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Many airline and hotel loyalty programs allow you to purchase their points or miles currency. As a member of that particular loyalty program, you can go online and buy points or miles with a few clicks. Many of these programs even have high purchase limits, meaning that you can buy a six-figure amount every calendar year. 

Let’s say that you have 40,000 points in your Marriott Bonvoy account and you want to purchase a hotel stay that costs 100,000 points. Well, you can go on the Marriott Bonvoy website and purchase 60,000 points and then combine them with your other 40,000 points to purchase the hotel stay. 

Unfortunately, there is a catch. The purchase price per point is usually substantially higher than the actual value of the point. Most of the time, it’s definitely not worth it to purchase points or miles, even when they’re on sale. However, there are a few select occasions in which buying points can be a good move.

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios in which buying points or miles from loyalty programs is actually a good deal.

You Can Get More Value Than You Paid For

We recommend buying points only when you can redeem them for more value than what you paid for them. The best time to do this is during a promotion when a loyalty program offers points or miles at a discounted rate. This gives you the best opportunity to maximize redemption value over purchase price. 

For instance, let’s say that you’re looking at a flight that you can buy for $500 or 30,000 points plus $50 in taxes and fees. If there’s a bonus promotion offering points at a rate of 1 cent per point, then it would probably make sense to buy the points and then redeem them for the flight. Buying the flight with points would come out to $350 ($300 for the points plus $50 in fees and taxes) compared to the $500 it would take to buy it with cash. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. This calculation assumes that you’ll be able to buy the flight that you want at the stated redemption rate, which doesn’t always hold true.

First of all, redemption availability within loyalty programs is constantly changing. While you might be able to buy that flight that you want one day, that redemption option might not be there tomorrow. In that case, you purchased all of those points to buy an award flight that is no longer available. 

Second of all, the number of miles or points that you need to buy your desired flight could also change. Occasionally, as miles or points become less valuable, loyalty programs will increase their point or mile requirements. 

Programs will usually give you a warning before they increase their point or mile requirements, but we’ve seen changes made overnight with no notice. In this case, you run the risk of purchasing points and then discovering that you don’t have enough for your desired flight. 

If you’re confident that you’ll be able to buy your desired flight at the originally stated rate and the redemption value is greater than what it would cost to buy the flight with cash, it makes sense to buy the points or miles.

You Need to Top Up Your Account for a Specific Purpose

In the event that you need to top up your account for a specific reason, it could make sense to buy points or miles, even if the redemption value is below the purchase price. 

For instance, let’s say that you need to take a flight to Denver for your sister’s wedding and you already have 45,000 points in your JetBlue TrueBlue account. You can either buy the ticket that you need for $500 or 50,000 TrueBlue points plus $11.20 in fees and taxes. JetBlue gives you the option to purchase 5,000 points at a rate of 2 cents per point, which would cost you $100. 

In this case, it might make more sense to purchase the 5,000 points and effectively pay $111.20 (5,000 points at a rate of 2 cents per point plus $50 in fees and taxes) rather than pay $500 for the flight. 

Yes, the purchase price per point is going to be greater than the redemption value per point in this transaction. However, since you have to make it to your sister’s wedding, it makes sense to purchase the extra 5,000 points so that you can use your existing points to book an essential flight. 

You Want to Book a First Class Flight

One other time when it might make sense to purchase points is if you can get a good deal on a first class flight that would otherwise be way out of your budget. 

For example, a Cathay Pacific first class one-way ticket from the U.S. to Hong Kong might cost you around $14,000. However, you can purchase the same one-way ticket through the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program for 70,000 miles plus taxes and fees. Since Alaska Airlines typically sells miles for 2 cents per mile, you can purchase that same ticket for $1,400 (70,000 miles at a rate of 2 cents per point) plus fees and taxes. 

The above example is a real-world scenario and a great deal on one of the best first class tickets you can buy. And although you can probably find a cheaper way to fly from the U.S. to Hong Kong, if you want to experience the luxury of something like Cathay Pacific first class, buying points could save you a whole bunch of money. 

Bottom Line

Most of the time, buying points or miles isn’t going to benefit you more than it costs you. However, if you’re willing to do the research, buying points or miles occasionally might save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single trip. 

You should note that the best way to get the most out of buying points or miles is to identify a good deal and then buy the points or miles and use them immediately. Buying points or miles and then holding onto them in hopes that a good deal will come around is far less likely to work out for you.