should you redeem points and miles for inflight purchases
Should you redeem points and miles for inflight purchases?

The article discusses the decision of whether or not to redeem points and miles for inflight purchases, such as Wi-Fi, food, drinks, or duty-free items. While loyalty programs have expanded earning options, it is important to consider the value of redeeming these rewards. The article advises aiming for long-haul premium cabin flights for maximum value, but acknowledges that there may be situations where redeeming points and miles for inflight purchases can save money. It provides examples of redemption options with different airlines and encourages readers to calculate the redemption value before making a decision. The article also suggests ways to boost account balances through transferable point programs. However, it concludes that redeeming points and miles for inflight purchases typically results in a redemption value of less than 1 cent, which may be lower than other options available through loyalty programs.

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Redeeming rewards for inflight purchases

When it comes to purchasing items during a flight, travelers now have the option to pay in cash or redeem their points and miles. For example, Dutch carrier KLM offers Wi-Fi onboard with the choice to either pay 8 euros or redeem 2,700 Flying Blue miles for one hour of surfing. Alternatively, travelers can pay 18 euros or redeem 6,000 Flying Blue miles for a full-flight internet package. While redeeming rewards may initially seem like a great way to save money, it's crucial to calculate the redemption value of those miles to determine if it's a good deal. This can be done by dividing the cash savings by the extra miles used and comparing it to the valuation of the currency.

If the resulting value is higher than the valuation for the given currency, redeeming the miles for the inflight purchase can be a solid option. However, if the value is lower, travelers may be sacrificing potential value by opting for the redemption. In situations where Wi-Fi access is unavailable to look up the value of miles, a round value of 1 cent per point or mile can be considered a fair valuation for making informed decisions without internet access. Additionally, it's important to consider other potential uses for the miles, such as redeeming them for flights within Europe, which may offer greater savings than the cost of an internet package.

Another example of redeeming rewards for inflight purchases can be seen with United Airlines. The airline offers various lunch and dinner options for purchase on domestic flights over 1,500 miles in length. These options can be purchased for $10 or 1,180 MileagePlus miles. By dividing the cost by the number of miles, the redemption value is calculated to be 0.84 cents per mile. While this isn't a terrible redemption value, it's important to be aware of other ways to use United miles at a potentially greater value.

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How to boost your account balances

If travelers have a small mileage balance, it doesn't have to remain that way. There are several ways to turn a few hundred points or a few thousand miles into enough for a more significant and valuable redemption. One of the easiest ways to do so is by utilizing transferable point programs offered by major credit card issuers. These programs allow travelers to convert their earnings to partner currencies, often at a 1:1 ratio with the possibility of a transfer bonus.

For example, American Express Membership Rewards offers the option to transfer points to Delta SkyMiles and ANA Mileage Club. Bilt Rewards allows transfers to American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus. Capital One miles can be transferred to Avianca LifeMiles and British Airways Avios. Chase Ultimate Rewards offers transfers to Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus. Citi ThankYou Rewards allows transfers to Avianca LifeMiles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. Additionally, Flying Blue, Emirates Skywards, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner with these five programs, providing access to a wide range of transfer options.

By leveraging these transferable point programs, travelers can easily boost their airline rewards and potentially access more valuable redemption options.

Bottom line

While gaining access to additional redemption options is usually a positive aspect of loyalty programs, it's important to consider the value of redeeming points and miles for inflight purchases. Generally, these redemptions result in a value of less than 1 cent per point or mile, regardless of the purchase. This is often significantly lower than the value travelers can get through other redemption options.

If travelers have points and miles that they don't plan on using for other purposes or if they are set to expire soon, redeeming them for inflight purchases may not be a terrible option. However, it's recommended to carefully calculate the redemption value and consider other potential uses for the rewards before making a decision. Crunching the numbers and ensuring comfort with the redemption can help travelers make the most informed and beneficial choices.

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