Using US Airways Mileage Multiplier to Buy Miles at 1.2 Cents Apiece

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.

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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Comments

  1. Is it too late if I already bought my ticket from BOS-PHL-CUN? Or is there another opportunity to use the multiplier?

  2. @Rebecca mileage multiplier is something you purchase from US Airways during the ticketing process, I recall United used to (?) allow you to buy it at any time but I do not believe that US Airways has that feature

  3. “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”

    This was my read as well. I think some of these naysayers presumably from Flyertalk) post negative comments or misinformation to get people NOT to do the deal. One has to read between the lines on a lot of these recent negative comments made on blogs these days.

  4. Gary,

    “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.”

    Did it ever occur to you that perhaps posters in the FT thread were trying to be a little more discreet about the deal as to not kill it? After all, the posts on FT are not driven by a sole desire to increase page views and drive referral links. They’re driven mostly by a desire to maximize deals — which in some cases means keeping them alive.

    “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 — ”

    You shouldn’t insult your readers’ intelligence. You openly add another nail in the coffin of this deal, and then try to absolve yourself of all responsibility when this inevitably gets shut down in the near future? You your own admission, it DIDN’T get a lot of activity on FT (“that conversation didn’t go anywhere”), so trying to place the blame there is a shame.

    Perhaps we should start a pool on how long until US kills this one. Days or weeks, your choice. 🙂

  5. Type – 2nd to last paragraph. “By” your own admission.

    I commend the lack of typos in your blog posts. Apparently I can’t even type out a short response without them!

  6. My favorite from FT — “I did this and my account got audited and never got to keep the multiplier miles. Had to dispute with my cc…”

    I call bs …

  7. I truly do understand the desire to keep some deals from getting killed, but anyone posting false information on a forum that is supposed to be available to help others in order to keep a deal for themselves is just low. I have other words for it, but I will stick with low. I too have seen that happening some in the comments section of some blogs, including mine.

  8. Your blog gets better and better. Thank you. While other travel bloggers post endless pictures of Diet Coke cans or are surprised when they are upgraded to the Presidential Suite after tweeting company officials (while being a travel blogger), you continue to post value added information.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  9. Doesn’t UA have a similar ‘miles multiplier’ program (a separate chance to buy additional miles on top of those you would earn from the flight)?

  10. There are no posts in that thread that appear to be intentionally misleading (any moreso than any other post on FT which may include erroneous information, e.g. Someone not understanding stopover or OJ rules).. In fact, the general tenor of the thread is “Will this work?”. There is also one report of an audit.

    If anything, it appears that perhaps those “in the know” chose to be discreet and not respond, choosing not to scream about this deal from the mountaintop. Which is the way it should be.

  11. Maybe you should only write about the weather so as not to offend those who think public information is their private domain in this internet era. With the risks involved, i don’t even find this deal all that useful, as one can do the grand slam for 0.6 cents per mile or so.

  12. Jackson, go crawl back to FT and commiserate with your cronies about how everyone is taking advantage of public information that somehow belongs to you.

    Lame FTers thinking they own some knowledge that is on public forums and go on bitching as if the world owes them something. If you see any deal on FT that you or your inner circle didn’t originate, you’d better avoid it or you’d be an enormous HYPOCRITE.

    I think I need to start a blog that scours all of the best hidden deals on FT and lays them all out in step-by-step instructions.

  13. @Rebecca; you can still take advantage of the multiplier during online check-in.

    I just did this for my wife’s account; flight from FRA to SEA via PHL; $300 to triple the miles which netted an extra 15k+ which turned out to save us $200 if bought outright otherwise. Factor in the 50% bonus and the cpm is much lower; a steal. This put her over for a bus. class award ticket next year when we go to South America from FRA.

  14. Jackson said…..blah, blah, bad blogger, blah, blah, entitlement drivel, blah, blah, deal will die, blah, blah, better stop it, blah, blah, we were there first, blah, blah, only we deserve it, blah, blah, blog readers are the unwashed, blah, blah, you’ll regret ever posting this, blah, blah, blah, more entitlement drivel…anyone else getting nauseous?

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