The Only Time You Should Buy Airline Miles

Buying airline miles is a waste of money. But there are 3 times when you should buy airlines miles. | frequent flyer miles | travel hacks |

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Readers often ask, “Should I buy airline miles?” Buying miles can be tempting especially when there are offers like up to 50% bonus on purchased United Airlines miles, up to 50% bonus on American Airlines miles, and a 40% bonus when you buy Southwest pointsThe only time you should buy airline miles is when it makes sense for you.

The Only Time You Should Buy Airline Miles

Buying airline miles is a waste of money. But there are 3 times when you should buy airlines miles. | frequent flyer miles | travel hacks |

Generally, it doesn’t make financial sense to buy miles. Because often you’re paying more than the miles are worth.

But there are three times when you should buy frequent flyer miles:

1. If you’re short on miles for an award ticket.
2. To book an expensive International First Class or Business Class flight.
3. To keep your miles from expiring.

If You’re Short on Miles for an Award Ticket

You should buy airlines miles if you don’t have enough for an award ticket.

But I’m not talking tens of thousands of miles, more like a few thousand miles.

Let’s say you want to fly to Hawaii. You can get MileSAAver off-peak award for 20,000 American Airlines miles each way.

You have 38,000 American Airlines frequent flyer miles.

Do you skip going on your dream trip to Hawaii because someone said you should never buy miles? No way! You pony up and buy the 2,000 miles for $59.

So for $59 bucks, you get to lay on the beach drinking mai tais and snorkel with turtles.

To Book an Expensive International First Class or Business Class Flight

It’s worth buying miles to book an international First Class or Business Class flight on an award ticket. Because you can save thousands of dollars.

Why buy airlines miles? Buying miles to fly First Class on Cathay Pacific saves you $25,000.

A round-trip First Class ticket on Cathay Pacific can cost $25,008.84.

You book an award ticket using Alaska Airlines miles to fly round-trip First Class on Cathay Pacific for 140,000 miles.

Buying 140,000 miles costs $4,138.75.

If you bought miles and booked an award ticket, you save $20,870.09.

To Keep Your Miles From Expiring

Another reason to buy airline miles is to keep your miles from expiring.

Frequent flyer miles expire after 18 months if there’s no mileage earning activity. If you haven’t flown on that airline or earned any miles from dining, shopping, renting cars, or staying at hotels within 18 months you will lose all the miles in your airline account.

One way to keep those miles from expiring is to buy airline miles. If you’re in a time crunch, this is your best option. Because some airlines like American Airlines, miles post to your account within 8 hours.

If you do buy miles, be sure to look for buy miles promotions. Frequently the airlines will offer bonuses when you purchase miles.

Where to Buy Airline Miles

You can buy airline miles using these links:

Pro-tip: Most airline mile purchases are handled by So you won’t earn a travel bonus for purchasing miles.

Related posts on earning airline miles:


Should you buy airlines miles? Normally you shouldn’t buy frequent flyer miles.

But there are 3 times when you should buy airline miles:

1. If you’re short on miles for an award ticket.
2. To book an expensive International First Class or Business Class flight.
3. To keep your miles from expiring.

If you’re going to buy miles check for special bonus offers like up to 50% bonus on purchased United Airlines miles40% bonus when you buy Southwest points, and up to 50% bonus on American Airlines miles.

Short on hotel points? Read the only time you should buy hotel points.

Pin this to your travel tips, vacation, or travel board:

Buying airline miles wastes money. But there are 3 times when you should buy airlines miles. | frequent flyer miles

Have you bought airline miles?

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Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Eva / Kid Minds January 19, 2017 at 6:22 am

    I always wondered about this! Thanks for the answer. It’s definitely possible to travel for less when one puts time into exploring all the options. But who has the time!

  • Joely Smith January 19, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Thank you for this article! You really cleared a few things up that I never really understood. I do not travel often, but anytime I look into my miles, and try to figure out what to do with them I get lost and give up lol. This makes so much sense!

