There is a huge debate going on in the travel blogosphere about the value of miles. I don’t want to incite it further but am just sharing my view, which I guess many others would share. As always YVMV (your views may vary).

Almost as a principle, I always redeem in coach. I have never ever redeemed or bought business class tickets. Would I never redeem for J or F? I don’t know. I may do it for my honeymoon. I can redeem miles for my parents’ trip across the continent. However, I won’t travel up front for solo trips unless the upgrade to J/F is free.

Does that mean I redeem miles in coach for every flight? NO! I don’t redeem miles unless I am getting at least 2 cents per mile valuation. So, if any domestic ticket is less than $550-600, I will bite the bullet and buy the ticket rather than spend 25K miles and lose ~1-5K EQM (elite qualifying miles). For buying these tickets, I save money by keeping aside the money obtained from 2% cashback cards like the Capital One Venture. This is where I differ in view from Mommy Points and Million Mile Secrets.

Why won’t I redeem miles for business? Redemptions probably depend on a lot of factors: age, experience, economic status and of course the reason you are flying. Let’s consider these one by one. I am a few years away from hitting 30; I can sleep sound standing in a crowded bus or leaning on a tree while backpacking in a forest. Y seats are much more comfortable than that. On my last 15 hr flight in Y, I slept more than 12, enough for allowing me to drive another 3 hours and attending school on arrival.

In most cases, redemption in coach and business differ in at least 25K miles. That is worth at least $500 to me, a huge amount (at least to me!). There is a big opportunity cost too, 25K miles mean another National park trip! I would choose two trips in relative discomfort over one trip in comfort any day.

This is where it matters what kind of a traveler you are: Gary (View from the Wing) says, the point of this hobby, to me, is making the travel part of the trip (relaxing) — not just the getting there”. My priorities are totally opposite: I travel to see a new location. The travel is something required to reach the destination. unless the route is scenic, I want to get to my destination as soon as possible. I won’t pay extra unless I am gaining time. The type of vacations I go to are hectic anyway; hiking or driving around National and State Parks. I am so excited to see a new location that I forget discomforts if any.

I personally feel redeeming miles below 2 cents/mile is wasteful. Of course that threshold is set by you, depending on your flying and earning pattern. My threshold is set by the 2% cashback cards which are my piggy bank for travel expenses.

Is redeeming in business/first class worth it? I don’t think there can be a right answer.

Is redeeming in coach worth it? To me it does, even on long international Y, with stopovers. Maybe I am missing out on a lot of luxuries and amenities. Do I care? I don’t know; I don’t care enough to know.

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Posted by The Nomad | 14 Comments

14 Responses to “Redemptions in coach make sense, at least to me!”

  1. Scottrick says:

    I totally agree with you. In fact, I pay for all my tickets, which means I fly in Y even on 12+ hour flights. My only rule is no US Airways. The miles, they pile up. When my parents want to fly, they get to sit in C or F because they’re old and creaky and can’t afford a real C or F seat (well, maybe they could, but they’re cheapskates). If I give them my miles, I usually get very nice Christmas presents, maybe even some airline gift certificates. It works out well in the end.

  2. NB says:

    Good post. At last some sense in this debate. It’s simply a question of how much one values extra comfort. For me, I do over 100,000 miles a year in UA’s economy seats: to get me onto a long haul flight in addition to that, it had better be an experience which is a lot different and more comfortable.

  3. chris says:

    Excellent post. It’s sort of funny/strange how it seems all these bloggers feel like they need to defend/justify their travel preferences. Maybe because they sense they are being attacked? Either way, I don’t get the big debate. Some need to lay out flat and wear pajamas to have an enjoyable international flight, some don’t. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it. It’s all a matter of personal preference. I’m just glad I’m like you and am perfectly comfortable in the cheap seats so that I can have more miles to use for more vacations.

  4. nulle says:

    I would disagree, redeeming for business may be worthwhile especially for transoceanic trips. Been thinking Y vs. C for transoceanic trips at 2:1 ratio (in terms of miles)

    Unlike you, I can sleep on buses, but can’t next to trees nor airplanes. If sleeping on the plane saves me from jetlag for 2 days, it is worth the extra miles.

  5. Jexi says:

    The whole debate needs todnd. Its so childish to see these people taking cheap shots at each other. Really puts me off these blogs.

  6. A kindred spirit, thanks for sharing a fresh perspective. To me, economy = more trips = more places to see. Each should find their own personal formula.

  7. The Nomad says:

    I would like to clarify: I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with anybody. My whole point is that YOU decide what is good for you. Jut like nobody tells you how to spend your money, nobody can really criticize how you use your miles. There cannot be a right or wrong answer. So, there should not be a debate.

  8. susan says:

    I completely agree with you (and Scottrick). 2 trips instead of 1 for me, but I’ll be spending the miles for my creaky parents. I also appreciate the debate because I’m new and I learn stuff. I’m pretty good at this, but my knowledge pales to you experts. I haven’t gotten my head completely around “the value of miles” yet… what programs can transfer where, EQM (I really don’t get that yet, the value), and all the tricks. Anyway, I APPRECIATE ANY debate you bloggers get into because the debates highlight the diffferent strategies. Thank you!

  9. Mile Jorge says:

    Age is a factor. (at least in my experience)
    When I was in my 20′s I could sleep in planes and have plenty of energy when I got to my destination, was not affected that much by jetlag. So Coach, no problem.

    Just a few years into my 30′s, I am starting to feel the difference.

    Now go ask someone in thier 50′s and 60′s if their body can take a 10+ hour trip in coach? Maybe not.

    So age (or health) is somthing to keep in mind.

  10. Diane says:

    Speaking as a creaky parent we appreciate it when our children are willing to help us into better seats.:) Age and health are important factors when planning trips.

  11. The Nomad says:

    @Mile.. thats what I noted. With age probably I won’t have the energy I have now.

  12. Steve Westhead says:

    I’m working it two ways. All of our business spending, which is $20,000 to $50,000 a month is on Southwest. We have homes in Kansas City and Stone Harbor, NJ so the companion pass and free tix are awesome! Then we do our personal spending on a variety of cards for international travel.

  13. Glad I’m going back through boarding area. I have a coach ticket next summer I was thinking about re-booking into business, but you’re right. It’s a total of 14 hours out of my life…if I value miles at even a penny, that 40K miles comes out to me “making” 28.57 an hour tax free to sit in coach. Thanks for the perspective check!

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