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Summer Travel Deals #1 (Northern Hemisphere Summer, that is)

I don’t usually post specific travel deals. Plenty of sites already do that. I also don’t, as a rule, recommend buying miles to get tickets. It’s usually a suckers game.

Sometimes it makes sense, though, especially when a big FF program has a deal. American Airlines has exactly that starting today: Up to 25%  off when buying miles in their AAdvantage Program.

Don’t get too excited. Up to. The fine print when you click through to their Points.com partner’s BuyAAMiles Promotion site makes it clear: no discount for 1000-4000 miles, only 10% off for 5000-9000, 15% for 10,000-19,000, 20% for 20,000-39,000, and the 25% full discount only if you buy the maximum 40,000 miles. Also no discount on the ridiculous $30 processing fee, which most other airlines do not charge when you buy miles.

But still, better than the usual AAdvantage promo. Most of the time, they offer something like 10 or 20 or 25% additional miles for the regular price. But the bonus miles don’t post until weeks after the promotion ends – so you end up having to buy the full amount of miles you need now. Two months later, you end up with a likely-useless orphan few hundred or few thousand miles. That’s my situation, with 4000 useless miles in my account, months after buying 20,000 (in one of those rare cases where it did make sense – half the price of buying the ticket I needed and enough miles to do a 1-way US to Uruguay off-peak.)

I actually am considering buying some miles on this deal, to bring that up to either a full 10,000 miles, so that I can change my off-peak end-August ticket to a peak-season 30,000 mile award and use it in July or early August. Or to bring it up to the 12,500 level where it becomes a USA/Canada 1-way on American or Alaska Airlines, which I can use later this year when I come back to the States for my daughter’s graduation. I’ll probably fly into some gateway other than near where I need to be in the US, on a cheap paid AviancaTaca ticket same as I did 3 weeks ago on Taca, earning excellent value in their LifeMiles program and enjoying far better service than AAwful Airlines. But I’ll still need a USA flight tacked on. Last time I took the train from my gateway (SFO) to where I needed to be (Colorado), using up my Amtrak Guest Rewards points. This time, not any more rail points and I don’t feel like taking 2 or 3 days to get there. So this promo may be worth it.

Promotion is on from today (July 1) through August 31.

Remember, buying miles rarely makes any sense. But sometimes it does, especially if you just need to “top-off” an existing account with almost enough miles for a valuable award, and the award with miles purchase is still a better price value to you than the cost of just buying the ticket (remember you earn new miles, and you earn elite qualifying miles towards status and perks when you fly on a paid-with-money ticket; not on an award ticket even if you paid-with-money for the miles.) At about 3¢/mile for the miles, you’re often throwing money away.

But if the particular ticket is expensive, and especially if you’re already almost there, buying some of the miles can work. Same with my having bought a full 20,000 miles for about $650 with all taxes and fees for a Uruguay 1-way. At the time I needed that particular flight, 1-ways were going for at least $1000, and round-trips for at least $1200. At other times, I’ve found $650 1-ways and $890 round trips, but not all the time.

So be wise. Just buy the miles only if you can use them at good value. And remember that “good value” when using American AAwful Airlines AAdvantage Miles is usually using them on better-service, respectful-to-customers parnter airlines like LAN (my August trip back home to Uruguay), Alaska Airlines, or others, rather than on the USA’s worst-service worst-managed least-respectful airline itself.

About Mark Mercer

Expat aging sometime-ski-bum former corporate tool. Currently living in the beachside aging resort town of Atlántida in Uruguay. Sometimes skiing and teaching in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA. Location and velocity cannot be simultaneously observed.

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