  • Janel January 19, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Thank you for explaining miles and when to buy them. I never fully understood the whole process. I only fly 1-2 times a year and my miles just expire because I never come anywhere close to earning anything, maybe I will look into buying miles.

  • robin masshole mommy January 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I honestly had no idea they could be bought – I thought they could only be earned. Thanks for the cool explaination of this.

  • Heather Lawrence January 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Hmm, do you know of any Canadian airlines this may apply too?
    We have west jet dollars where we get cash back we can use for flights but I don’t think it’s the same as what your talking about. We do have “Airmiles” but we have never thought to purchase more to keep them from expiring before.

  • Destany January 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

    I don’t fly much, so I had no idea you could buy airline miles! I’ve only flown a handful of times, and none of those trips accumulated much of anything! haha

  • Theresa January 19, 2017 at 10:24 am

    These are really good tips. I wish I traveled enough to use them!

  • Heather January 19, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    We have some airline miles but it’s pretty minimal so we fly with other airlines. Didn’t know you could buy miles.

  • Kendall Rayburn January 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    These are great tips about when to buy airline miles! I travel often so I’ll have to keep better track of this. Thanks!

  • Allison January 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    I have never even heard of buying airline miles but this makes sense, it doesn’t sound like it’s great to buy them except in certain cases.

  • Cassandra January 19, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Great tips! I’ve never had to consider buying miles yet but these are tips are a great resource for what to consider before buying.

  • censie January 19, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    This is all new to me. I have not ever used airline miles let alone buy them. I honestly didn’t know you could buy them. All of this information so interesting and helpful. Looks like I need to change the way I buy plane tickets.

  • Jenn @ EngineerMommy January 20, 2017 at 3:53 am

    This is a great article on buying airline miles. We haven’t traveled in some time, unfortunately, but my friend flies all the time. I will share this post with her. We hope to do some traveling in the next few months!

  • 9buckcrossing January 20, 2017 at 6:58 am

    What great tips! I’ll be printing this out so I can remember!

  • Ann Bacciaglia January 20, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I had no idea you could buy Air Miles. I will have to remember these tips for my next trip. I can see buying some if I am a little short for a trip.

  • Rachel January 20, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I don’t fly much and had no idea you could even buy miles. These are great tips for next time I’m looking at flying.

  • Charles McCool January 20, 2017 at 10:07 am

    For the Cathay example, sure you can save $20k. You could also buy 6 roundtrip coach tickets for the $4k. You know, in case you value quantity over quality.

  • tara pittman January 20, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Great advice! I am so close to a free ticket so maybe I should by some miles

  • Kiwi January 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Honestly I probably still wont buy my air miles. I have credit issues as it is so it wouldnt be good as I am building up my score again. But this is good information, I am a frequent traveler so other travelers should keep it as an option if they can.

  • julie porter January 20, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve never used miles and didn’t even know that it was possible to buy them. I haven’t flown in 18 years since my last vacation, so that’s probably why I don’t know much about it. You sure can save a lot of money for a first class international flight though!

  • Kristy @ Mommy Hates Cooking January 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I’m so glad I came across this article. Thank you for explaining airline miles. First off, I had no idea that you could buy airline miles, I thought you had to earn them — so this is really informative! I will definitely be using these tips when we get ready for our big family vacation.

  • Aileen Adalid January 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    These are such great tips! Like you, I lead a travel lifestyle so stuff like this really helps make the most of every adventure. Thank you for sharing this info with us!

  • Belle January 20, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    What a great article! This is really helpful especially for those who travel a lot. I know someone who does so I am sending this article to him.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  • Author Brandi Kennedy January 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    These are great tips! I didn’t even know you could buy miles like that – I like that you can buy some in a hurry to keep miles you already have from expiring.

  • Di Hickman January 20, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Yes totally agree! Our family are coming to visit this year and had some air miles to use. They bought more to make up the difference.

  • Silvia January 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    These are all great reasons! I totally agree if your miles are about to expire it’s better to buy extra miles so that they don’t expire.

