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.


Buying points and miles can be beneficial if you know how to do it right. Topping off your account if you're a few points or miles short is one of the most common reasons to buy rewards. The second, and most overlooked reason, is to save money. This is easily done with several hotel rewards programs usually when points are heavily discounted. Buying points at the right time can save you a few hundred to a few thousand depending on your approach.

When To Buy Points and Miles

Buying points and miles are frowned upon within the credit card rewards world. This is because buying rewards will generally not be worth what you paid for them... which is true most of the time. But every blue moon comes a time in which buying points or miles can save you money or give you that extra push you need for your next redemption.

The thing you have to remember about buying rewards is that you need to run the math before making the purchase. Buying points and miles just to buy them because they're on sale or because you "think" it's a good deal will lose you money in the long run.

Another thing to note is that not all points and miles are created equal. There's some programs that you can easily buy rewards for and find great value and there's some programs in which you should probably never buy rewards for (outside of topping off your account). Below are the main reasons for buying points and miles.

Top Off Your Account

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 for the weekend. 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.

Looking at the rates for a weekend stay, the hotel is hovering around $198.55 per night which would be a total of $456.67 for two days after taxes are factored in.

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 this hotel would give me a value of 1.14 cents per IHG Point which is higher than the 0.7 cents value I give them. That makes this an excellent redemption... but I happen to be about 2,000 points shy...

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

Since I don't have any way to transfer points to my IHG account, this is a prime opportunity to buy points. Jumping over to IHG's Buy Points page, I can buy 2,000 points for $27. No... it's not the best rate to buy points at, but paying $27 to give myself enough points for 2 award nights at my favorite hotel is easily worth it to me.

Now outside of buying points, there are several other options I could go with. This 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.

Save 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. This is the most overlooked reason when it comes to buying rewards.

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 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.

What About Airline Miles?

This is possible to do with airline miles, but it's on more the extreme side of the fence that will generally apply to expensive (overpriced) business/first class tickets. First and business class tickets can cost thousands of dollars. In more instances than not, buying airline miles when they're on sale will generally be cheaper than dishing out thousands for an upper class ticket.

As an example, let's look at Business/First class flights on United from Atlanta to Rome, Italy during mid July. We will also use United's 85% more promotion when it comes to buying points.

Looking at Business/First class, these tickets are going to be on the expensive side costing you between $3,368 and $4,668 round-trip.

united atlanta to rome cash prices
Flights range from $3,368 to $4,668. Quite expensive.

Jumping over to United Miles, you can generally find one-way flights for around 70,000 United Miles in each direction. Here's the cost in miles from Atlanta to Rome (one-way):

united atlanta to rome united miles
You'll end up dishing out around 70k United Miles to get there.

And flying back from Rome to Atlanta is a little cheaper in some instances even though you'll have to dish out a little more in taxes/fees.

united atlanta to rome united miles
Flying back will cost you 60k-70k United Miles.

So overall, this flight would cost 130k-140k United Miles plus around $80-$100 in taxes depending on the flight.

During United 85% bonus miles promotion, you can buy United Miles for as cheap as 2.03 cents each. This means I can buy 140,000 United Miles for $2,859.50. This saves me between $500 and $1,800 depending on the cash price of when I was planning on going.

Buying miles for this flight is the cheaper option.

If you're a frequent flyer of United, you'll want to take into consideration the amount of miles you would earn if you had paid cash for the flight. Yes, you would earn a lot of miles... but would you earn $500 to $1,800 worth of United Miles? Probably not, but you'll also want to take into account your credit towards United Premier Status if that's what you have or what you're going for.

This really only works for international air travel. This method is a very rare occurrence for domestic flights.

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 Marriott Bonvoy Points Transfer Calculator to check transfer partners.

You'll want to make sure that you've exhausted all other ways you can go about earning Marriott Bonvoy Points. This includes transferring rewards directly into your Bonvoy account with transfer partners. With these examples, 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 directly to your Marriott Bonvoy account.

Any Other Time It Makes Sense

I can come up with plenty of examples on when buying rewards is worth it. The main thing to remember is that if you can redeem them for more than what you paid for them, it's more than likely a good redemption. 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 points and miles as well. 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

As long as you remember to buy rewards responsibly, you can benefit from the purchase of rewards.

TopCashback Portal

If you want to earn additional cash back on top of the points and miles you're purchasing, TopCashback offers cash when buying rewards with several programs. This includes buying:

  • Hilton Honors Points
  • United Airlines Miles
  • Hyatt Points
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue Miles
  • JetBlue TrueBlue Points
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
  • Wyndham Rewards Points
  • Melia Rewards
  • British Airways Avios
  • Alaska Airlines Miles
  • Marriott Bonvoy Points
  • IHG Rewards Points

You can also use TopCashback to earn cash back on gifting and sharing miles through the Points.com website or when redeeming rewards for gift cards through the Points.com website.

