Why Redeeming Miles for Domestic US Travel Makes Sense

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I was going to write about the new value to be found in British Airways Avios points, but the (sometimes unkind) reaction to Mommy Points suggestion on using Avios points for domestic travel raises a far bigger issue.  Mommy Points says “yay” for domestic redemptions and so do I!

Why The Fuss?

Big Travel with Small Money doesn’t always mean first class award redemptions to exotic new lands and five star hotels.  Big Travel with Small Money also means saving money and traveling more often than you could otherwise do. Read that again:  Saving money on airfare & traveling more often are as worthy goals (if not better) as flying on a 12 segment international first class itinerary which costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Use miles for domestic travel
2 Reasons Why We Redeemed Miles For Domestic US Travel
While I do like First Class international redemptions, I also like saving money and visiting family whom I otherwise wouldn’t see.  In October, Emily and I traveled for 3 out of 4 weekends and redeemed miles for 6 tickets in coach instead of paying cash for the airfare.  Next week, we’re visiting family for Thankgsiving and  used miles and points for the flights in coach.

That’s 8 tickets (in 2 months) which I didn’t have to spend money to buy!

But you say:

 “That’s a waste of your miles.”

“Don’t you know that miles and points are better used for international business and first class redemptions?  Your redemption cost per mile is much too low (~1 to 2 cents per mile) compared to redeeming for a $15,000 ticket to Bali (10+ cents per mile).”

“You of all people should know that you always buy tickets less than $250 instead of using miles”

“You’ve gone too far this time.  I’m taking your blog back!”

That’s true only if I had unlimited amounts of time to go on these long exotic journeys and unlimited amounts of money to buy $250 tickets each time I wanted to fly domestically or wanted Emily’s parents to take a domestic trip.

Emily and I both work, and we  don’t have a lot of spare time to go on more than 2 international vacations a year and with our student loans, we certainly don’t have the money to buy 8 domestic tickets.  And at ~$250 a ticket, that’s at least $2,000 saved!  This doesn’t include all the other domestic tickets which I’ve redeemed miles for in the past year.

Emily and I earn more miles than we can use in a year, so why not use some of those miles and points for domestic travel?

I redeemed miles for a domestic ticket when Emily had surgery and her mom visited her for a week while I went to work.  I redeemed miles to visit Emily’s grandma in Florida.  I redeemed miles to visit Emily’s other grandma in Ohio.  I redeemed miles for Emily’s family to visit us.  I redeemed miles to travel to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding.

And I got LOTS of value from it.

Sure the “value” per mile redeemed was low.  But the memories and experiences were worth a lot more.  And we will always remember those memories when *gulp* some of the folks in those memories are no longer with us.

There’s more to life than a few hours in a first class cabin!

And as I’ve said before, it doesn’t really matter how you redeem your miles if you earned them from a credit card sign-up bonus for virtually no expense.

If you’re getting less than 1.5 cents per mile from your redemption, you are better off putting regular spending on a cash back card which offers 1.5% to 2% since you get the same value, but don’t have to hunt for award seats.

But spend miles earned from credit card sign-up bonuses as YOU want to spend them.  And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you have lots of miles and points, you may soon have more than enough miles to fly internationally in first class AND take many domestic coach trips as well.

Bottom Line:  If you earn your miles from credit card sign-up bonuses, it doesn’t matter how you spend your miles since all redemptions will give you a positive return. 

Spend your miles for what makes sense to YOU.  Sometimes that will be a multi-segment trip to 3 continents and sometimes it will be visiting family in South Dakota.

What is Big Travel with Small Money to you? 

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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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