5 Myths About Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

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5 Myths About Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

Million Mile Secrets5 Myths About Redeeming Frequent Flyer MilesMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.


You post a question asking how to check availability for a segment in coach and,  instead of answering your questions, you get replies suggesting that you’re not the smartest person  since everyone (sarcasm alert!) knows that redeeming miles for coach travel is not the best value. *sigh*

Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you.  Or if you’ve seen it on-line.

Bottom Line: The common theme in my response to these frequent flyer myths is to do what makes sense for your travel needs and life goals.  That’s why it is so important to determine your miles and points philosophy.

Here are 5 common myths about redeeming frequent flyer miles and hotel points and why they are wrong:

Myth #1 –  “Never redeem miles for domestic US travel.  It’s the worst value for miles out there!”

If you don’t have a need to travel internationally, maximizing your miles on International First or Business class is meaningless.  Sure, it gets you the most theoretical “value,” but it is of no use to you!  If you’d rather travel to Florida with your family of 4, it doesn’t matter just how good a deal you can get by redeeming miles to France, because that’s not where you want to go.

Would you be happy if your spouse or partner bought 5000 square feet of carpet when your house is only 1500 square feet, because the price, per square foot, was a “better value” when buying 5000 square feet?  Probably not, right! 🙂

However, if you are redeeming at less than 1 cent per mile, you shouldn’t be using a travel reward card as your primary credit card since you can do better with a regular cash-back card.  But you should make use of the sign-up bonuses available on travel-cards so that you can use the miles and points earned to travel within the US.  After all, miles aquired at zero cost can be redeemed at any price above zero for you to get a benefit!

And there is lots of value available while redeeming for certain domestic US flights – traveling for funerals, traveling at short-notice and traveling to small airports (Traverse City, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio for example).

I’ve booked $800 tickets within a week of departure for only 25,000 miles which saved me quite a bit of cash!

Myth #2 –  “Don’t join Southwest’s Airlines’ Rapid Reward program!  You’re wasting your time since it’s value-based.”

If you have a family of 4 and try to visit your elderly parents across the country in Arizona twice a year, signing-up for a Chase Southwest Airline Rapid Reward Credit card for you and your spouse may not be such a bad idea.  It would have been even better if you had signed-up for the offer which gave you a free flight + $500 in Southwest Gift Cards.

Remember, you benefit when you use credit-card sign up bonuses (mostly acquired for free!) for flights on Southwest.  In my case, Emily and I both got a free flight (worth $300) + $500 in gift cards each.  That’s $1600 in free Southwest flights for us.  We used it to visit Emily’s grandmothers in Ohio and Florida for free!

Myth #3 –  “Always maximize the value of your miles by redeeming for international First Class or Business Class”

If your goal is to travel overseas as much as possible, than it’s better to fly overseas twice a year in coach and spend less miles, than once a year in First Class.  Sure, the value per mile when flying in coach is less than the value per mile in First Class, but you’ll take the same pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the same pictures of the tiger in India regardless of how you made it to your destination!.  And since no one really pays $25,000 for a First Class ticket, the theoretical value per mile is a bit meaningless.

Sure, in some cases, you need to worry about fuel surcharges when redeeming miles on certain carriers since the fuel surcharge + the cost of acquiring your miles + not earning miles on your flights may be more than just buying a ticket with cash.  But then again, your goal may be to conserve cash, which might make redeeming for miles acceptable.

Myth #4 –  “Never waste your miles flying a US airline on an International First or Business route.  Flying a European or Asian airline will maximize your miles”

If you would rather get home using the most direct flight connections, instead of losing a day in transit or overnighting it an airport hotel, than that just may involve flying a US airline in First and Business class.  Sure, Lufthansa and ANA are better, but you’d probably rather spend another day in Tokyo!

Myth #5 –  “Avoid Delta Airlines like the plague!”

It is true that Delta miles are hard to redeem because Delta’s on-line award calendar is broken and Delta’s telephone agents are unskilled at making award bookings.  Delta also doesn’t allow you to redeem for First Class awards – they only allow Business and Economy redemptions.

But there is still a lot of value in Delta Awards.  For example, Delta will get you to Paris, Bora Bora, Australia, and The Seychelles relatively effortlessly!  Check you the The Points Guy’s blog for how to redeem Delta awards – he shows you the best values available on Delta.

Delta also makes it much easier to earn miles, so the trade-off between high award levels is matched by the easy availability of miles.  And if you’re hub-captive (i.e. Delta is the only major player in your market; think Delta in Detroit) you don’t have much of a choice, but to fly with Delta.

As we’ve seen, you need to use your miles in the way which provides you with the most value.  And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!

What are your favorite myths about redeeming miles and points?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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