You’ve been saving miles for a while now – perhaps you’ve been flying frequently and collecting points that way, or you’ve been using an airline rewards credit card and earned a sign up bonus for spending a certain amount within a time frame after opening the card.
Regardless of how you got them, you finally have enough miles and you’re ready to book a flight with your miles. Congratulations! It’s an extremely satisfying feeling to book a flight with the miles you have earned.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when redeeming your miles to book a flight.
Two types of airline miles
As mentioned before, there’s two main ways to earn miles: by flying repeatedly with the same airline and earning miles for each trip, or by using a travel rewards credit card. And yes, you can (and arguable should) take advantage of both!
With a frequent flying program, you’re being rewarded for the actual flights you take. Earning miles with a credit card means that you’ll be rewarded for every purchase you make. Miles obviously add up quicker with a credit card rewards program.
The good news is: no matter how you earn your miles, you’re able to redeem them the same way.
How to book your flight with airline miles
When using miles to book a flight, you’ll need to book your flight with the airline directly. The airline’s site should let you search for flights by either “dollars” or “miles.” If you’re flexible on your dates, you can look for the flight option that requires the fewest miles to make sure you’re using your miles wisely.
The process is pretty similar to paying for a flight – you’ll search for the dates you want to fly and redeem your miles instead of paying for the flight.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a small dollar amount added to the point redemption value as well. A flight booked with miles won’t be entirely free, unfortunately, as there are some taxes and fees that still have to be paid for with cash. The amount will vary, and will usually be higher if you’re redeeming miles for an international flight.
If you don’t quite have enough miles for your booking, you can usually buy the difference. A word of caution: buying miles is usually more expensive than booking the flight with cash. It’s best to keep earning miles and wait to redeem them the next time you fly, but it’s good to know the option to purchase the difference is available if you’re in a pinch.
Be flexible (if you can)
Booking a flight with miles is a lot like booking it with cash – the number of miles necessary can change from day to day, just like the cash price of the ticket can. Additionally, some flights will drain more miles from your account than others.
If you can, it’s worth it to be flexible with your travel dates to get the best value when redeeming miles. Start researching flights early – don’t wait until the last minute as some airlines only offer a certain number of seats on each flight for reward redemption.
It’s also worth noting that sales can affect the number of miles necessary as well. If an airline is having a sale, check to see if their reward redemption flights are on “sale” as well! Booking a rewards flight with miles during a sale is an added satisfaction.