Buying miles is not part of our normal strategy for award flights, but on our recent trip to Dubai, it made sense. We decided to fly Emirates business class, and considered two options for how to pay for the award tickets.
Option #1 – Use Emirates Skyward miles to book the Emirate flight. This is the most straightforward path. The total cost for two tickets would be 247,500 Skyward miles plus approximately $1750 in taxes and fees. In this scenario we would generate the Skyward miles by transferring 247,500 American Express Membership Rewards points, which convert into Skyward miles at a 1:1 transfer ratio.
Option #2 – Use Alaska Miles to book the Emirate flight. Alaska has a partnership that allows members of its Mileage Plan loyalty program to book Emirates flight using Alaska miles. The cost for two one-way business class tickets was 165,000 Alaska miles and a total of $104.40 dollars in taxes.
We decided “Option #2”
Getting Alaska Miles
Once we decided on booking through the Alaska Mileage Plan, we needed a total of 165,000 Alaska miles for the two business class tickets. Problem was, we had a starting balance of less than 10,000 Alaska miles in our Alaska Mileage account. Here’s how we made up the difference:
- We Transferred Marriott Points – Marriott points can be transferred to Alaska Airlines at a rate of 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 Alaska Miles. We transferred 240,000 Marriott points to Alaska, which resulted in 100,000 more Alaska miles.
2. We bought 58,000 Alaska Airline Points – We normally avoid buying points and miles, but as you’ll see below, it worked out well.
Can Buying Miles Make Sense?
Looking back, was buying miles the right move? Below is the math for both booking directly via Emirates versus booking through Alaska using miles which were purchased. For purposes of calculation we’re using the following point valuations.
- We’ll value American Express Membership Reward points at 1.5 cents a piece.
- We’ll value Marriott Bonvoy points at .7 cents a piece.
Here’s how the math works out…
Option #1 – Transfer 247,500 American Express Membership Reward Points to Emirates Skywards Program and then book the flight directly through Emirates website.
1) Value of 247,500 Membership Reward Points which are transferred (247,500 x .015) = $3712.50
2) Taxes and fees charged by Emirates for two business class tickets = $1750
Total cost for Option # 1 is $5462.50
Option #2 – Transfer 240,000 Marriott points to Alaska Air and buy the remaining points.
1) Value of 240,000 Marriott points which are transferred (240,000 x .07) = $1680
2) Taxes and fees charged by Alaska Air for two business class tickets = $104.40
3) Cost for purchasing 58,000 Alaska points = $1714.63
Total cost for Option #2 is $3499.03
In both cases, the out of pocket expenses were similar, around $1700 dollars, but we used a less valuable points currency, namely, our Marriott points. Buying points is usually something we avoid, but this time it made sense. Have you ever considered buying miles?