  • Alix Maza January 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Great tips! Such an informative and useful post. Thanks for sharing!

  • Bill S January 20, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    We love our airline miles!! It is amazing how fast you can rack them up and makes trips even more fun when we can use our miles to save money!

  • Debra January 20, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    We really love to fly and are just getting to the point where we have miles to use and it is so much fun.

  • The Travel Ninjas January 20, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for the detailed breakdown on when it’s smart to buy airline miles. The marketing can be attractive but the complicated rules and alternatives make it hard to know whats a good deal or a bad one. Your tips are always so helpful.

  • Caitlin January 20, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Luckily, I’ve never had to buy miles – but I almost did for one reason you mention (expiring). Luckily, my husband had a flight randomly on that airline come up and I didn’t end up having to!

  • Nicole Feliciano January 20, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    We only buy them when we are a little short (like 1-5,000 miles) and we plan well ahead so we never lose the miles–that would be such a waste.

  • Vishal Vashisht January 20, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    I liked the idea of HKG trip on Cathay Pacific. I will look into this for my next trip. I think Mileage Run can be a good alternative.

  • mira pstr January 20, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    thank you for those advices, I heard about air miles when i came first time in the US, I understand better the concept 🙂

  • jill conyers January 21, 2017 at 1:56 am

    This is such great information. There was a lot I didn’t know about airline miles. Thanks!

  • Amanda Rosson January 21, 2017 at 4:03 am

    Such great tips!! I recently got an airline credit card since I’ll be doing a lot of traveling this year but I still don’t quite understand airline miles and all that. Your blog has been super helpful!! I’ve learned so much and I’m definitely glad I came across it!

  • Sarah-Louise Bailey January 21, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Thank you for the tips to keep my miles from expiring. I have to buy airline miles now because it already makes sense for me.

  • Claudette January 21, 2017 at 6:04 am

    This is something that never crossed my mind. Having read your post, I have an idea of what not to do, so thanks. 🙂

  • Jalisa January 21, 2017 at 6:25 am

    This is a great tip. My inlaws fly multiple times out of the year. They don’t normally use their miles.

  • Cynthia @craftoflaughter January 21, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I love racking up my miles and I don’t think I have ever bought any! I can see when and how it would be useful though.

  • Heather January 21, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Great tips!! I do this only if I need a few miles to get a free trip and then it makes sense because it cuts your costs way down. I will also do it with my hotel points for the same reason. I have the Southwest Chase card that I use to get free flights and that has really really paid off for me.

  • karen January 21, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Really great tips and so helpful if I end up needing to gain a few more miles to score that free ticket. Its so complicated on when to use freebies or not or buy miles or not…thanks for breaking it down so simply.

  • Tiffany January 21, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Really great advice!! I can’t think of one time I’ve used airline miles but with these tips I’m grateful I will know when the right time to do so is. I plan on traveling a lot more this year and I am sure these tips will come in handy.

  • Rose Sahetapy January 21, 2017 at 11:55 am

    These tips enlighten me! Having travelled quite a lot I still lost when it’s about airline miles. I thought it’s something that we earn, never would I thought we can buy the miles. I keep this information for the upcoming trip. Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

  • Gabriel January 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Great breakdown. Miles can be great if you use them right, but it’s easy to get tricked into wasting them or your money.

  • Terri Steffes January 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Super good tips for those who like to travel, like I do! I was shocked to see that you could even buy the miles. Thank for sharing that tip!

  • Amber Nelson January 21, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    I do not do a lot of travelling, but my husband does. I’m going to show him this!

  • Heather McMechan January 21, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Great tips for travel! I did not know about buying more miles and I always feel like I’m short.

  • Samantha Lee January 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    This is such helpful information. As a novice traveler, I didn’t know much about frequent flyer miles before reading this post. I just pinned it to my travel board! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jennifer (JenuineMom) January 21, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I’ve never bought air miles … heck, I didn’t know you could do that. But that’s probably because of where I fly and the airline I fly with … just not worth it anymore.

