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Should I Purchase a Flight with Cash or Miles?

EPF Last Update: June 3, 2020

When travelling abroad or across the United States, you usually have the option to buy your ticket with cash or miles. However, a study by Bankrate.com found that 31% of card holders don’t end up redeeming their flight rewards. Surprising, huh? And with the cost of living continuing to rise across the country, it’s head-scratching as to why consumers would let free money go to waste.

One reason may be the hassle of redeeming rewards. Some flyers find the process overwhelming or simply don’t know when to pull the trigger.

Well, if this sounds like you, we have some great tips on when to use cash and when to use miles for an airline purchase.

When to Choose Cash

  • During off-season travel

If you book your flight during the November to March months, paying with cash is the way to go. Because the number of miles you need for a flight varies, their dollar-value usually declines during weaker months. Because of this, you’re better off saving your miles for peak travel periods when they’re more valuable.

  • You are travelling to several locations

If you have a busy flight plan, using miles is extremely expensive. If you’re booking connector flights or stopping off somewhere on the way to your final destination, you often need to buy tickets from multiple airlines. This is extremely costly when trying to divide the amount with miles. In this scenario, it’s best to stick with cash to avoid any negative loopholes.

  • There are unique discounts

When airlines have limited time offers, opt for cash to complete the transaction. Most often, flash deals don’t allow miles redemption, but even if they do, your total cost is usually much higher than paying with cash.

When to Choose Miles

  • During peak-season travel

If you book your flight during the June to August months, prices are expected to be higher. But, if you travel with miles, you’ll save money and enjoy the flexibility of being able to alter your travel date. During peak holiday periods, miles deals also tend to increase exponentially. As a way to boost quarterly earnings, airline companies tend to offer the best miles deals during the holidays to keep passenger traffic at a maximum.

  • If you want to change your flight

When you pay with miles, most airlines allow you to swap plane tickets without incurring any additional fees. However, if the latter ticket is more expensive than the former, you will need to pay the difference. But, if you need to book a flight immediately and know your schedule may change at the last minute, using miles ensures you make out alright.

  • You are flying first class

When booking premium seats, miles ensure you receive the most bang for your buck. Many airlines use upgrades as a way to entice flyers to use their miles. Because of this, you usually end up with a pretty sweet deal. Miles can also make premium seats more affordable. If you dream about what luxuries await at the front of the plane, using miles allows you to experience it firsthand, while still keeping your out-of-pocket costs at a minimum.

Elite Personal Finance

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