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In the great majority of cases, “Miles for Sale” signs are best ignored. The miles are generally priced so high that buyers would be hard pressed to recoup their costs when redeeming the purchased miles for award flights. In other words, buying miles is a great deal for the airlines selling them but a lousy deal for buyers.
But occasionally, as in the case of US Airways’ recurring 100 percent buy-miles bonuses, a special deal shifts the value proposition back in favor of the consumer.
This offer from Virgin America isn’t in the same league as US Airways’. But it is worth a look.
Through January 31, members of Virgin America’s Elevate program can earn up to 50 percent more points when purchasing direct from the airline, as follows:
Members may purchase up to 20,000 points per year.
Deal or No Deal
If you’re buying 3,500 or more points, the per-point price is about 3.5 cents with the bonus factored in. The price for 30,000 points (20,000 plus the 10,000-point bonus): $1,040.
In Virgin America’s program, award flights are priced according to the market price of comparable paid tickets. So what could you get for 30,000 points?
A mid-January round-trip Los Angeles-New York flight, one way in regular coach, the return in Main Cabin Select, Virgin America’s premium-economy seating, is currently priced at just over 30,000 points or $1,180.
Paying $1,040 for enough points to purchase a $1,180 ticket is a wash.
Alternatively, 30,000 points (plus $750 in taxes and fees) could be redeemed for a round-trip premium-economy flight to London on Virgin Atlantic. The lowest price displayed on Virgin Atlantic’s site for those flights, again in mid-January: $3,170. So even with the taxes and fees, you’d be saving $1,380 by buying Elevate points and redeeming on Virgin Atlantic.
So there are indeed redemption scenarios where buying points trumps paying for a ticket.
But before pressing the “Buy” button, you’ll have to double-check to be sure that it’s a sensible deal for you.
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