You scrimped and saved for years to take vacations to various destinations. Now, you’ve finally accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to redeem a cushy reward. So, do you blow those precious miles on a free ticket or do you use them to upgrade to first class?
Travel experts say the key to using award travel miles is to research your options before settling on a prize. In other words, before you cash in your hard earned miles, consider where you’re going, how much a ticket there costs, and how challenging it will be to claim your reward.
For example, if you have always dreamed of flying first class to Hawaii, you may consider purchasing a seat in economy and using your miles to move up to a premium cabin. Saving miles to get a full first-class ticket to such a desirable destination could take a very long time.
What’s more, in some cases, if you’re looking to upgrade to a plusher cabin, you may end up having to pay in miles and cash. Co-payments for seat upgrades can soar as high as $1,000 per person for some popular international round-trips. Also, many carriers won’t allow you to use your miles to score a better seat if you paid the cheapest coach fare. Delta and Alaska Airlines are just two major commercial carriers that feature these kinds of restrictions on domestic award travel.
Savvy frequent flyers recommend being strategic, so as to avoid squandering miles on a low-priced economy class ticket. If your flight takes you overseas, overnight or you will be on a plane for more than five hours, you might be better off opting for the upgrade. This is especially true if you notice that your frequent flyer miles are not getting you as far as they used to. Let’s face it; these days it’s getting harder and harder to get a free seat for just 25,000 miles.