On Thursday Brian Kelly wrote about using the US Airways mileage multiplier to buy US Airways miles at a deep, deep discount.
- When you buy a ticket at USAirways.com you are offered the opportunity to buy additional miles — double or triple what you would earn for the flight you are buying.
- The price of the miles is not calculated per-mile but based on ranges of miles. The sweet spot is staying just under 25,000 miles earned from a flight. (The mileage is calculated to include class of service bonuses and also elite status bonuses.)
- Brian recommends as an example San Francisco – Philadelphia – Tel Aviv in business class as a non-elite in the US Airways program for 24,836 miles including 50% class of service bonus. A US Airways Gold elite would earn the same amount of miles on a coach ticket with this routing because they would substitute their 50% elite status bonus for the class of service bonus.
- US Airways frequently offers the double and triple miles option at the same price, in this case $599. The triple miles option means buying 49,672 miles (the regular 24,836 are for the flight, so you earn that amount twice when you buy triple miles) for $599 or 1.2 cents per mile.
- Through September 12 there is a 50% bonus which brings the cost per mile down to 0.8 cents per mile.
- You receive the regular mileage maximizer purchased miles 5-7 days after the transaction, this is not refundable even if you do not take the flight. The 50% bonus offer only posts after you actually fly so if you do not take the trip you do not get this bonus
Brian floats the idea of buying a ticket with the mileage maximizer and then refunding — either buying a refundable ticket or just cancelling within 24 hours of purchase for a courtesy free cancel.
You would keep the mileage maximizer purchased miles, and could buy miles this way at 1.2 cents apiece. That’s better than the 1.8 cents you pay when they’re offering a 100% bonus. You would not receive the limited-time 50% bonus if you don’t actually fly the ticket.
The 50% bonus may of course make mileage maximizer worthwhile on actual tickets you’re flying with US Airways, of course.
Basically this works much the same way as cash and points awards with Priority Club — you’re booking an award night and also buying points, if you cancel the reservation you get your points back and do not get a refund for the purchased points (the cash part of cash and points).
The concern here of course is that if you do this often, US Airways may decide that you’re acting contrary to the intentions of the program and audit your account. Everything described above is exactly how things are supposed to work — if you buy a ticket, you can cancel the ticket within 24 hours. But if you buy mileage maximizer, that part isn’t refunded.
The real opportunity here stems from US Airways offering double and triple miles at the same price much of the time, and the ‘sweet spots’ in the number of miles/price combinations. That’s likely to change at some point.
The deal was first discussed on Flyertalk (without the 50% bonus) back in January, as far as I can tell. At the time that conversation didn’t go anywhere, my read was that it was a great opportunity to earn miles on the cheap and multiple posts were made in that discussion to make people think that it didn’t work (just as I have seen some recent comments here on this blog meant to try to deter people from taking advantage of deals, made by people who were likely taking advantage of those deals themselves), that is they were intentionally posting misinformation.
With the advent of the 50% limited time bonus, though, the discussion re-emerged and hasn’t really been contained.
I wouldn’t do this often, because even though I suspect that the risk of account audits from one-time activity are lower than some posters over at Flyertalk would want you to think, they could certainly decide to flag an account for doing this over and over.
I’d further expect that with the amount of activity this has seen on Flyertalk, and now at the Points Guy blog, that US Airways will modify the offer somewhat — they seem to like selling miles these days at 1.8 cents apiece much more than 1.2 cents.
The attraction in all of this of course is that US Airways has some reasonably-priced premium cabin awards, like 90,000 miles between the US and Hong Kong in business class (plus taxes, and subject to award availability). Buying miles and redeeming for business class this way is cheaper than you’ll often find paid tickets in coach. But it’s not a strategy likely to last and not one which carries zero risk.