US Airways Raises the Price of Purchased Miles: the End of the 100% Bonus Purchase Gravy Train?

For most of the past two years US Airways has offered a 100% bonus on purchased miles, in some form or another.

A year ago US Airways raised the price to purchase a mile from 2.5 cents to 2.75 cents. And about two years ago, US Airways adjusted their award chart, some awards got more expensive like business class from the US to Europe going from 80,000 miles to 100,000 miles. That meant straight up buying miles for a business award to Europe went from about $1000 to about $1400.

Now Mommy Points notes that US Airways has raised the purchase price of miles again, to 3.5 cents per mile. That’s a 27% increase, and the price is now 40% higher than it was a little over a year ago, though the price is in line with what other major US carriers charge for miles.

The price increase means that even when US Airways runs a 100% bonus, that Europe business class award costs more like $1800. Still a good deal much of the time, especially for flights from the West Coast, and especially since US Airways allows you to hold an award before miles are in an account meaning that you don’t have to make the mileage purchase speculatively. But the awards are still subject to capacity controls of course, and the price inches up towards what you can often buy discounted advance purchase (and mileage earning!) business class tickets for, at least from the East Coast and during off-season.

So many open questions, is this the end of the fabulous gravy train that US Airways has offered on purchased miles? Does a price increase just presage even bigger discounts? It’s kind of like the Groupon thing, businesses raise their prices and then offer ‘stunning’ percentage discounts. Could US Airways now offer a 150% bonus on purchased miles? Because after the price increase, they’d still be netting the same amount per mile as they were with a 100% bonus and lower prices.

Ironically this price increase may make going for the US Airways Grand Slam promo more imperative, since the knock on it is that it’s a whole lot of effort when US Airways flat out sells miles so cheaply anyway, some considered it worthwhile to pay a few hundred extra dollars to buy miles with a 100% bonus rather than expend all the effort on the Grand Slam promo for the same 100,000 miles. The calculation changes a bit, the savings through Grand Slam are great, now that the mileage purchase price has gone up.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Me, a non traveler doing this years Grand Slam will get 36 hits for a total of $500 and 10 hours of work. With the old price my 10 hours of work saved me $1000, now it is more like $1300. Now bad. With my research my wife can play for $500 and about 1 hour of work. The people that value their spare time at over $100 an hour surely don’t need to play the miles game, so I think people that generally play the game are silly when they choose to ignore Grand Slam. Especially as the cost goes way down if you happen to travel doing the promotion.

  2. I guess this gives US Airways Mastercard holders an even greater incentive to keep their cards. Even with a 100% promo, you still come out on top when paying the $89 annual fee for 10,000 miles.

  3. I am doing the grand slam for 3 accounts which will net over 300K. Cost to “buy” those miles is about 0.6 cents per mile. I can’t see myself buying US miles any other way as long as they keep running the grand slam promo every year.

  4. I agree with Nick that this increase is likely timed to the Grand Slam in order to get more revenue from folks who are buying miles only because of the Grand Slam.

    Also, a higher sticker price for the miles means more folks will snap at the “discounted” price when US Air has their sales.

  5. I for one am glad. I wish they even raise it higher. Then we won’t get stupid questions on the US Air thread and maybe award availability will get better.

  6. I think it is lame for USAirways to do this in the middle of their promo.

    @abcx get your attitude in check!

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