If you are planning to travel soon, read this post before you book your flight! If you are wondering if you should pay in cash, credit, or miles, then we will answer that for you. In this article, we will discuss the things to consider when it comes time to book that plane ticket.
See our list of the best credit card bonuses here to earn more miles.
1. Award Availability
You should really only consider using your miles when there is award availability. It is important to be flexible since it gives you a better chances on finding saver award availability. With times changing, dynamic award pricings are more common, so these saver awards might be old news soon. Award prices might change daily so be sure to check often.
2. Your Miles Balance
First check to see the flight pricing in miles, then check your rewards balance to see if you have enough. If you do not, then pay for the flight in cash and save your rewards for future flights.
3. Flight Cash Price
Check the cash price for the flight as well. You can check directly with the airlines, or through Google Flights.
4. Mile Value
After looking at the price of the flight in both cash and miles, you need to figure out how much your miles are worth if redeemed. To calculate the value of your miles, simply divide the cash price for a flight by the award price.
5. To Spend Or Not To Spend Miles
Keep in mind that not all mile currencies are equal, they vary from program to program. To determine whether or not it’s a good idea to use your miles, check out our post of our valuations of popular rewards programs.
To earn elite status, you have to flying a certain number of paid miles within a year. If reaching this status is important, then you purchase a cash ticket rather than an award ticket.
If you’re going on an international flight in business or first class, then consider using your miles. You should pay the cash price for shorter, domestic trips to save your miles for those longer flights.
Besides cash and miles, you could pay for your flight using fixed-value points from a credit card rewards program.
Compared to using your miles, these are some advantages:
- You’ll still earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles.
- Award availability isn’t restricted.
Best Airline Credit Cards
If you like traveling with Delta, then the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is the best card for you.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
Enter Delta Sky Club at no cost and bring up to two guests or immediate family at a rate of $50 per person per visit. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
With Status Boost, earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card through 12/31/23, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different from the miles you earn towards flights. Effective 1/1/24, this benefit will no longer be available, and there will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the Card. Learn more at delta.com/skymilesprogramchanges.
You can earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases & 1X mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
This card does come with a $550 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. (See Rates & Fees)
If you travel with Southwest Airlines, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the best rewards card. You’ll earn points you can use in airline’s frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards®.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
In addition, you'll earn 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
• Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases.
• Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
• Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming.
Some perks include $75 Southwest travel credit each year., receiving 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available, savings of 25% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi, and more!
This card carries a $149 annual fee and no transaction fees.
The United Explorer Card offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
• Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
• Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services
Perks of this card include:
• Getting up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS fee credit
• Get your first bag checked for free (up to $140 savings per roundtrip). Terms apply.
• Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year
• 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks
• Get one-year complimentary DashPass, a membership for both DoorDash and Caviar that provides unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees and lower service fees on eligible orders. After that, you are automatically enrolled in DashPass at the current monthly rate. Activate by 12/31/24.
This card does come with a $95 annual fee, however, the annual fee is waived for the first year.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® has a sweet introductory offer for AAdvantage bonus miles and ability to earn AAdvantage miles for spending on the card. Also enjoy the complimentary Admirals Club lounge access!
Before book your flight, take all of these considerations in this post. There is no right or wrong answer to whether you should use your miles or not, it’s quite situational. If you would like to see similar deals, check out our points and miles promotions right here on HMB!