  • Krystel @ Planning The Magic January 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I’m glad you answered this question because it’s one many have, including myself. I have to bookmark this and share it.

  • Divya January 21, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    This is helpful advice! We rely on miles a lot when we travel internationally!

  • @ Hip Mama’s Place January 21, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    I am so glad that you wrote this because my husband and I were figuring out our airline ticket situation for a trip we are taking soon. He will be pleased to know of these great tips i found! Im not the best at finding good deals like this.

  • Amber January 21, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    We tend to road trip a lot but we are wanting to do more international travel this year. Thank you for the tips, I didn’t know anything about buying miles or the wrong or right way to do it!

  • Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh January 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Wow, I learned something new, I had no idea you could even buy airline miles! These are all great tips that if I ever feel the need to buy airline miles, I’ll be prepared.

  • Blythe Alpern January 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Very smart tips. I think I’ve only every bought miles when I was short some for a reward ticket. It was more cost effective.

  • Fatima January 21, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    That’s interesting! I didn’t even know you could buy airline miles. I’ll have to look into this.

  • Angela Zimsky January 21, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    I do not travel very often. Great list of tips for those who do though.

  • Angela Tolsma January 21, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    I had an airmiles card when I lived in Canada. But I am not sure what the states equivalent is. We use to use ours for gas and the occasional starbucks treat.

  • Orana Velarde January 22, 2017 at 12:46 am

    What great tips for frequent flyers! I definitely think that buying 59$ worth of miles to go to hawaii is definitely the good choice. I have never traveled with miles. I do a lot of messy traveling I think.

  • Courteney Noonan January 22, 2017 at 3:51 am

    This is a really useful post! I don’t travel often so I’m not in the know about air miles etc so this really helped me out 🙂 thanks

  • Emma white January 22, 2017 at 4:47 am

    I dont travel often so this is all new for me but sounds like such a great savings tip! Im sure this will help plenty of people who travel alot!

  • Maria Han January 22, 2017 at 6:47 am

    This is absolutely a perfect tips, i love to travel and I can use this on my future travel. Thanks for this tips

  • Brittany January 22, 2017 at 7:09 am

    We ended up getting an airline credit card this year. I was nervous to have the credit card but we paid our bills with it and paid it off right away. We build up a TON of miles!

  • amber January 22, 2017 at 7:55 am

    We love to travel but do so many more road trips! We would love to do more international travel and really need to figure out this mileage thing!

  • Rachel January 22, 2017 at 8:06 am

    We have a credit card that gives us miles and we love it. Despite that, we don’t get a lot or often have too many we can do something with so these are great tips.

  • Krysten January 22, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I don’t think that I have ever bought airline miles because they’ve never made sense to me. So I guess that this post is right down my ally, maybe one day I will!

  • Erin January 22, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I’ve never really understood how airline miles work so I appreciate all of this info! We fly for free since my hubs works for American Airlines but we rarely do it because it’s such a pain flying without a reserved seat. The only time we actually fly is when I win getaway giveaways LOL

  • Amber Myers January 22, 2017 at 8:26 am

    I don’t think I’d ever buy airline miles. We just don’t travel enough. I just always try to find deals! Luckily I find some with Southwest.

  • Ave January 22, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Had no idea you could buy airline miles. A lot of my airline miles expire because I don’t travel much. I fly with different companies so the miles I get are not much.

  • Bill S January 22, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Great tips for buying airline miles!! I know we travel so much it hasn’t been to much of a problem for us, we do a lot of vacations using our miles.

  • Rosey January 22, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I like that you can buy miles. We are ready to go to Hawaii. We missed a trip we had planned so we all are wanting to get in there and get it planned.

  • Heather Pfingsten January 22, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Is it bad that I didn’t even know that this was a “thing”? I travel a handful of times a year and this never occurred to me. I have so much to learn. Thank you for the tips!

  • Lisa Heath January 22, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    My boss is big on airline miles and he has it all planned out and what he needs to spend on what cards etc to get the most out of them. I rarely travel but it’s interesting to find out more about miles and how they work

  • Abigail January 22, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I’ve always been an advocate of budget travel. Your tips will surely serve me well for future travels and bookings. You have to be smart about where you spend your money on and make sure you’re getting something out of it in return!

