Save Big When You Buy US Air Miles

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Update: This offer expired on June 30, 2011.

US Airways frequently sells their Dividend Miles at fairly low rates.  In the current version of the offer – which ends on June 30, 2011 – you can buy up to 50,000 miles and get another 50,000 miles as a bonus for a total cost of $1,480 or 1.48 cents per mile.

100% US Air Bonus

You can get a good value from this deal if you use your purchased miles carefully.

Remember, you can always put a reservation on hold with US Air, and buy the miles afterwards since the bought miles show up in your account almost immediately!

How to best use US Air Dividend Miles?

  • Don’t redeem them on US Air itself, but through their Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Lufthansa, United, etc.  Here’s a link to the Star Alliance partner award chart.  That’s because the partner airlines cost less miles for an award and are generally more comfortable than US Air.
  • Redeem the miles on US Air, but don’t use their regular award chart which prices Business Class tickets to Europe at 350,000 miles! Instead, use their off-peak awards for a much better value.

What to do with 100,000 Dividend Miles?

Business Class Travel:

Business class tickets usually cost $3,000 to $5,000 for the destinations below.

  • 90,000 miles for a business class award to North Asia (South Korea, Japan, China etc.) through Star Alliance partners
  • 100,000 miles for a business class award to either South America or Europe through Star Alliance partners
  • 110,000 miles for a business class award to either South Pacific or Africa through Star Alliance partners
  • 60,000 miles for off-peak (i.e travel during low season) business class award to South America or Europe on US Airways. This is one of the few times when using US Air miles ON US Air itself makes sense

Buy US Air Miles - 100%

Economy Class Travel:

In general, buying miles at 1.48 cents per mile and redeeming, say 60,000 miles, for a economy class ticket to Europe is NOT a good value.

That’s because you’d be paying:

  • $880 (1.48 X 60,000) for the Dividend Air miles
  • ~$120 in taxes, fees, and ticketing charges
  • $80 (conservatively valuing the miles at 1 cent per mile) for the ~8,000 miles which you wouldn’t accrue because you booked a ticket using miles
  • The value of your time in making the award booking through US Air.  This means spending time to look for award availability and calling US air to make the booking.

So you’d pay $1,080 (not including the value of your time) for an economy class ticket that you most likely could purchase for less than $1,080!

Of course there are occasions (flying to remote airports, having a stop-over/open jaw) when buying miles and redeeming for an economy ticket would make sense – just be sure to the math before you decide to buy miles for an economy ticket.

100 % Bonus - US Air

And for $500 more, you could buy enough miles to fly that route in business class!

Keep in mind that:

  • You have to have a US Air Dividend mile account which is open for at least 12 days to take advantage of this offer
  • If you open an US Air Dividend Mile account today, you will NOT be able to participate in the offer because your account will not be open for 12 days by June 30 when the offer ends
  • The maximum amount of miles which you can buy is limited to 50,000 miles
  • Purchases are non-refundable
  • You have to pay taxes & fees on your award tickets
  • US Airways has been having problems blocking certain carriers and routes.  This has been limited to First Class awards though, but is still worth considering before you buy US Air miles

Bottom Line:

This is a good deal – particularly if you use the miles to top off your account balance for a first or business class award or for travel where there is award space available.

I would have taken part in this offer, but I already have a lot of US Air Dividend Miles which I have to use.  There is no point buying miles which I may not end up using!

Have you ever bought US Air miles?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Only 2 more days!

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35 responses to “Save Big When You Buy US Air Miles

  1. I did not have any large purchases coming up when I heard about Chase’s Preferred card offer, however when I heard about the US airway deal about a week ago, I immediately signed up for the card and became a US Airway dividend miles member! The plan is to offset the purchase requirement on the Chase card with the miles purchase for US Airways and, in doing so, becoming eligible for the 50000 points as well. Furthermore, after reading your last post, I will definitely try to get Chase to give me 100000 instead.

    • @Chirag – That’s a great way to meet the minimum spend requirement on the Chase Sapphire card! Lots of folks are getting the extra 50,000 points so send Chase a secure message!

      @Max – Glad you found the tip useful! Which airlines do you plan on flying to Seoul?

      @Phil – Agree with you that Star Alliance availability is bad for 4 persons from the US. Traveling as a family of 4 is always difficult on award tickets – but if you’re willing to split up between classes (kids in first class, parents behind…or is it the other way around?), may work out. But you’re right – traveling as a family of 4 on award seats is hard!

      @Steve – Swiss to Europe sounds wonderful! Did you find it easy to find award space?

