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How US Airways’ Once-Great Buy-Miles Promotion Fell from Grace

How US Airways’ Once-Great Buy-Miles Promotion Fell from Grace

The latest iteration of US Airways’ discount on purchased miles is the newest installment in the continuing saga of a once-great promotion losing its luster.

Offer Details

Through September 30, Dividend Miles members will earn a 100 percent bonus on up to 50,000 miles purchased for their own accounts.

Miles normally sell for 3.5 cents each, plus a 7.5 percent "tax recovery charge." The bonus effectively halves that, to about 1.9 cents per mile.

If you’re not already a Dividend Miles member, note the following: "Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift miles."

Deal or No Deal

While the basic proposition of this recurring offer — a 100 percent bonus on purchased miles — has remained the same for more than three years, two key variables have changed.

When US Airways began offering the buy-miles promotion, miles were priced at 2.5 cents apiece. So with the bonus, the effective price was just 1.25 cents each, plus tax. Which meant that you could buy 80,000 miles — enough for a pricey business-class trip to Europe — for $1,000.

But since the original deals, US Airways has raised the price of miles twice, first to 2.75 cents and most recently to 3.5 cents each. That’s a hefty 40 percent increase.

And the price of that business-class award ticket to Europe? It’s been raised from 80,000 miles to 100,000 miles.

Today, you’ll pay more for the miles and, depending on the award category, may have to redeem more miles as well. Further souring the deal, the availability of award seats has come under increased pressure as airlines worldwide have been flying fuller, ratcheting up the hassle factor in booking restricted awards. So although the "100% Bonus" headline remains the same, this is no longer the deal it once was.

It’s still possible, however, to buy enough miles for a business-class trip to Europe that might cost $6,417 (Los Angeles – Frankfurt, Lufthansa) for around $1,881. That may not be as good a deal as it was, but it’s still solid value.

And, considering the history of the promotion — and of loyalty programs generally — we can say with a high degree of certainty that the offer as it stands today is as good as it will get.

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  • GW

    the question is can you reasonably redeem at the end of the day?
    Statistically is there anybody else worse than US Air other than Delta?The data is out there beyond the perceptions
    No deal here unless you know you can actually redeem that award
    I avoid this program typically

  • DS

    I have been buying miles under this program for a few years and used them for business class travel to Asia, Europe and the South Pacific all on partner airlines (through US Air). I’ve flown some convoluted routes but it has worked well for me and I generally fly business class for less than it would have cost me to fly economy if I had purchased tickets. I do make my reservations more than 6 months in advance most of the time.

  • Rich

    FWIW – I always figure that miles are worth at most one cent apiece. No more. If I am offered a chance to buy miles at more than that price, then the answer is always NO!

    And, IMHO, the last time I redeemed miles for a “free” flight, the service charges added up to about $155.00. Almost as much as purchasing the flight for cash.

    Even Southwest rapid rewards program is much less attractive these days than it used to be pre – Air Tran takeover. And, Southwest is creating its own profit centers in junk fees, just like all the other airlines.