  • Dawn McAlexander January 22, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    I am new to the flying business. I have only flown once. I am looking forward to it again, but I really don’t know much about airline miles. Thanks for telling me these things.

  • Nikki Arnold January 22, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    I really agree with you on these. It’s really not very cost effective to buy miles vs. just buying a flight except for these situations.

  • Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife January 22, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    I’m in the middle of buying several tickets for a few different trips this year and was honestly just wondering about this! I’ve never bought miles before but I am always offered that option right before checkout and wondered if it was worth it. Thanks so much for breaking it down for us! So helpful!

  • Melanie Smith January 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for this info! It really helps me, I didn’t know that we can buy miles, so good!

  • Marielle Altenor January 22, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I can’t remember ever collecting miles when buying a plane ticket. I’ve been missing out!!

  • Elizabeth O. January 23, 2017 at 3:27 am

    Having airline miles is awesome and you can use it for most of your travel if you want to save money. I think these are good reasons to use your miles, especially if you have acquired a lot.

  • Keren Charles January 23, 2017 at 4:20 am

    I am so glad that you explained when to buy airline miles. I have never really understood the process or why someone would need to do that. I am now much more knowledgeable.

  • Kecia January 23, 2017 at 7:23 am

    I wish we flew enough to need airline miles. My husband has yet to fly at all. Hopefully we can change that this year!

  • Alyssa Ruane January 23, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Thank you for this insight! My boyfriend and I were actually looking into a trip to Hawaii last night but only have enough points for the flights there… so close, but so far, lol!

  • Irina January 23, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you dear for clarifying this. We want travel full time. We need to learn ways to save money on flights. I’m so glad I found your blog.

  • Dawn Gibson-Thigpen January 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    oh this is good information. i never knew any of this. thanks for sharing.

  • The Travel Ninjas January 23, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Saving $20,000 on airfare is amazing. Thanks for the great tips on how to use the system to make it work of us.

  • Angela January 24, 2017 at 3:28 am

    I have personally traveled quite a lot of times at one point of my life … and I must say, my biggest mistake was not availing my points or rewards. I kept racking them up and ended up wasting them in the end. I agree with your post, if you can buy points so you dont lose what you earn, definitely go for it.

  • wendy January 24, 2017 at 3:34 am

    This is great information on how to do this. I was always wondering about it. I will have to relay the information over to my brother since he is the traveler in the family.

  • neha January 24, 2017 at 6:13 am

    I always wondered about the right time and situation to buy the frequent flyer miles. Thanks to your post, I got my answer. Will definitely keep it in mind while buying my next frequent flyer miles

  • Amanda Love January 24, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever bought airline miles before, I just let the points accumulate from my purchases. I think it’s not something you think about buying unless you really need it, like the reasons you mentioned in this post!

  • Ami January 25, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    I don’t know why I never thought of using my miles for an upgrade! I always use them in a hurry to avoid expiry and on offers which never appeal. Drat! Thanks for the advice.

  • Sandy N Vyjay January 26, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Never really think of the miles. Glad you have cleared many doubts here. Will use your suggestions next time we travel.

  • Adanna January 26, 2017 at 6:33 am

    This is very, very helpful! We’re planning an international trip and I was wondering about this. I pinned this and I am going to share with my friends who are travelling as well.

  • Chrishelle January 26, 2017 at 8:16 am

    I plan on traveling more this year and collecting some airline miles. I am pretty ignorant when it comes to this reward program. Thanks for the info. I will definitely remember it when I go to use my collected miles.

  • Vaishnavi January 26, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Wow, sound advice and tips on buying airline miles. This is so confusing and tough choice to make. Glad that you’ve added a method to the madness!

  • Alessandra January 27, 2017 at 6:56 am

    These are such great tips! I have never thought about buying miles before but those 3 are valid reasons to do so. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge:)

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