how to calculate value of air miles

Miles :: To Free Or Not To Free

[trip style = any]

At TS, we love using "strategery" {as George W once said} to choose when and where to redeem the air miles we accumulate flying around the world toward free travel, but there's an art {and science} to air miles redemption.

How To Calculate The Value Of An Airline Award Ticket The generally excepted miles-versus-dollars calculation {according to Travel+Leisure} is "use the 1.4-cents-per-mile rule to calculate the value of an award ticket. If the cash price is considerably cheaper than the award ticket calculation, save your miles. For example, if a flight will cost you $300 cash or 50,000 points, you'll get more value paying cash as 50,000 points equals approx $700."  Here are some examples of my recent travel that will help provide miles-versus-dollars insight:

When It Makes "Cents" To Use Airline Miles
  • Colorado/Spring 2012: used 25,000 Aeroplan miles instead of booking a $1,100 ticket
  • ABC Islands/Fall 2011: used 25,000 American Airlines miles, instead of booking a $1,000 ticket
  • Eastern Canada/Summer 2010: used 25,000 Aeroplan air miles, instead of booking a multi-city $1,500+ ticket

When It DOESN'T Make "Cents" To Use Airline Miles Thailand/Spring 2012: I didn't use air miles because I got a business class fare on a super sale, tilting the scale in favor of a cash purchase. To add value, I chose a carrier that would add to my American Airlines miles accumulation efforts. Not only did I fly business class for a heavily discounted rated, but got 22,000 AA miles in return---just 3,000 short of getting from Vancouver to Aruba AND achieving elite status. Win!

Saving Points {Dream Trip Anyone?} Looking ahead, like any wonderstruck world traveler, I'm pining for a trip to the Maldives, saving my Alaska airline miles to get there. On business class {hey, it's a long flight!} the trip costs $9,180 from Seattle on Emirates {it's $14,000 from Vancouver!}, or 115,000 miles. The points trump the cash purchase because any ticket costing more than $1,610 {115,000 miles x 0.014} is good value.

Are you saving your air miles for a Maldives-esque dream trip? Do you use air miles when it makes sense, or all the time?

More 'Free Travel' Tips The Six-Week Rule {When to buy airline tix} Free Travel 102 Free Travel 101 Going The Distance With Your Air Miles

[photo by wallpaperswide.com, text overlay @tripstyler]