You can learn more about TopCashback and Points.com with the links below. You can also sign up for either program using the links below. Both are free to join.

Use TopCashback to earn cashback when buying points/miles from rewards programs that use Points.com.

Buying Points and Miles List

Listed below are programs that allow you to purchase points or miles and the standard cost associated with doing such. This list does not factor in any promotions that may be listed in the promotions section above. You can click on Buy Points/Miles to be taken to that programs website to buy rewards. You can click on a programs name to learn more about earning, redeeming, and transferring rewards with that program. You'll also be able to calculate rewards based on spend.

Values are listed in United States Dollars unless otherwise indicated. Some portals will allow you to buy points or miles in different currencies. This will usually be based off of which region you have your browser set to.

Buying Points & Miles
List of transit, hotel, and airline programs
Program Standard Rate Buy
Transit Programs
Transportation and car rental agencies
Amtrak
Amtrak Guest Rewards
3.77¢ each Buy Points
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Buying points with hotel loyalty programs.
Choice Hotel
Choice Privileges Points
1.43¢ each Buy Points
Hilton Hotels
Hilton Honors Points
1¢ each Buy Points
Hyatt Hotels
Hyatt Points
2.4¢ each Buy Points
IHG Hotels
IHG Points
1.35¢ each Buy Points
Marriott Hotels
Marriott Bonvoy Points
1.25¢ each Buy Points
Melía Hotels
Melía Rewards Points
EUR 0.36¢ each Buy Points
Radisson Hotels
Radisson Rewards Points
0.7¢ each Buy Points
Wyndham Hotels
Wyndham Rewards Points
1.3¢ each Buy Points
Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
Buying points and miles with airline frequent flyer programs
Air France-KLM
Flying Blue Miles
2.75¢ each Buy Miles
Alaska Airlines
Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
2.75¢ each Buy Miles
Alitalia Airlines
Millemiglia Miles
EUR 2.5¢ each Buy Miles
American Airlines
AAdvantage Miles
2.97¢ - 4.7¢ each Buy Miles
Avianca Airlines
LifeMiles
3.3¢ each Buy Miles
British Airways
Avios
2.78¢ - 5.3¢ each Buy Avios
Delta Airlines
Delta Skymiles
3.5¢ each Buy Miles
Emirates
Skywards Miles
3¢ each Buy Miles
Ethiopian Airlines
Sheba Miles
2.5¢ each Buy Miles
Etihad
Etihad Guest Miles
2¢ each Buy Miles
Eva Air
Eva Air Bonus Miles
4¢ each Buy Miles
Finnair
FinnairPlus Points
EUR 1.28¢ each Buy Points
Frontier Airlines
Frontier Miles
2.5¢ each Buy Miles
Garuda Indonesia
Garuda Airline Miles
1.93¢ each Buy Miles
Hainan Airlines
Hainan Miles
- Buy Miles
Hawaiian Airlines
HawaiianMiles
2.96¢ each Buy Miles
Jet Airways
Jet Privilege Miles
1.8¢ each Buy Miles
JetBlue Airways
TrueBlue Points
3.51¢ each Buy Points
LATAM
Multiplus Points
R$70 for 1k
Brazilian Real
Buy Points
Malaysia Airlines
Enrich Privileges Miles
2.5¢ each
MYR$ 103.92 for 1k
Buy Miles
Qantas
Qantas Points
2.3¢ - 4.9¢ AUD
Australian Dollar
Buy Points
Qatar
Qmiles
3.5¢ each Buy Miles
Singapore Airlines
KrisFlyer Miles
4¢ each Buy Miles
Southwest Airlines
Rapid Rewards Points
3¢ each Buy Points
Spirit Airlines
FREE Spirit Miles
2.5¢ each Buy Points
Thai Air
Royal Orchid Plus Miles
4¢ each
THB$1,200 for 1k
Buy Miles
Turkish Air
Buy Miles & Smiles
3¢ each Buy Miles
United Airlines
United Miles
3.5¢ each Buy Miles
Virgin Atlantic
Flying Club Miles
EUR 1.5¢ each Buy Miles
Virgin Australia
Velocity Points
3.6¢ each Buy Points

Buying Miles FAQ

Is it a good idea to buy points or miles?

It's a good idea when you need to top off your account or when you can buy them and redeem them for a higher value than what you paid for them.

How much does it cost to buy points and miles?

No point or mile is created equal. Buying points and miles can range from as low as 0.5 cents up to 3+ cents. It will heavily depend on the program.

Should I top off my account buy buying rewards or transfer rewards to my account?

This will depend on how much you value the rewards you're transferring versus how much buying rewards will cost you. For example, if I can redeem Membership Rewards Points for 2+ cents each, I wouldn't transfer them to Hilton in which points average 0.6 cents each. I would just buy Hilton Points if I needed a few (especially if they were on sale).