Buy miles and fly business or first class for thousands less. Here's how

George Hobica, June 16, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Savvy traveler that you are, you've seen scores of offers to buy frequent flyer miles, which is almost always a bad idea. There is typically one exception, however: the US Airways Dividend Miles program, which occasionally runs promotions that offer major bonuses on the purchase of miles. The latest one expires June 30, 2011. Taking advantage of it wisely, you can fly to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Europe, South America, and more for about $1,000-$1400 in Business Class on Star Alliance partners.


    For every mile you purchase from US Airways, they will give you a 100% bonus.  If you purchase 50,000 miles (the current maximum, which will cost you about $1400 with taxes), the airline will give you a 50,000 miles bonus. That is enough for a business class ticket to Europe, more than enough for a business class ticket to Japan or South Korea, and almost enough to go to Australia or New Zealand in business class. US Airways charges .0275 cents per mile you purchase, but this is a great way to purchase your travel since even economy tickets on many of these routes are priced similarly to the cost of your miles making this an instant upgrade to business class.


    This is an amazing deal that provides value to both existing US Airways flyers, those who want to add to orphan accounts with just a few miles in them, or those who want to start new US Airways accounts (although the US Dividend Miles account must be open for 12 days in order to take advantage of this promotion so open one by June 18 if you don’t have one already).


    Here are a few things to be aware of before purchasing. Take a look at the airline's excellent award chart to see where you want to go and how many points it will cost (PDF file).


    Then, read our article on how to find the best US Airways award availability using the ANA chart. Once you know how many miles you need, register for the promotion and purchase the miles here.

    Remember, this promotion for bonus miles expires at the end of June although you have as long as you like to redeem the miles as long as you keep your account active. To book most US Airways tickets on Star Alliance partners, you have to call the airline directly. Read our article on the ANA chart to learn how to piece together your flights so that you have the exact flights with availability ready for the agent before calling them.


    But how much will you actually save by buying the miles rather than buying business class or other fares? A lot. For example, a New York to Sydney business class fare, when we last looked, cost $8,974 including tax, departing in July, 2011. Let's say you have a measly 10,000 US Airways miles in your account and you buy 50,000 more plus get a 50,000 mile bonus for a total cost of $1375. Business class seats can be had, subject to availability, for 110,000 miles on US Airways' Star Alliance partner United. Your potential savings: $7,599. We have outlined a few scenarios showing the actual cost of various flights compared to the cost of the miles if you purchased them via this promotion. Keep in mind that some travel dates will cost more in cash or miles than others, so your savings won't be as huge in every possible scenario.


    *All flights were searched using sample travel dates of July 5-12, 2011. Keep in mind that award seats won't be available on all possible travel dates.


    **Don't forget US Airways has special promotions for reduced mileage tickets between the US and Europe on US Airways flights only with business class tickets costing 60,000 Dividend Miles and economy class costing 35,000 Dividend Miles. It's 5,000 miles less if you have the US Airways-branded credit card. That promotion usually runs between Jan. 15 and Feb. 28 each year and adds tremendous value to buying miles now for use next winter.
    ***Canadian citizens must pay a 7.5% tax recovery charge on their purchases, but the value for a business or first class redemption is still there.

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