Buying Points and Miles Guide | The Point Calculator

Buying Points and Miles

Details on buying points and miles for airlines and hotels. Learn when it makes sense to do so. Covers cost per point/mile, active promotions, and more.


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Buying points and miles are generally frowned upon due to the price, but there are many good reasons to buy rewards as well. You'll commonly see people say that "buying points and miles are always a bad idea" and this is nowhere near true. This page will list out a few examples on when buying points and miles is a no-brainer and when it is not. You'll find a table that lists the programs in which you can purchase points/miles and the standard price for each. Promotions are also listed on this page.

You can jump down to promotions if you already have the knowledge of buying points and miles.

When To Purchase Points/Miles

There are plenty of reasons in which you may want to purchase points or miles. The main reasons will usually be to either top off your account or to save money booking with rewards. Listed below are a few examples of each.

Top Off Your Account Balance

The most common reason for buying points and miles is to top off your account. If you're a few rewards shy of a redemption, this could be an easy way to purchase those few extra points or miles. For example, I frequently visit Tampa, Florida to visit family. My favorite IHG hotel down there is the Holiday Inn Express & Suites near Ybor City which will cost me 20,000 IHG Points per night.

Holiday Inn Ybor City Cost Points
This hotel costs 20,000 IHG Points per night.

The cash price of this same hotel would cost me $198.55 per night in which after tax would be a total of $456.67 for the entire stay.

Holiday Inn Ybor City Cost In Cash
After tax, I'm looking at $456.67 for the entire stay.

This means that redeeming IHG Points for those hotel would give me a value of 1.14 cents per IHG Point which is much higher than the average of 0.7 cents each I put them at.

Now at the moment, I do not have enough points to book this hotel. I'm about 2,000 points shy.

my ihg balance
I've need a few more points for this redemption.

This would be a prime opportunity to purchase points. With IHG, you can buy rewards in 1,000-point increments meaning I would need to buy 2,000 points. At the standard rate, IHG Points are 1.35 cents each. This means it would cost me $27 to buy 2,000 IHG Points. I would then have enough to book the 2 reward nights at IHG and it would only have cost me $27.

Now there's three other ways in which I could have went about that before buying points which includes:

  • Using points for 1 night and paying cash for the other
  • Using IHG's points + cash option
  • Transferring points to IHG from other rewards programs

Using Points For 1 Night

Redeeming 20,000 of my IHG Points and paying cash for the second night would mean that I would have had to dish out $198.55 plus tax. I, personally, would rather use the points I have to make the entire trip cheaper. Sure, I could hold off and use those points at a later time, but I don't like holding on to points as they could devalue, the program could change, or the hotel may not be available for rewards bookings the next time I want to stay there (this has happened many times).

IHG's Points + Cash

IHG does have a points + cash option for reward bookings. For this particular hotel, it would cost me 30,000 Points + $108 to book. This would give the IHG Points a total value of 1.16 cents each which is slightly higher than booking in all points. That makes this a valid option if you don't mind dishing out $108. Plus, you'll earn some IHG Points on the small cash portion you paid so it could easily be worth taking this route. Again, I personally would rather pay out $27 total, but that's just me.

Holiday Inn Ybor City Cash plus points
Points + Cash is a good option for those who don't mind dishing out $108.

Transferring Points To IHG

You can earn airline miles and hotel rewards points by transferring rewards directly to your account (more about that below). For example, if you're part of Chase's Ultimate Rewards Points program, you can transfer earned points in that program directly to your IHG account. So you can take 2,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and turn them into 2,000 IHG Points. Now whether you take this route depends on how much you value the points you're transferring. Ultimate Rewards Points are worth an easy 1.25 to 1.5 cents each with the possibility to be worth a lot more. I can get more than $27 in value out of 2,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. So while I personally wouldn't take this route, it's a possibility that you may. This will be more of personal preference.

IHG Points Transfer
The IHG Points Transfer Calculator shows the list of transfer partners.

This is just one of the many examples on how you can use points and miles to top off your account. If you're a few rewards short of a redemption this something you'll want to consider especially if points/miles are on sale.

Saving Money On Bookings

From time to time, you'll find a promotion in which the points/miles being sold are at a value that are close to their average redemption value. This can create opportunities in which it becomes cheaper to buy rewards and redeem them versus paying straight cash. This happens primarily with hotels and not-so-much with airlines.

The 80% more IHG promo is a prime time to buy.

Let's use IHG's popular 80% more promotion as an example. This particular promotion (or a variation of it) comes around a few times per year. Using the same example listed in the Top Off Your Account Balance section above, a 2-day stay at the Holiday Inn Ybor City costs $456.67 in cash or a total of 40,000 IHG Points.

