Use Miles or Pay for Ticket

Old Feb 4th, 2004, 03:26 PM
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Use Miles or Pay for Ticket

I have an opportunity to go to Australia this year with some buddies. Currently the airfare for the days that I want to fly is close to $2000 from ORD - SYD. If I purchase the ticket from a discount site, it's only $1500. However if I use my United Miles it's only 60k miles to fly roundtrip to Australia. Should I pay the $1500 and accrue the miles for another trip? Or should I just use my miles to fly there?

I have theory that using miles for upgrades is more cost effective than using miles for tickets. Does anybody agree/disagree?

Thanks
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 04:12 PM
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The answer depends on the individual. I'm guessing that for the round trip, it would come to something like 20,000 flight miles. On a purchased ticket, that puts you a long way toward elite status for all of 2005. If you are already elite, then there are bonus miles involved. If you're NOT elite, then maybe now is the time to go for it! All of these things need to be netted out to get an accurate picture, as you point out.

Personally, I don't think trading 60K for a $1,500-$2,000 ticket is a bad deal at all and I'd probably do it -- but I'm relatively short, I don't have tons of extra money and I would have adequate opportunities to gain miles and maintain elite status without this trip. I value miles at around 1.5 cents each, so your deal would easily make that standard. The money saved could make what would otherwise have been a much more expensive trip into something affordable.

On the other hand, if I was tall, had lots of extra cash and/or I would be risking elite status without the flight miles from this trip, I'd have to look more carefully at buying the ticket.

On a pure cost comparison basis, it is true that using miles to upgrade provides more value in theory. The problem is that I would never be willing to pay the cost of a first class ticket anyway, so it's all academic. Upgrades with miles often involve buying more expensive fare classes, which I am unwilling to do. (I get complimentary upgrades on most of my flights within the U.S. and Canada anyway and that is one of the reasons that achieving and maintaining status is so important.)

In short, I think 60K for a trip to OZ is a high value use for your miles. Since you have to use them for SOMETHING at SOME point anyway and they don't earn interest, this is a good way to enjoy what you've earned. I give it a thumbs up.
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 04:37 PM
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If you can use your miles to fly on the dates you want, then your 60,000 miles are worth $2000 today.

A year from now, your $2000 will still be worth $2000. How much will your miles be worth a year from now?
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 09:16 AM
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According to my formula, 60,000 miles for a $2,000 ticket is a good value. From NY to Europe is 50,000 miles and that ticket can be purchases from $300 up, depending on the time of year. If you trade your Amex miles in for a gift certificate to a department store you would need to transfer 100,000 miles to get $1,000.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 12:46 PM
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I have twice used frequent flyer miles to fly to Australia from Los Angeles. Please keep in mind that frequent flyer miles tend to decrease in value as time passes. Mileage requirements for destinations sometimes increase, routes are eliminated, airlines go out of business, etc. Unless you have another trip planned in the near future for those 60,000 miles, I would use them for Australia.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 02:49 PM
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The third possibility is to get the best deal you can from United on that trip and use the miles to upgrade -- if ever there were a time to go for the upgrade, it's on the Pacific routes! That way, you get the huge number of miles added to your account for another trip.

I try never to use my miles for anything but an upgrade (although another good use is for emergency travel on short-notice, to avoid the huge last-minute cost), but that does mean I have to be prepared to pay a coach fare that may not be the lowest. Usually, they give you a choice of either paying more money and fewer miles or more miles and less money, assuming you can plan far enough in advance to get the upgradable seats.
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Old Feb 11th, 2004, 09:29 PM
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Thanks for the info. After doing some thinking, I will probably just use my 60k United Miles to fly to Aussie. As much as I would love to upgrade, not sure if I want to spend near $2k just so I can accrue 17k miles.

Thanks!
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Old Feb 12th, 2004, 07:36 AM
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Shouldn't your evaluation be based on $2000 and 77,000 miles? If you use your miles, you lose 60,000 miles, but keep your $2000. If you buy the ticket, you lose your $2000, but keep your 60,000 miles and gain 17,000, for a total of 77,000 miles. I don't know about UA, but on some FF plans, i believe you don't earn miles for flights you buy with miles.
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Old Feb 12th, 2004, 01:25 PM
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If you use miles to buy a Coach ticket you don't earn miles for that seat regardless whose frequent flyer program.
 
Old Feb 14th, 2004, 09:55 AM
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Having lived in Sydney for almost a decade, I can assure you that spending $2000 and then using miles to upgrade will pay for itself. You will arrive more rested, you will get to use dedicated check=in lines and lounges, and your luggage pops out first. Give it some serious thought. But be sure whihc fare class is eligible for an upgrade.
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Old Feb 18th, 2004, 09:20 AM
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You mentioned on "days you want to fly" is close to $2K, make sure you can get seat using miles on those days, you need to be flexible on travel date when is using miles as UA only offers a few seats on each flight.
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Old Feb 20th, 2004, 09:02 AM
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Thanks for your help.

I used my miles to get the ticket. The day that I wanted to fly back, UA didn't have a seat for me, so I have to fly back a day earlier.

If I had bought my ticket on a discount website for $1500, that ticket would not have been upgradable.

The upgradable ticket was $2200. I decided that the $$$ was better spent on my trip rather than just flying there!

Thanks again.
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