How should I use my

How should I use my miles. I’m not going to give you the definitive answer here, but I am going to tell you about how I use mine — and point out that how you want to use them will dictate your choices of program, credit card, etc.

Yesterday I received an email asking my opinion of a credit card from MBNA with No annual fee, $1 = 1 point, 25k points = 1 flight w/in contiguous US w/o blackout dates. The ticket has to be booked 21 days in advance in coach, and there’s a maximum dollar value for the ticket.

Here is my reply:

What I do like about the offer is that when traveling on an award ticket, since it is a PURCHASED ticket, you will be earning more frequent flyer miles (when traveling on an airline reward ticket purchased with miles, you do not earn miles).

What I do NOT like about it is that you are limited in the way you can buy the ticket (must be 3 weeks out) and limited in the dollar value of the ticket (cheap).

This is precisely the opposite use that I have for miles.

  • I use miles for last-minute and extremely pricey tickets such as when I have to travel cross-country and purchase the tickets the day before.. I’m usually able to get an award ticket for 25,000 miles instead of spending $2000.
  • I use miles for international first class travel (90,000 miles for international business to sydney, 120,000 miles for international first to sydney).
  • I use miles to confirm first class upgrades.

Since those are how I like to use miles — and how I think I get the most value for them — I wouldn’t choose the card mentioned above.

Why use miles for a $300 ticket when those same miles can purchase a roundtrip first class upgrade (worth, say, $1500 — the difference between discount coach and first for a cross-country trip)? Why use miles for four $300 tickets when those same miles can purchase a $7500 international business class ticket?

I use miles for the things I could never afford to pay for on my own. My miles strategies allow me to travel in a style beyond my means. But that’s a personal choice. Think about what you want to accomplish with miles, and then make sure your miles accumulation strategy matches that spending strategy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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