Buying US Airways miles with 100% bonus: is it worth it?

One of our readers, Jonathan, received a promotion from US Airways: buy 30,000-50,000 miles and get another 30-50k miles. But is it a good deal, and is it worth it?

The short answer: it depends, but it can actually save you money.

Here’s the breakdown:

Buy…

10,000 – 19,000 miles, earn 50% more bonus miles
20,000 – 29,000 miles, earn 75% more bonus miles
30,000 – 50,000 miles, earn 100% more bonus miles

If you buy 50,000 miles, that’ll set you back $1,750, making each point worth 3.5¢. That’s a little high (I value them at 2.8-3¢), but it’s not bad. BUT – and it’s a big but – when you factor in the bonus miles, 100,000 miles at $1,750 is a steal at 1.75¢ per mile.

The big question: how will you use them?

One of the best benefits of using miles – outside the part where it’s cheaper – is that last-minute flights are much more affordable. If you plan on taking a lot of last minute trips (of course you’re not planning on it!), this could be especially useful.

Flying San Diego to Washington, DC, for instance at the last minute can be anywhere from $500 to $1000 each way, or 25,000-50,000 miles. At 25,000 miles round-trip, that’s four last-minute flights for $1,750 that might otherwise set you back several thousand dollars more.

Or, want to take a trip to Europe in business class? Looking at US Airways, business-class trips in February to London on US Airways go for no less than $2,200 each way. $1,750 to fly across the Atlantic and back in business class is not a bad deal at all!

Additionally, as US Airways and American Airlines are merging, those miles will eventually convert into American Airlines AAdvantage points.

Why wouldn’t I want to do this?

It’s $1,750 — not a small chunk of change for most people.
That said, if you’re going to fly anyways, it can significantly bring down the cost of those trips if you can afford to pay for it now.

Just because you have the miles doesn’t always mean you can fly.
Although US Airways is fairly good about having available seats open, there are blackout dates for award redemptions and limited availability during some holidays.

The unknown

US Airways and American Airlines have officially merged, but their programs won’t merge for the immediate future. What does this mean? Might their programs change? There’s a lot of speculation as to what will happen to AAdvantage, American Airlines’ mileage program, but nobody knows for sure. That said, I suspect that it’s possible that American will follow other airlines path to devalue their points (make it more costly to fly with points). AAdvantage has (had?) one of the best programs out there; we’ll see how things shape up after the merger is complete.

Additionally, as part of the merger, it will be possible to move points from US Airways into AAdvantage once the systems have been linked up. But when will that happen? Soon, no doubt.

The final word: if you’re planning on taking a trip or multiple last-minute trips and can outlay $1,750, this could be a good deal for you. There are lots of other ways to earn points like that through credit cards that ends up being much less expensive, but for someone who’s just looking to save some money, this could be a good opportunity for you.

Which credit card should I use to buy this?

Since the transaction actually comes from points.com and not from US Airways, it doesn’t qualify for bonus categories that some credit cards offer (think American Express Gold, Chase Ink/Bold). In that case, it may be better to use a cash-back card if you have one.

Are you thinking about buying miles during this US Airways 5-day-only (they do it several times a year) promotion before their merger with American? Tell me, and share your experience.