People Are Still Buying 100 Million Frequent Flyer Miles A Day

Points.com says people are still buying on average 100 million frequent flyer miles a day.

  • They’re buying miles now that they probably won’t redeem until the future
  • Although there are some great redemption opportunities if you look out towards late fall and early winter

It’s a bet on the stability of the airline or hotel, and associated loyalty program. And it suggests a willingness to continue to part with cash, perhaps giving the program an interest free loan, even in an uncertain economic environment.

Points.com works with 55 loyalty programs. And at an average of, say, 1.5 cents per point (hotel points generally go for less than airline miles) that’s just $1.5 million per day across all of those programs.

What they haven’t told us is how the 100 million points total compares to what people were buying before. To an order of magnitude approximation (based on an assumption about Points’ cut of sales) that’s probably half the volume we were seeing before.

Some airlines are probably selling miles well on their own. American Airlines doesn’t go through Points for its mileage sales, but AAdvantage ran its lowest-priced sale on miles ever, though they didn’t set the price low enough to make me a buy. (US Airways – which did use Points.com – used to sell miles for even less.) They’ll have made up a good portion of the mileage sales in the market, while Points partners Icelandair and Air Baltic probably didn’t do as well.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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  1. Actually, it doesn’t. We’re taking advantage of current deals for future travel. With the (more) generous cancellation/change policies, now is the time to do it. Think of it this way — when the markets tanked due to CV, many of us said “Don’t invest right now”. What did billionaires like Buffett do? Invest — because it’s cheap and they know the market will go back up. That’s why it’s time to buy and “invest” — because the travel market will go up again (to the disadvantage of flyers who wait) and you will regret it.

  2. The government is shelling out a trillion here and a trillion there. Seems like they come out with a new trillion package every 4-5 days. They are will to buy stocks and I think they already are, hence the recent run up. Who is to say the government is not buying those miles behind closed doors. Especially when there is no transparency.

  3. “Points.com says people are still buying on average 100 million frequent flyer miles a day.”

    Actually, Gary, they didn’t say that at all – the article text reads, quote, “Between the start of February and the end of March, travelers bought more than 100 million points and miles a day, on average.”.

    Given that the current month is April, no, the article makes no assertion that people are doing this in the present tense as you write.

    Plus, we of course do not know 1) the distribution of the sales during the aforementioned time period or, 2) previous levels of sales, as you point out. The sales could have followed a linear decline from 200M/day to zero and still averaged out to 100M, yet we’d have a non-story in actuality. Not enough data here to write about, sorry.

  4. @CW they’re saying recently on average it’s 100mm, you might guess that it was higher in february and lower in march, you might guess the average has gone down in the last week and a half, but it is – on average – what they are saying and certainly what they are suggesting.

  5. Not a points/miles buying customer after last attempts with AA across Atlantic in J. AA wasn’t good before and isn’t any better at .015 per mile for 300,00 useless miles. In the future even less premium cabin space will be available due to combination schedule cuts and ticket sales.

  6. Don’t know if this is within the article’s period of time as the National Emergency was declared on Friday 3/13/20. Our kids local schools shut down effective 3/16, and they remain closed.

    Purchased miles at end of February to top off our accounts enough for 4 Biz class seats. On 3/11, found 4 biz seats for December 2020 (LAX-BKK) which is a high-season for this route, and immediately booked them. Great investment considering they are 4 premium seats and we still have 8 more months to see what will happen with this pandemic!

    LAX-BOS Class: First (U) AA2800
    BOS-NRT Class: Business (U) JL07
    NRT-BKK Class: Business (U) JL707

  7. AA still selling their miles. Just for fun I checked business saver award availability from USA to Australia departing from end of November to beginning of December without success.

  8. TAP Air Portugal, a Star Alliance carrier, offered miles recently for 0.5 cents each. At that price, I’m a buyer. Buy low, sell high. Isn’t that what this whole thing is about?

  9. Someone suggested the government is buying up the miles. That’s not true but they should. Government workers are very expensive to fly around because of the requirement for the refundable fares in a lot of cases. The government being given miles in exchange for assistance with an anytime use policy like Jetblue at a fixed redemption rate (1 cent or 2) would make a lot of sense.

  10. By government, I mean through the Federal Reserve, which can be through a third part, in this case Banks. Right now, the only one that can buy large amounts of miles is the government, through bail outs, and Banks. Through closed Doors and without transparency, this could be taking place?

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