Airline Flyer Miles | The Value of Jumping Back On the Bandwagon

I’ve been sort of a snotty pants when it’s come to airline miles.  I even wrote a post questioning the value of airline points.  Lately, I’ve found more bang for my buck with hotel points.

However, I’ve noticed a trend lately that seems to once again favor collecting air miles (not over and above hotel points, but in addition).

The Case for Airline Flyer Miles

Rising Cost of (Domestic Only?) Plane Tickets

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been booking some stateside travel.  We’re basically traveling to the same city pairs we’ve always traveled (though in different directions).  However, I’m finding that tickets are a lot more expensive than they were the last time I booked.

I thought it was just me until I saw an article on the increasing cost of plane tickets.

Personally, I don’t know if the phenomenon is affecting international cities since those tickets still seem as cheap as I remember. I do think we are seeing an increase in the cost of domestic travel.

What that means is that as the price of flights increases, your miles become more valuable.  If I used points for some of the flights I’ve been booking, I could get a 1.6 cent value per point.

Of course, the most lucrative way to redeem miles has always been on international travel.

Fuel Price Increases

As the price of fuel continues to increase, we may eventually see an increase in prices or the addition of fuel surcharges.

This might be a void issue depending on how a company adds the surcharge.

If it is an additional surcharge, then you’ll have to pay it with points either way.  However, if the surcharge is added within the ticket cost (like I think it should), then your points automatically become more valuable.

Very Lucrative Airline Flyer Miles Credit Card Bonuses

Back in the days before I organized my points with Award Wallet, I had a Word Document that I used to track my points.  I honestly don’t know how old this information is, but here’s a table I had in the document:

American 20,000 $750 in 1st 4 months Free first year
NWA 15,000 $90 fee
Continental 20,000 $65
US airways 5,000 No annual fee
United 21,000 After $250 First year free
Delta 15,000 No annual fee 1st year

Compare that to current airline flyer miles points offerings:

  1. American – 75,000 points with $4,000 in the first six months.  No annual fee for the first year.
  2. NWA/Delta – 25,000 points at first purchase.  No annual fee for the first year.  Check baggage fee free (with restrictions).
  3. Continental – 50,000 points at first purchase.  No annual fee. OR 30,000 miles and $50 cash back.
  4. US Airways – 35,000 points at first purchase.  No annual fee.
  5. United – 30,000 points and $50 cash back.  No annual fee.

You can view most of those offers on my top airline credit card offers post.

Those are some serious differences.

Right now my family is looking at options for using some of the 300,000 points we got from the American Airlines Citi card.

We’re thinking about flying from Rome (FCO) to Cheyenne, Wyoming (CYS) with a stop at JFK (7.5 hours from my home).  For our family of five, we would need to use 100,000 points and $220.  Considering that is over a $10,000 value, we think we’ll get some good use out of those credit card points.

The Case Against Airline Frequent Flyer Miles

#1 – Very Lucrative Credit Card Bonuses

What do you think happens when there are more fish in the sea?  The food gets scarce.

The same thing is true of points.  When there are more points being offered, you’re sure to find a time when it is harder to redeem the lowest value points.

Right now my suggestion would be to find the airline with the best redemption frequency and focus your earning on those airlines.

That’s why I recently got the Southwest credit card.  I know that Southwest has generous allowances for free flights.  I also love the fact that American has a good availability and one-way award booking.

#2 – Fees and Surcharges

Some airlines can charge ridiculously high fees to book miles.  British Airways and Air France seem to have especially high fees ($250 and up for economy from North America to Europe).

#3 – Early Planning

There’s just no way around the fact that if you fly with miles (as a family especially), you need to be prepared to book early. The longer you wait, the less flights you’ll be able to find.

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