in Ultimate Rewards and haven't transferred to United yet? You might be able to transfer to BA and book an award on AA for slightly less depending on your starting airport.

You need to make whatever decision is right for YOU. The answer to this question mostly breaks down to an opinion. If you are traveling for leisure (ie your company isn't paying for this flight), then why not save $1,250 by burning 60,000 miles which you probably obtained for just 1 inquiry in your credit report and minimal, if any cash.
If it was me, I'd save $1,250 and book with miles. However the poster below does make a good point that flights to Europe in April should be under $1,000 still. I just booked 6 myself in the $800-$900 range...


Originally Posted by benzemalyonnais View Post
60,000 for this flight isn't a good redemption.

$1250 for this flight is an even worse purchase.

I look at it this way: What is harder to get, the 60,000 miles or the money for the fare? With the exception of nice credit card bonuses, it's a lot easier to come up with the $800 or so that a ticket normally costs. I routinely pay under $500 for tickets between Europe and the US.

Unless you are completely incapable of using flexible travel dates or looking at nearby airports like ZRH or FRA, you have no reason to pay this fare in APRIL!
This is true... I just booked 6 tickets at the end of April r/t to FRA for $800-$900. $1,250 sounds like a summer fare.
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Old Feb 12, 12, 7:14 am
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Right now, March fares from Washington to at least some German cities are in the $825-$850 range. I'm not sure what city you're travelling from, but I am surprised that April is that much more expensive, unless you are travelling over the Easter weekend. Personally, I would use 60,000 miles rather than pay $1200, but not instead of paying $850.
If you do purchase a ticket and are using a partner airline such as Swiss, Austrian or Lufthansa, be sure that your ticket earns miles. United and Continental have become more restrictive about this in recent months, and even from the East Coast about 9,000 miles are at stake (RT). Lists of eligible fare classes are available on the United and Continental websites; there are, at least for now, some differences between United and Continental in this regard.

Last edited by JPG3392; Jan 19, 19 at 9:53 am Reason: Belated correction of typo.
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Old Feb 12, 12, 7:55 am
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Thank you all for your suggestions and calculations on how to figure this out. I really appreciate it.

I will try to find a cheaper ticket, but so far, because I fly from small (and expensive) market MFR, I can't find anything under $1050 to FRA - but then I still have to get to MUC, so that will add at least $100 by train. My miles are on Mileage Plus.

If I can't find a ticket cheaper than $1200, I'll go ahead use the miles.
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