  2. I just took advantage of this offer for my upcoming trip to Seoul, Korea. With these miles, Business was cheaper than purchasing the ticket with cash in Economy! Thanks for the awesome tip!!!

  3. I rate this an OK deal not a GOOD deal. As you point out if in coach it is not that economical (no pun intended) and you have to put up with restricted availability. And then in business or first the problem is Star Alliance is very bad for availability if you are trying to book for four people. Great for the singletons and pretty good for the couples of the world. But we travel as a family and *A makes it very hard to do so. OneWorld has good availability across BA/CX as does SkyTeam across Air France/KLM and some of the smaller regionals like Kenya. So my AA/DL miles tend to be much more valuable than the US ones to me. I’d warn anyone against doing this if they need to book more than two seats on the same plane

  4. Steve Schwartz

    With Bonus purchase miles and transfer bonuses, I have done very well with US Air miles, including two RT First Class tickets last summer on Swiss (NY to Venice, Athens to NY – cruise). I like to save my miles for big trips like that.

    But I did take advantage of this year’s sale for both me and my wife. I used mine for US Air flights from NY to Phoenix in First Class – tho the yield was not as good as Europe, for a bit more we will fly the 4+ hours in comfort. Still very worthwhile!

  5. YYZ-SEA on AC, SEA-ICN on OZ, ICN-NRT on UA, NRT-YYZ on AC in business. It’s an awesome deal, as Asiana & Air Canada have two of the best business products in the world, and business on a UA 777 from ICN to NRT is pretty great, too! It was somewhat difficult to book, though, as I’m traveling in peak season (August). An economy ticket for this route is about $2000. I got business for $1300 incl taxes.

  6. I kept debating this deal all month and just cannot see the value for me. I currently have about 25k miles with US Airways and had seriously considered adding enough for a first or business class ticket to Europe or Asia. Being a person that normally does not mind flying coach I find it difficult to justify spending the extra money even with this great deal. Plus depending on what vacations I take next year I might not be able to use these miles for two years. I assume that these kind of deals do happen on a regular basis?

    • @Larry – I agree with you – it doesn’t make sense to buy something which you otherwise wouldn’t buy or use, just because it is on sale! These US Air promotions do happen pretty frequently (perhaps once every 2 or 3 months).

  7. Can you point your readers towards a resource for checking award travel availability on partner airlines? I currently have around 25K miles on USAirways, and with an upcoming trip this winter to Thailand, am thinking about jumping on the deal, but I need to know if there is availability before I do. USAirways only lets me check USAirways availability online, not the availability of partners.

    Love the blog, by the way–well-written, clear and extremely helpful! Thanks!

  8. Hi,
    Am I missing something or have airlines (specifically United) adjusted their award chart? I was excited to see the 90k business class award to North Asia (which I mistakenly thought was roundtrip!) and then saw this

    125k for a one-way business class from North America to North Asia…not sure if I will buy these US Air miles now…:(

    • @Simon – If you buy US air miles, you have to redeem them at the price shown on the US Air award chart, NOT the United award chart. But since United is a partner of US Air, you can redeem US miles (at the price shown on the US Air chart) for travel on United. I know this is a bit confusing!

      Per the US Air award chart (which is listed in the “Mile & Point Resources” page of the “Airline Award Charts” on Million Mile Secrets, you need 90K miles for a business class roundtrip ticket from the US to North Asia, and 120 miles for First Class.

  9. Hmm okay…as you can see I am new in the game! Does this mean 1 point of US Air points is “worth” a lot more than a United point? 90k US points gets a roundtrip, while 120k UA points only get a one-way! Kind of have to think of them as currency almost – not all points are equal, even if they’re partners!

    Anyway, thanks for your explanation. I look forward to your future posts covering how to use these points. By the way, I’ve been approved to both AAdvantage cards and plan to apply for the business card in 3 months. Thank you!!!

    • @Simon – You’re a quick learner! Some airline points are more valuable than others either because they have lower mileage redemption rates or because of liberal routing rules/flexibility/low taxes and fees etc!

      The chart which you are referring to is the “Standard” chart which guarantees you a seat on the flight if there is space – but at double the number of miles. That’s why it is so expensive!

  10. Just booked some emergency travel for my mom using freshly bought US Air miles. ATL-FRA-MSQ-FRA-ATL in economy on LH traveling day after tomorrow for $1120 after all miles, fees and taxes. Same ticket would be close to $2500 paying cash. Bunch of money saved and over 1k chase sapphire points earned, bringing me closer to 50k sign-up bonus.
    Continental website is very good at finding award space. Whatever is available for saver pass is available for US Air miles. Beats ANA tool in my opinion.

