The article explores the question of whether it is advisable to redeem points and miles for inflight purchases such as Wi-Fi, food, and drinks. While loyalty programs offer various ways to earn points and miles, there are now options to redeem them for onboard amenities. The article highlights the importance of considering the value of these redemptions and whether they make financial sense. By calculating the redemption value of the miles and comparing it with the program’s valuation, travelers can determine if it is a good deal to use their hard-earned rewards for inflight purchases. The article also suggests alternative ways to boost mileage balances, such as utilizing transferable point programs, which can provide more significant and valuable redemptions. Ultimately, the article encourages readers to carefully evaluate their options before redeeming points and miles for inflight purchases.
Redeeming rewards for inflight purchases
When it comes to redeeming points and miles, there are now numerous options available due to the increased number of loyalty programs. While we typically recommend using points and miles for long-haul premium cabin flights to maximize their value, there may be situations where redeeming them for inflight purchases makes sense.
In some cases, you may only have a small number of “orphaned” miles in your account that wouldn’t be enough for a long-haul flight. Alternatively, you might have a large balance of rewards and simply prefer to keep cash in your pocket. This guide will explore whether it is beneficial to redeem your points and miles for inflight purchases such as Wi-Fi, food, drinks, or duty-free items.
Choice between cash and miles
When making an inflight purchase, you may be presented with a choice between paying cash or redeeming miles. For instance, Dutch carrier KLM offers Wi-Fi onboard starting at 8 euros ($8.75) or 2,700 Flying Blue miles for one hour of surfing. Alternatively, you can pay 18 euros ($19.65) or redeem 6,000 Flying Blue miles for a full-flight internet package.
To determine whether it makes sense to redeem your rewards, it is important to calculate the redemption value of those miles. Divide your cash savings by the extra miles you’re using. If the resulting value is higher than the valuation provided by TPG (The Points Guy) for the given currency, then redeeming your miles is a solid option.
For example, in the case of KLM’s full-flight internet package, dividing $19.65 by the 6,000 miles you’d use gives you a value of just 0.32 cents per mile. TPG currently values Flying Blue miles at 1.2 cents each, so you’d be sacrificing a significant amount of potential value by opting for the redemption.
Example with Dutch carrier KLM
Looking at another example, United Airlines offers various lunch and dinner options for purchase on domestic flights that are over 1,500 miles in length. Each option can be purchased for $10 or 1,180 MileagePlus miles. Dividing the cost ($10) by the number of miles (1,180) gives you a redemption value of 0.84 cents per mile.
TPG currently values United miles at 1.1 cents each following recent devaluations, so while this isn’t an exceptional redemption, it could still be considered if you only have a few thousand MileagePlus miles in your account. However, it is crucial to be aware of what you are sacrificing by redeeming your miles in this way, as there are likely other options that offer greater value.
Calculating redemption value
If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi to determine the exact value of your miles, a round value of 1 cent per point or mile is a fair valuation to use when making a quick decision without internet access. In situations where you only have a small mileage balance, using them for an inflight purchase might still make sense, even if the redemption value is poor. However, it’s essential to consider that those miles could also be used for a flight within Europe, which could potentially save you more than the cost of the internet package.
How to boost your account balances
If you have a small mileage balance and want to increase it for more valuable redemptions, there are several ways to do so. One effective method is through transferable point programs offered by major credit card issuers. These programs allow you to convert your earnings into partner currencies, often at a 1:1 ratio or with transfer bonuses.
Here’s a quick overview of some possible transfer options available through different transferable point programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards: Delta SkyMiles (with a small fee to offset federal excise taxes) and ANA Mileage Club
- Bilt Rewards: American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus
- Capital One miles: Avianca LifeMiles and British Airways Avios
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Avianca LifeMiles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
Flying Blue, Emirates Skywards, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner with all five of these programs, so if you have access to any of these currencies, it’s advisable to explore these options before using your rewards for inflight purchases.
While having additional redemption options is generally beneficial, it doesn’t always mean that utilizing those options is the best choice. Redeeming points and miles for inflight purchases like Wi-Fi, food, drinks, or onboard duty-free items typically results in a low redemption value of less than 1 cent per point or mile, regardless of the specific item purchased. This value is often much lower than what can be achieved through other redemption methods.
If you have points and miles that are expiring soon and don’t anticipate using them for other purposes, redeeming them for inflight purchases may not be a terrible option. However, it is important to crunch the numbers and ensure that you are comfortable with the redemption value before proceeding.