Let's pretend that I have a 0 IHG points and that I'm not even a member, but there's an event going on at the Holiday Inn Ybor City and that's where the entire family is staying. I could dish out $456, but with the IHG 80% more promo I would actually save money buying points.

ihg 80% more buy points
Buy points and receive 80% more along with a 10% discount.

For this promotion, I can buy 23,000 IHG Points and receive a bonus of 18,400 IHG Points for a total of $238.05. I can then redeem those points of the 2-night stay at the Holiday Inn Ybor City.

buy IHG Points 23000
I can buy points and redeem them to save money.

So buying enough IHG Points for a 2-night stay would be cheaper than paying the cash price. This would save me whopping $218.62. It's sales like this that makes buying hotel rewards points worth it.

IHG PointBreaks has hotel redemptions for as low as 5,000 points which would only cost you $25 during their 100% more promotion.

Holidays and Inflated Prices

While this technically falls under 'Saving Money On Bookings', I treat holidays and inflated prices a tad bit different. During the holidays or peak-travel times, hotel and airfare tends to become a little pricey. For the most part, some loyalty programs do not increase the cost in rewards (at least right away) which gives you the opportunity to buy points and miles to save money on a booking.

marriott new years price
Buying points for these hotels would be the better option.

The most popular example includes stays during the New Years holiday. Looking at some Marriott hotels around Times Square, it will run you as much as $609 per night or 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points. At the standard rate, Marriott Bonvoy Points will cost you 1.25 cents each. That means purchasing 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points would cost you $437.50 which is cheaper than paying $550-$600 per night. If you were planning on paying cash, this is one of those prime opportunities in which buying points would be the better option. And like IHG, Marriott also has sales several times per year. Marriott Points can be purchases for as low as 0.875 cents several times during the year.

buy 35000 Marriott Bonvoy Points on sale
Buying Marriott Points on sale would save even more!

When Marriott Points can be purchased for 30% off, you can get an even better deal. At 0.875 cents each, I could buy 35,000 points for $306.25 and save $260 to $300+ staying at these two Times Square hotels.

transfer points to marriott
Use the Ultimate Marriott Point Transfer Calculator to check transfer partners.

As with the previous IHG examples, you'll want to make sure there's not other ways you can go about earning Marriott Bonvoy Points. This includes transferring rewards directly into your Bonvoy account with transfer partners. Both hotel redemptions will give your Marriott Bonvoy Points a value of more than 1.6 cents per point making it easily worth transferring points from popular programs such as American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

What About Buying Airline Miles?

All of the examples above consist of buying hotel rewards points. That's because it's fairly easy to justify buying hotel points whether it's buying points to top off your account or buying enough points to cover an entire stay. Buying airline miles on the other hand will be a little bit harder to justify.

buy 2000 delta skymiles
2,000 Delta Skymiles will cost you $75.25 which is buying them at 3.76 cents each.

Buying airline points to top off your account works the same. If you're a few thousand miles short of a flight, buying airline miles can easily be worth it. Just note that airline miles tend to cost a lot more than hotel rewards points. When it comes to earning airline miles, I highly recommend using bank rewards programs that allow you to transfer earned points into airline miles. Each program has their own handful (or bucketful in some cases) of airline partners. So if you only fly with certain airlines, you'll want to find the program that transfers to the airline you care about. You can check out :

In addition to topping off your account, there will be lots of instances in which buying miles for first and business class flights would be the cheaper option. If you're willing to pay cash for these flights either as a business or as an individual, buying miles could work in your favor if you're looking to save money. It can also be worth it if you really want to fly first class but don't want to dish out tens of thousands of dollars. Let's look to United as an example.

United detroit to amsterdam cost in cash
Business class will cost you $7,737 roundtrip from Detroit to Amsterdam on United.

A flight on United from Detroit to Amsterdam costs $7,737 roundtrip. This same flight can be booked for 70,000 United Miles plus $39.60 due to Business Saver Awards being available.

united detroit to amsterdam cost in miles
Only 70,000 United Miles roundtrip for the same flight.

United Miles will cost you 3.5 cents each at the standard price. This means it would cost you $2,625 to buy 70,000 United Miles. It's worth noting that United also charges a 7.5% Tax Recovery Fee which means the total cost would be around $2,821. That's a lot better than paying $7,737... but it's still pretty expensive. That's where promotions and sales come into play.

United promotion 85 percent bonus miles
Earn up to 85 percent bonus miles with United's buy miles promotion.

Just like hotel rewards points, airlines will consistently offer promotions on buying airline miles. Take United's 85% bonus miles promotion for example. Buying 70,000 United Miles under this promotion would cost $1,429. This saves you $6,308 off the normal price and even saves you $1,392 off the standard purchase price of buying miles.

buy United Miles promotion 70000 miles
Buying miles at ~2 cents each to redeem them for a value of 11 cent each off the original price.