    • @Vitaly – Emergency travel? I hope everything is okay. Buying US air miles for last minute travel can save a lot of money – thanks for pointing that out. I like the Continental tool for shorter flights, but prefer ANA for piecing together flights with 7 to 8 segments. Thanks again for sharing!

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  12. Does US Airways allow any stopovers if the reward is redeemed on their alliance partner airlines? If so, how many stopovers and how long can we stay at each location? Thanks!

    • @Jenny – US Air allows 1 stopover or an open jaw on each award ticket with partner airline. The rules say that the stop over has to be at a Star Alliance hub, but I’ve had success with hanging up and calling back. The stop over can be as long as you want it to be!

  13. Hi Daraius, I’m a little confused.. Since 90K US Air miles can be redeemed for a business class trip to North Asia on a Star Alliance partner, does this mean that it is 90K US Air miles for all these flights regardless of high/low season? Also, on there are categories called SaverPass/EasyPass – do I have to pick only a certain category in order to be able to book the trip using 90K US Air miles? Or can I ignore these categories? Thanks!

    • @Jenny – 90K can be redeemed only at the LOW award level. This means, that you have to find an award seat on partner airlines which are in the low inventory bucket. In your example, you could use US air miles to fly on Continental only if the Continental seats were in the SaverPass category (low award level).

  14. Thanks Daraius! Does that apply to all Star Alliance partners? As long as the flight is in the lowest award level for that airline, then U.S. Airways miles can be used to book it based on their partner award chart miles amount? I’m new to award bookings and still have lots to learn. 🙂

    • @Jenny – In general, yes. So if you find a United award at the saver level, you can book it using US Air miles. You can also use the Air Canada website to search for award flights, but search for your flight segment by segment and then piece it together. The ANA website is also a good source, but is a little cumbersome to use.

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  16. Hey Darius,

    I’ve been playing with the ANA tool and Aeroplan to find a flight from Chicago to Australia. Oddly there seems to be some disagreement between the two sites as far as what days have the lowest award category available. What’s the best method to piece together a trip and check it’s availability?

    Also do you call the regular “Reservations” number on the US Airways website to book award travel with Star Alliance partners?

    • @c0ldlimit – As long as you are searching for a Star Alliance reward flight on Aeroplan there shouldn’t be much disagreement. The best way to get your flight is to break it up and search segment by segment starting with the overwater component first. Flying to Australia is one of the toughest awards to get, so it will take time.

      Yes, you call the regular reservations number on the US airways website and have them book your flight. I usually research my flight options first and then tell them that I was speaking with another agent and wrote down these flights, but had to check with Emily, but I’m ready to now put the flights on hold. Once they are on hold, I check them again to make sure they are okay and then call again to book them.

  17. Is it possible to put partner awards on hold with Usairways?

  18. Hi Darius,

    I heard US Airways is going to run another promotion soon, selling Dividend Miles with a bonus.

    Do you know if I can use Dividend Miles to redeem for Singapore Airlines First Class?

    Or, I have several hundred thousand Ultimate Rewards points now. Can I use those somehow to redeem for Singapore Airlines First Class (like by transferring them to UA/CO)?

    I have read that you cannot redeem for Singapore Airlines First Class through any other frequent flyer program except their own, KrisFlyer. But, I figured you might know a way to do it.

    Thanks Again!


    • @Chris M – In general, Singapore blocks award seats through partner airlines for their new First and Business Class. For the other intra-asia flights or occasional ones elsewhere with the old seats it may be possible to get seats, but I wouldn’t count on it!

  19. That’s what I thought. Bummer. Oh well. Thanks for the answer!

  20. I bought the miles back in December and now was trying to book the following flight IAD-PEK and on the way back PVG-ICN (stopover) ICN-NYC. agent booked it for me but i was stupid to ask to put him on hold so i call him back with another credit card. when another agent picked up, he said that even if i booked the last leg ICN-IAD this still would not be allowed as i am allowed only 1 stopover or 1 open jaw. he claimed that had i bought the ticket another agent booked for me, i could just be refused boarding in Shanghai and have no way to get to Seoul &/or to NYC from there. Is it true? or if i call back and have another agent accept my payment for the itinerary which was booked i will be fine??? Thank you

  21. Hey Darius, not sure where the best place to ask this is but what is the best way to get 10,000 miles quick?

    Background: US airways wants 60,000 for a RT I want Economy but only $50,000 Envoy. I only have 35,000 but and I have the dividends cards (5,000 mile discount!). Want to get 10,000 miles before the first class saver sell out.