One of my well-traveled friends asked me the other day if it would be a good deal to buy the bonus miles the airlines offer after you purchase a ticket. I was shocked that he didn’t know, so I figured I better make a tip so that those that don’t travel often don’t get suckered. My short answer is to just say no.
Frequent flyer miles are big business for the airlines, who are getting more and more creative with how they sell them. They’re also making it more and more difficult and expensive to use your miles. So when the airlines are selling their miles, it’s usually not a good deal.
The only time I recommend getting miles from an airline (without flying) is when they have a great offer on a credit card (like one of these). For example, above is a screenshot of a recent offer American Airlines had after I booked a ticket with them. 14,808 miles for $476 is not a good deal. Especially since 14,808 miles would only get me a one-way ticket in the U.S. during off-peak days and times. However, if you can pay off your credit cards each month in full, then getting an airline credit card—where they typically offer 30,000 to 50,000 miles for signing up—might be a good idea.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.