I can see myself being more willing to pay $1,429 for a business class flight versus a whopping $7,737. Again, you'll want to make sure you cover all avenues before buying miles. This includes checking United's transfer partners. This is one of those instances where being able to transfer points directly to your account would be extremely useful. There are more than 10 programs that allow you to transfer to United, but the best option in this case is Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points into 70,000 United Miles and book your flight without buying any miles at all.

chase point transfer calculator
Easily transfer points to your United account using Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I'm sure there are many other instances in which buying airline miles can be useful, but it will not be as easy to spot when compared to buying hotel rewards points. If you're looking at paying for a flight, I recommend checking the cost in miles as well as in cash since you never know when you could save some serious money buy airline miles instead.

Any Other Time It Makes Sense

The examples above are just a few ways in which buying points and miles can benefit you. If you're planning on booking a hotel or purchasing airline tickets, you'll want to check more than just the cost in cash as you can save some serious money buying rewards. Just be sure to do these things:

  • Run the calculations and make sure that it is worth the purchase
  • Have a redemption in mind before buying points and miles
  • Don't buy points/miles just to buy them regardless of the deal
  • Don't let others tell you that it's always a bad idea to buy rewards, because it's not

Point Transfer Calculators

If you're want to calculate the transfer of airline miles, hotel points, rail rewards, car rental points, and any other type of reward, be sure to check out our Points and Miles Transfer Calculators. It lists all point transfer calculators on the site so you find out which programs transfer to which.

Other Buy Points/Miles Examples

If you're looking for more examples on when it's a good idea to buy points and miles, listed below are a few articles I've done on buying rewards. Do note that the promotions listed in the articles may not be active, but it provides more examples on when buying points/miles makes sense. And if the particular promotion comes around again, you'll know if it's right for you.

News On Buying Points

Buy Points/Miles Promos

Any promotions actively going on (that I am aware of) will be listed below. Do note that you will need to know your login information when you land on the storefront of these rewards programs. If there is a promotion missing, feel free to let me know on Facebook or Twitter. Prices are in USD unless otherwise indicated.

Do note that The Point Calculator receives a commission on the purchase of points from several of the programs listed on this page which are indicated by a green 'Buy Points' button. Any purchases of points through our links is greatly appreciated (just do me a favor and make sure the purchase is worth it).

Key:

  • Standard Rate - The standard cost in cents per point/mile.
  • Min/Max Per Transaction - The minimum and maximum amount of points/miles you can purchase in a single transaction.
  • Max Per Year - The maximum amount of points/miles you can purchase in a calendar year.
  • Increments - The increments in which you can purchase points/miles in with that program.
  • Buy - The link to purchase points for that rewards program.
Promotions
Current known promotions on buying points and miles.
Program Promotion Price Promo End Date Buy
Choice Hotels
Choice Privileges Rewards
Get up to 40% bonus points 0.7¢ to 0.78¢ each Ends 12/05/19 Buy Points
Finnair
Finnair Plus
Get up to 50% bonus points EUR 0.86¢ to 1.07¢ each Ends 12/09/19 Buy Points
United Airlines
United MileagePlus
Get up to 85% bonus miles 2.03¢ to 2.89¢ each Ends 12/11/19 Buy Miles
LATAM
LATAM Pass
Buy points at 60% off - Ends 12/12/19 Buy Miles
Amtrak
Amtrak Guest Rewards
Get up to a 30% bonus points 2.9¢ to 3.42¢ each Ends 12/20/19 Buy Points
Marriott Hotels
Marriott Bonvoy
Save up 30% on points 0.875¢ each Ends 12/22/19 Buy Points
Alaska Airlines
Alaska Mileage Plan
Save up to 40% on points 1.9¢ to 2.46¢ each Ends 12/23/19 Buy Miles
IHG Hotels
IHG Rewards Club
Get 80% more and a 10% discount on points 0.5¢ to 0.675¢ each Ends 12/30/19 Buy Points
Hyatt Hotels
World of Hyatt
Get 40% more points 1.71¢ each Ends 12/31/19 Buy Points

Buying Points and Miles List

Listed below are programs that allow you to purchase points or miles. This list does not factor in any promotions that may be listed in the promotions section above.

