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Buying frequent flyer miles...

US
posts: 14
Buying frequent flyer miles...

I've heard that you can buy flyer miles from people who don't use theirs and it's cheaper then buying a flight. Can someone either tell me this is absolutely false or explain how it can be done?

I am planning on moving to Australia in August of this year but I would like my flight to be as cheap as possible considering I will have plenty of expenses when I first arrive.

I figured the cheapest way to travel was through the bigger airports who have the most flight activity, JFK to LAX to SYD, I'm currently in Pennsylvania with JFK only being a 2 1/2 hour drive. Please let me know if you suggest a different route as well!

40 replies to this topic
Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 2,961
1. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

>> I've heard that you can buy flyer miles from people who don't use theirs and it's cheaper then buying a flight.<<

Buying and selling FF miles is expressly against the rules of every frequent flyer program. By doing this kind of deal the "seller" runs the very big risk of having his/her account closed and miles forfeited, and the "buyer" runs the very real risk of having the ticket canceled. Bad idea, period. Of course, it doesn't stop people trying, but these tales often end poorly.

However, you can purchase FF miles directly from the airlines, usually at around 2.5c per mile, but sometimes on "sale" for prices sometimes going down to 1.5c per mile or thereabouts. Look for sales and do the math, compare against the sales the airlines themselves run, and see which works best for you.

Nashville, TN
posts: 4,177
reviews: 8
2. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

Actually, there is a site called points.com where miles can be bartered for some airlines. It's even advertised on some of the airline websites. However, the points exhange rate and cost is much worse than buying them from the airline themselves.

If you plan on purchasing miles, do so only to top off your account and try to do it when the airline has a bonus offer in place (I've seen as much as a 100% bonus at times). Remember there is a maximum limit on the number of miles you can purchase and it may not be enough to get you the amount of miles you need.

If you're just buying miles to get a ticket and don't have any right now, you're much better off just buying a ticket. The cost for the miles you'll need is usually higher than the cost of a ticket making it a lose/lose situation.

atlanta
posts: 2,897
reviews: 24
3. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

Find a friend and make a deal...

Otherwise... it's risky. The airlines have cracked down on this and if they figure out you bought the "miles" they can cancel your ticket and the "owners' account.

That said if your friend Joe gives you a ticket and you give him something.. they probably wont' ever know. If you go through Ebay/Craig's List etc... Big Brother is watching! :)

UK
posts: 37,660
reviews: 77
4. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

<<That said if your friend Joe gives you a ticket ... >>

I've read a blog where someone was stopped at the checkin desk and asked about their "friend" "Joe", and when they couldn't tell them anything, their ticket was summarily cancelled !

Odds this will happen are, I suspect, quite low, but its a real risk, they do monitor this, what they will do is answer an ad on say Craigslist, which lets them get the details of the original seller, then anyone he ever transferred miles to will be at risk, even if wholly innocent, eg might have been a real friend and no money did change hands..

As vegas-guide says, it doesn't work out financially to buy the miles from the airline and then use them for a ticket (let alone the fact that availability is restricted). It can work out well to buy the miles and use them for an upgrade to business or first, but if all you want is the cheapest, then it may be that buying a return ticket and dumping the return half is the way to go, at least compare cost with a single first.In theory the airline can come after you for the difference but for a one-off thats very unlikely.

<<I'm currently in Pennsylvania with JFK only being a 2 1/2 hour drive>>

What were you planning to do with your car?

atlanta
posts: 2,897
reviews: 24
5. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

Well it needs to be a friend. I have given tickets to friends. I don't think the questions would have been an issue. We know lots about each other.

So I really meant 'friend'. Not a person you met once to trade 'gifts' :)

US
posts: 14
6. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

OK well I appreciate the feedback, I guess the best bet would be to just buy the ticket directly from the airline, I'm definitely not trying to get stopped at the gate!

Thank you everyone!

@joeintheuk I'm not planning on driving to the airport I'll probably have my parents or a friend drive me up - I'm giving my car away to one of my brothers since I'll have no use for it!

New Brunswick
Destination Expert
for Travel Gadgets and Gear, New Brunswick
posts: 5,269
reviews: 190
7. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

With Aeroplan (Air Canada) you can buy miles legitimately from family.

Fresno
posts: 43
reviews: 16
8. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

>>"If you're just buying miles to get a ticket and don't have any right now, you're much better off just buying a ticket. The cost for the miles you'll need is usually higher than the cost of a ticket making it a lose/lose situation."<<

Let me see if there is a flaw in my logic;

I want to go to Frankfurt, Germany. 5666 miles one way, for a total of 11,332. Cost for ticket = roughly $1700USD. If I wanted to use miles for trip, miles redemption is 30,000 + max of $236.

To buy 30,000 miles from AA is 660.00 (as of 8/27/12) Add the $236 and you have $896.00. $1,7000 vs $896... The advantage is obvious, unless I'm missing something.

DC
posts: 1,297
reviews: 1
9. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

$1,700 buys you a ticket (and you'd get miles for the flight, which offsets the cost a bit). The alternative gets you enough miles to qualify for a saver award. If you go for the miles option, don't come back here whining about limited award availability.

UK
posts: 37,660
reviews: 77
10. Re: Buying frequent flyer miles...

I want to go to Frankfurt, Germany one way

Cost for ticket = roughly $1700USD.

If I wanted to use miles for trip, miles redemption is 30,000 + $236.

To buy 30,000 miles from AA is 660.00 (as of 8/27/12)

Add the $236 and you have $896.00. $1,7000 vs $896

... The advantage is obvious, unless I'm missing something.

==========

You may have happened upon an edge case where it works, for one-ways, but you are still missing two things;

1. Buying a one way ticket is an unusual case. You could probably buy it cheaper as a return, the airlines gouge you for one-ways.

2. There may be no availability for your one way airmiles trip.

Now, if you cannot find a cheaper way of getting a one-way, and there is availability for your dates, well, maybe you got lucky, so go for it.

Edited: 1:46 pm, August 27, 2012
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