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First off I value my Skymiles at 2-4 cents each. Why this value? Because the main reasons I fly is to go see my family in Sweden; plus, when I go I want to go in business class. But, I cannot afford business class tickets so I need points to travel the way I want. Please know I am not trying to start a argument about just what any point is worth in real market value converted to cash etc. as the value of a point is very subjective from person to person. But, to some extent, this does come into play when talking about using your points directly as cash to buy a Delta ticket.
Let’s start with some background on what the Pay with miles program is. You must have a Delta GOLD or Platinum or Reserve card to be able to Pay with miles. You are going to get 1 cent value per mile, that is it, and you WILL NOT earn any Skymiles for a trip where you use even ONE single Skymile to pay for a ticket! If you are Gold Medallion (GM) or higher you are still eligible for medallion upgrades. However, if you are on a ticket with anyone who is NOT GM+ you will not be upgrade eligible (you could split PNR – i.e. the booking – but that can have negative consequences so understand this before you do this). There are other restrictions and here are the basics from Delta.com.
There is no fee for using your Pay with Miles benefit. Pay with Miles redemption are flexible based on the price of the ticket.
For fares less than $100: Redeem 25,000 miles to cover the total fare. For fares equal to or greater than $100 and less than $250: Redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare or Increase the redemption to 25,000 miles and increase from that point in increments of 5,000 miles ($50 off) to cover the total fare. For fares equal to or greater than $250 and total fares less than $1,000: Redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare or Increase the redemption in increments of 5,000 miles ($50 off) to cover all or part of the total fare (15,000 miles for $150 off, 20,000 miles for $200 off, etc.)
For total fares equal to or greater than $1,000: Redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare or
Increase the redemption in increments of 10,000 miles ($100 off) to cover all or part of the total fare (20,000 miles for $200 off, 30,000 miles for $300 off, etc.). If you choose to pay for a fare with both miles and a credit card, you must use an eligible American Express Credit Card.
So just when would this be a good idea? I have used pay with miles a few times, but not for myself. As you all know I work hard to always find low level Delta seats for Lisa & me. However, there are times when I spring for a ticket for a friend to fly out and say come skiing with us from another city. Once I find the perfect Skymiles tickets for us, I then start working on seats for my friend. Finding low level seats so that they will end up at the same HUB as us so that the last flight we are all together is often VERY hard to do (well most times we are in 1st and my friend is in coach, but at least we’re on the same plane). But why not just book a Skymiles ticket in this case too? Look at some math.
As I search for seats I may only find Mid or High level seats (or a mix of low and high) when I check to see what buying a ticket on the same flights will cost. Check this out: if a ticket is less that $325.00, then spending 32,500 points would cost MORE than paying with miles. So, say it costs $250.00 for the ticket, then, in effect, you ARE getting the seat for 25,000 miles with pay with miles compared to using the points for the higher award ticket! Have you ever thought about getting “low level” seats by buying the ticket with points. This can work for you so always check the real price to buy! You may say I value my points more than that – OK – but then why would you book a 25,000 point ticket ever? (There are some who will argue that since Skymiles are worth much more it would be better to spend cash and save the points for another ticket – but that is an argument for another post – clear?).
Are there times, with the illustration above, this is a bad idea? Sure. Say you can only find 40,000 point seats. To pay with points is $300.00. This is clearly less, right. But, if you are PM+, it may be better to grab the higher point ticket and hope that a 25,000 low level shows up that you can change to. For me, spending the extra 5000 points to just grab the ticket would be well worth the pay with points.
Also, it may be worth checking for business class seats. 45,000 low level business class seat would be a much better choice than say a $400 coach class pay with miles seat to me or even a 40,000 point coach class Skymiles seat. So always check both the coach and business class option.
Another reason would be if you were trying to get a ticket and were a few points short of an award. Let’s say you only have 10,000 Skymiles; this way you could at least get $100 off the ticket you are going to buy. Again, to me, not a great value, but it is a way to use some points that you could not use otherwise.
If all this is making your head spin a bit, good, it should. When it comes to flying and points we must get it. There is great value if we are willing to work. Willing to be travel enthusiasts. While there is no free lunch, there are great deals for those who “clip coupons” as my friend Jen would say! – René
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