Key:

  • Standard Rate - The standard cost in cents per point/mile.
  • Min/Max Per Transaction - The minimum and maximum amount of points/miles you can purchase in a single transaction.
  • Max Per Year - The maximum amount of points/miles you can purchase in a calendar year.
  • Increments - The increments in which you can purchase points/miles in with that program.
  • Buy - The link to purchase points for that rewards program.
Buying Points & Miles
List of transit, hotel, and airline programs
Program Standard Rate Min/Max Per Transaction Max Per Year Increments Buy
Transit Programs
Transportation and car rental agencies
Amtrak
Amtrak Guest Rewards
3.77¢ each 500 - 30k 30k 500 Buy Points
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Buying points with hotel loyalty programs.
Choice Hotel
Choice Privileges Points
1.43¢ each 1k - 120k 120k 1k Buy Points
Hilton Hotels
Hilton Honors Points
1¢ each 1k - 80k 80k 1k Buy Points
Hyatt Hotels
Hyatt Points
2.4¢ each 1k - 55k 55k 1k Buy Points
IHG Hotels
IHG Points
1.35¢ each 1k - 100k 100k 1k Buy Points
Marriott Hotels
Marriott Bonvoy Points
1.25¢ each 1k - 50k 50k 1k Buy Points
Melía Hotels
Melía Rewards Points
EUR 0.36¢ each 1,389 - 150k 150k Any Buy Points
Radisson Hotels
Radisson Rewards Points
0.7¢ each 1k - 80k 80k 1k Buy Points
Wyndham Hotels
Wyndham Rewards Points
1.3¢ each 1k - 10k 10k 1k Buy Points
Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
Buying points and miles with airline frequent flyer programs
Air France-KLM
Flying Blue Miles
2.75¢ each 2k - 75k 75k 2k Buy Miles
Alaska Airlines
Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
2.75¢ each 1k - 60k 150k 1k Buy Miles
Alitalia Airlines
Millemiglia Miles
2.5¢ each (Euro) 1k - 70k 70k 1k Buy Miles
American Airlines
AAdvantage Miles
2.97¢ - 4.7¢ each 2k - 150k 150k 1k Buy Miles
Avianca Airlines
LifeMiles
3.3¢ each 1k - 480k 480k 1k Buy Miles
British Airways
Avios
2.78¢ - 5.3¢ each 1k - 100k 100k 1k Buy Avios
Delta Airlines
Skymiles
3.5¢ each 2k - 60k 60k 2k Buy Miles
Emirates
Skywards Miles
3¢ each 2k - 100k 100k 1k Buy Miles
Ethiopian Airlines
Sheba Miles
2.5¢ each 1k - 20k 20k 1k Buy Miles
Etihad
Etihad Guest Miles
2¢ each 1k - 60k 100k 1k Buy Miles
Eva Air
Eva Air Bonus Miles
4¢ each 1k - ? 100k 1k Buy Miles
Finnair
FinnairPlus Points
1.28¢ each
Euro
1k - 100k 120k 1k Buy Points
Frontier Airlines
Frontier Miles
2.5¢ each 1k - 25k 25k 1k Buy Miles
Garuda Indonesia
Garuda Airline Miles
1.93¢ each 1k - 50k 50k 1k Buy Miles
Hainan Airlines
Hainan Miles
- Up To 60k 80k - Buy Miles
Hawaiian Airlines
HawaiianMiles
2.96¢ each 500 - 10k 10k 500 Buy Miles
Jet Airways
Jet Privilege Miles
1.8¢ each Min of 500 - 100 Buy Miles
JetBlue Airways
TrueBlue Points
3.51¢ each 1k - 30k 120k 500 Buy Points
LATAM
Multiplus Points
R$70 for 1k
Brazilian Real
1k - 500k 500k 1k Buy Points
Malaysia Airlines
Enrich Privileges Miles
2.5¢ each
MYR$ 103.92 for 1k
1k - 50k 150k 1k Buy Miles
Qantas
Qantas Points
2.3¢ - 4.9¢ AUD
Australian Dollar
1k - 150k 600k 1k Buy Points
Qatar
Qmiles
3.5¢ each Min of 1k 250k 1k Buy Miles
Singapore Airlines
KrisFlyer Miles
4¢ each Min of 1k - - Buy Miles
Southwest Airlines
Rapid Rewards Points
3¢ each 2k - 60k Unlimited
60k max per day
500 Buy Points
Spirit Airlines
FREE Spirit Miles
2.5¢ each 1k - 60k 60k 1k Buy Points
Thai Air
Royal Orchid Plus Miles
4¢ each
THB$1,200 for 1k
1k - 30k 30k 1k Buy Miles
Turkish Air
Buy Miles & Smiles
3¢ each 1k - 50k 50k 1k Buy Miles
United Airlines
United MileagePlan Miles
3.5¢ each 2k - 87.5k 175k 1k Buy Miles
Virgin Atlantic
Flying Club Miles
1.5¢ each (Euro) 1k - 100k 100k 1k Buy Miles
Virgin Australia
Velocity Points
3.6¢ each 500 - 250k 250k 500 Buy Points

Recent News/Articles


Page Last Updated: 2019-12-01

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