4 Times Buying Miles Makes Sense

In most cases, buying airline miles or points isn’t cost-effective — but see when it might make sense below.
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
Young woman waiting to board an airplane

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

If you’re part of an airline or hotel loyalty program, you likely get bombarded with email offers encouraging you to buy more points or miles. Some of their special promotions can sound tempting. But is buying miles worth it?

Buying miles isn’t often a good strategy, as the miles can cost far more than they’re worth. However, there are some situations when it could be a smart cost-saving approach.

The problem with buying airline miles or hotel points

By using one of the best travel credit cards, you can earn airline miles or hotel points that can help you score free flights or upgraded perks. It’s a great way to indulge without breaking the bank; you’re getting miles or points just for using your credit card to pay for routine expenses, and you may even qualify for a lucrative sign-up bonus.

However, buying additional airline miles or hotel points is often not a good deal for the consumer. Airlines and hotels can sell those miles and points for much more than they’re worth, making them an expensive add-on.

For example, on a round-trip Southwest flight from Orlando to Philadelphia, points are generally worth about 1.5 cents each. But if you opt to buy additional miles from the airline, it’s $60 for 2,000 miles, costing you three cents each — double their typical value.

When you can earn those same miles or points for free by using your credit card or by booking travel, it usually doesn’t make sense to shell out your hard-earned money for them.

Plus, you may be able to get your points in other ways. For example, if you transfer your credit card reward points to an airline or hotel loyalty program — as you can with select American Express and Chase cards — you may get a higher rate of return for your points, making it a more affordable option.

4 times when buying miles or points could make sense

While buying miles or points isn’t often the best strategy, there are some exceptions to the rule. In certain circumstances, buying additional points or miles could even help you save money.

1. The airline or hotel is selling miles or points at a major discount

Throughout the year, hotels and airlines occasionally offer promotional deals. During these events, you can purchase miles or points and get a bonus or major discount, giving you more value for your money. Some of the offers can be significant, allowing you to get double the points for your purchase.

For example, Hilton recently held a promotion that offered a 100% point bonus when you bought at least 10,000 points. That meant you could buy 10,000 points and get a 10,000-point bonus, for a total of 20,000 points. Generally, Hilton points are worth about 0.6 cents each. But this promotional offer allowed you to buy points for just 0.5 cents each, helping stretch your dollars further.

Promotional offers are a great way to stock up on points to fill the gap when you’re booking travel. If you have a dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take, taking advantage of a promotional offer can help you afford it.

2. Your miles or points are about to expire

Miles and points are great perks, but they sometimes have an expiration date. If you don’t use them in time, you could lose those valuable rewards. That problem is like throwing money away.

One of the easiest ways to keep your miles and points active is to buy additional miles or points. Buying extra points or miles is quick and simple, and it’s often enough to ensure your rewards stay active.

However, before making the purchase, make sure the particular airline or hotel counts purchased miles or points as qualifying activity — not all of them do.

3. You just need a few more miles or points to complete your free booking

If you’re close to a flight or hotel redemption award but are just a few points short, you have a few options. You could hold off on booking your flight until you earn enough points with your credit card. But it could take you months to get enough points and for them to post to your account.

If you want to take a trip right now and don’t want to wait, it might be worthwhile to spend a little extra money to purchase miles or points to cover the cost. It’s still an added expense, but spending a bit more on points or miles can be far cheaper than paying for the total cost of a flight or hotel stay on your own.

For example, a flight on American Airlines from New York City to Austin would cost you about 20,000 miles, or $247 if you paid cash, for a basic economy fare. If you had 18,000 miles and needed just 2,000 more to book your flight, you could buy the additional miles for just $94. That purchase is significantly cheaper than the sticker price of a regular flight.

4. It’s sometimes cheaper to buy miles than to purchase a regular ticket

It’s often cheaper to just book economy fares on your own than to purchase miles. But when it comes to premium or luxury seating, it’s sometimes cheaper to buy miles instead of purchasing the fare in cash.

For example, a business-class fare from Chicago to London could cost you $6,973 with United Airlines. If you wanted to purchase your fare using miles, you’d need 155,000 miles.

But to buy 155,000 miles, it would cost you $5,830. Opting to buy miles miles over paying for the airfare with cash would save you more than $1,100.

In order to make the most of your miles you'll need to be flexible about your dates of travel and often book many months in advance. For families traveling together, it can also be challenging to find multiple redemptions available on the same flight. Always make sure you have a realistic plan to use your miles before you buy them.

Bottom line

Buying miles is rarely a good idea. But if you do your homework and take advantage of special offers in certain circumstances, you can snag a good deal and save money on your travel arrangements.

Otherwise, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on booking your trip until you can earn the rewards on your credit cards or take advantage of a promotional bonus offer.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards


Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 18.24% - 28.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee



Why we like it

Author Details

Brandon Neth Brandon Neth is a credit card and award travel expert. He runs social media and audience growth for FinanceBuzz, including the FBZ Elite Facebook travel group. He’s spent the last 11 years using credit card points and miles to travel the world, taking him to 600 cities in 76 countries and counting. He's well-versed in credit cards, early retirement, real estate investing, and frugal living. He's been featured in Business Insider, Yahoo, MSN, Credit.com, U.S. News, Reader's Digest, and The Wirecutter (A New York Times Company).

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt