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August 29, 2019

How Much Are Airline Miles Worth

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You use airline miles to purchase flights and other travel perks. But what are they really worth? Read on for the answer, plus the best way to use airline miles on your next trip.

Calculating the Worth of Your Miles

Several factors determine the cash equivalent of your miles, including the

  • Airline
  • Trip itinerary
  • Seat class

One simple way to find the cash value for an airline mile is to divide the total cost for a trip by the number of miles it requires.

Do this several times then average the answers for a decent idea of how much your miles are worth for that airline.

Consider this example using American Airlines:

Round-trip economy ticket from Chicago to Orlando = $292 or 37,500 points

37,500/$292 = $0.01 cent per mile

Average Airline Mile Worth

The rule of thumb for airline miles is: one mile = one cent.

Using the method above, here are the averages for most major airlines across the world:

AirlineValue of Single Mile
Aegean Miles+Bonus1.4 cents
Air Canada Aeroplan1.4 cents
Air France/KLM Flying Blue1.3 cents
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan1.8 cents
American Airlines AAdvantage1.0 cent
Asiana Club1.4 cents
Avianca Lifemiles1.4 cents
British Airways Executive Club1.3 cents
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1.2 cents
Delta SkyMiles1.3 cents
Emirates Skywards1.0 cent
Etihad Guest1.2 cents
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank1.3 cents
JetBlue TrueBlue1.6 cents
Korean Air SkyPass1.5 cents
Lufthansa Miles & More1.2 cents
Malaysia Airlines Enrich0.9 cent
Qatar Privilege Club0.9 cent
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1.4 cents
Southwest Rapid Rewards1.5 cents
United Mileage Plus1.1 cents
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1.2 cents

Using Miles Internationally

Your miles go even further overseas. International airline miles have a value of $.01–$.05 more than with domestic flights.

Here's another example using American:

Round-trip economy ticket from Indianapolis to London Heathrow = $2,673 or 60,000 points

60,000/$2,673 = $0.04 cents per mile

Weekday vs. Weekend Flights
You'll typically earn 10% less value using airline miles on weekend flights. That can work out to 1–5 cents more versus weekday flights.

Note: Most airline's websites have fare calendars that show the miles needed to fly out on each day in a week, month, or more. Use these calendars to compare days and find the cheapest options.

Using Miles for Business and First Class

While business and first-class tickets generally cost more than economy tickets, you can sometimes get a better mileage value with a higher-class ticket.

American Airlines has a point redemption of 1.0 cent for economy tickets but almost 1.5 cents for business class.

AirlineEconomyBusiness
American Airlines1.0 cent1.5 cents
Delta1.3 cents1.2 cents
JetBlue1.6 cents1.5 cents
Southwest1.5 cents0.9 cents
United1.1 cents1.2 cents

What Airline Miles Don't Cover

Using miles doesn't mean that your entire flight will be free. Airline miles don't cover certain taxes and fees, including:

  • Air passenger duties
  • Passenger service fee
  • Airport security charges like the U.S. 9/11 security fee
  • Passenger facilities charges
  • Transportation taxes

Generally, domestic flights have lower taxes and fees. International flights, however, can add $100 or more to your "free" flight.

Branded Miles vs. Non-Branded Miles

Branded airline card offer perks you won't get with other cards like:

  • Free checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • Mileage bonuses

But unless you frequently travel on one airline, a non-branded travel reward program like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Awards is usually a better option.

These reward programs allow you to use your points and miles toward several airlines. They also give you the freedom to use the points and miles for hotels, car rentals, and other travel experiences.

Read on to learn more.

Chase Ultimate Rewards
Points toward travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program are worth 1.25 cents/point if you're a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your points are worth 1.5 cents/point.

Use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book airline tickets directly through the Ultimate Rewards website. You can also transfer at a 1:1 ratio to:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Flying Blue (loyalty program of Air France & KLM)
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

American Express Membership Rewards
Travelers can also use their American Express Membership Rewards points to book flights. They can book through American Express Travel or transfer at a 1:1 ratio to:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Virgin America Elevate
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

These airlines have different transfer ratios:
  • Aeromexico Club Premier is 1:1.6
  • El Al is 1000:20
  • JetBlue TrueBlue is 250:200

Best Ways to Redeem Airline Miles

Once you have an idea of what your points are worth, it's time to redeem them for that next getaway. Before you book, consider these tips:

Check the Math
Compare the cost of that flight in miles and in dollars to make sure you're actually getting a good deal. Sometimes, the mile redemption per cent is so low. If so, pay to book your flight and save the miles for a better redemption.

Take Advantage of Partner Airlines
Your miles don't necessarily restrict you to that airline. Delta, for example, has over 20 partner airlines, including Aeromexico, Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Air. You can use your Delta SkyMiles on any of these partner airlines. Most of the other major airlines also have partner airlines.

Use Other Redemption Options
The best value usually comes when you use your miles for flights. However, you can also trade miles for other travel like:

  • Hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Experiences

These might be a good option if you don't fly often or your miles are about to expire.

Watch Expiration Dates
Speaking of miles expiring, be sure to track the expiration date of your miles so you don't lose out.

Bottom Line

Airline miles can save money on your next trip, especially when booking international and higher-class tickets. Unless you're a frequent flyer with loyalty toward one airline, your miles will go farther with a non-branded card such as American Express or Chase.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

More from CreditDonkey:


How to Earn American Airlines Miles


Redeem American Airlines Miles


How to Earn Alaska Miles Fast

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
At Chase's Secure Site
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Go to issuer's official application, terms, and details
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/A
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
$95

Airline Miles for Beginners

New to airline miles? Learn how it works and how to earn a ton of miles fast through credit cards. Before long, you'll be redeeming miles for free flights and hotel rooms.

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