I know we are about using points and miles here, but sometimes tickets are so cheap that it makes little/no sense for one to use the miles instead of paying for the airfare (unless cash is absolutely not an option).
Great Fares to Europe
I was searching for some tickets for a friend to an uncommon European city and was shocked when the Lufthansa price was 1/2 what everything else was – $600! Though I had not searched these city pairs before, I knew this was not normal. I went to the premier website for sharing great flight deals – The Flight Deal – and saw that there were great deals all across the USA and Europe! These sales were ranging from $400 – $700 and not just from hub airports (in fact, some of the better deals were available from non-hub airports). I searched from my home city in the US (definitely not a hub!) to my airport here in Europe and found deals of $600! These tickets are normally $1100+!
Why is it better to buy these tickets than use miles?
I realize some may wonder what the point is of purchasing these tickets when I always am suggesting to accumulate miles. There are a couple of reasons: 1) With prices like this, your miles would be worth less than 1 cent per mile (if purchased for dates that align with this sale) 2) You can earn many miles to a frequent flyer program while you cannot do that with award tickets – for an example, if you are flying from the West Coast to someplace like Turkey, that would allow you to earn well over 13,000 miles which is more than enough for a one-way ticket in the US!
What if I am short on cash?
If these cities and dates worked for you and you were going to use miles (but may not be able to pay cash), there is still a way to earn miles and still pay for these tickets with points!
Ultimate Reward points can be used at 1.25 cents per point for travel booked directly through the Ultimate Reward portal. So, if you were going to fly something like Chicago – Dublin, that would require 60,000 United miles. If you were to purchase it on available days, it would cost $500. That would be a tremendous waste to use miles for the same dates as it costs $500! However, if you have the 60,000 Ultimate Reward points and have not yet transferred them to United, it would only require 40,000 Ultimate Reward points to purchase the ticket with points and earn miles at the same time! A much better solution!
Another way is with the points you may have with the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard. The sign-up bonus gives you 40,000 points which is equivalent to $400 towards travel. In our above example, you could use those points and then pay an additional $100 for the total ticket.
You can do the same thing with Amex’s Membership Rewards but they are only 1 point per dollar value. Still, if you were going to transfer them to Delta for such a ticket (60,000 miles), it would still be a better proposition to use the points to pay for the ticket (only require 50,000 points).
One other method is one that will not earn you any miles or points but it may save you on Delta miles and help out on routes that may not have good availability. If you have a Delta American Express card, you can use the Pay With Miles feature which gives you a value of 1 cent per mile.
Real life scenario
Fall time is major marathon season here in Europe, starting with the Berlin Marathon this coming Sunday. Some of the great marathon options that come to mind that would present a wonderful opportunity for these cheap fares are: Dublin Marathon (October 28), Frankfurt Marathon (October 27), Athens Marathon (November 10), and Amsterdam Marathon (October 20). I would act fast if you are at all interested as these prices will not be around much longer!