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Cash, Miles or Points – What is the Best Way to Pay for Your Flight?

You can book your flight reservation by paying cash, which is a usual method. But, what most frequent flyers do is they can easily book flight reservations using the airline’s miles program or better yet, purchasing with the travel bonus points that they had accumulated throughout their travel. Of course, this is possible. Here are some best way to pay for your flight. People that fly all the time will be aware of the fact that airlines in the United States offer other ways as well, where you can pay for your flight.

In this travel guide prepared by Treknova, we shall take a look at how you can pay for your flight using cash, miles or points.

When to Pay for Your Flight using Cash, Miles or Points

It may appear that most people are in on the credit card rewards game. But, according to a recent analysis, it is seen that around 31% of credit card holders in the U.S. are letting their points just expire. Although garnering a free flight or upgrade sounds nice, the system can be intimidating as evidenced by the above statistic.

Don’t fret. Here’s how to know when to pay cash or use miles or award points for your next flight ticket.

When to Pay for your Flight with Cash – Best Way to Pay for Your Flight

1. You are Flying in the Off-Season

If you are travelling during the off-season, it might be worth it to save your miles and pay cash instead. For example, flying to the Caribbean in the summer can be relatively inexpensive.

Although the miles needed for a flight often fluctuate, you are not likely to get the same rock-bottom deals with miles as you will if you just buy the flight. And, since miles are ideal to use during busy or holiday seasons, it might be better to save them for flights where they will be more valuable.

2. You have a Complicated Itinerary

Travel hacking is all the rage these days. But, if you are flying back and forth between continents, it might not be ideal to purchase a ticket with the miles from just one airline. This is because most airlines focus on a region and then rely on partnerships for their flights around the world. There are low-cost airlines in the U.S.

Now, although airlines have global partnerships with other affiliated airlines, there are still countries and regions that are underserved by certain carriers. So, if you are crisscrossing the globe, then it might make more sense to stick to an old-fashioned flight ticket that is purchased by paying cash.

3. There is a Flash Sale or Mistake Fare

Like any business, airlines too, have inventory to get rid of. So, they will offer flash sales towards the end of the year, usually beginning on Black Friday, and sometimes, even through the New Year. If you see a big airline sale, you can simply jump on that deal.

Also, remember that the same will not be available with miles. The same also goes for mistake fares.

4. Your Trip is a Business Expense

If you are a business traveller and when your employer is paying for the flight, then paying with cash is the obvious choice. The same is also true if you own a business. However, those who are self-employed may be better served paying with cash on business trips and saving the miles for family holidays.

5. You are Trying to Earn or Keep your Airline Status

Generally, award travel does not earn miles. As a result, it does not count toward an airline’s elite status. So, if you are trying to earn those qualifying miles, you will have to pay cash for the flight ticket.

However, there is one exception, and that is through programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards. For instance, if you purchase a flight ticket through Chase with rewards earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, then the ticket will earn qualifying miles.

When to Pay with Miles

1. You may Wish to Change your Flight Reservation

This is a sneaky, but a true tip. Although every airline has different policies for changing your reservation, U.S. airlines are notoriously quite strict about it. However, except for Southwest Airlines, where its policy allows passengers to make change to flight reservations at no additional cost.

If you have to purchase a flight ticket, but you are not sure if the dates will stay fixed due to a work commitment or family plan, then purchasing the ticket with miles is an ideal choice. This is because most airlines will allow you to exchange one awards or miles ticket for another one at no cost, except for whatever the difference in flight cost is. And that might only be $5.

2. You Want to Fly in Business Class or First Class

People who generally fly frequently will know that the highest dollar-to-point use of your miles is for business or first class tickets. Whether this is because of an upgrade that uses points, or because you went for the top tier when you first booked your flight, it does not matter. Using your miles for business or first class tickets is almost 100% of the time the best use of miles.

3. You are Flying a One-Way Trip

Although the use of one-way flight tickets has come a long way since low-cost airline carriers disrupted the domestic market, they can still cost more than half the price of a round-trip ticket. However, that is not the case if you purchase your flight ticket with miles. You can get cheap flight tickets as well with few tricks.

Similar to the idea that awards tickets do not fluctuate in price around the holidays as regular tickets do, one-way tickets bought with points are usually the standard ticket price.

4. It is a Busy Time of Year

If you are flying during a spring break or holiday season, then booking your flight ticket with miles is an ideal choice. The reason is that it will likely be less expensive than if you charge it, and it is more flexible if you later decide you want to change your reservation.

This is one of the most ideal ways for people looking for low cost tickets over common holiday breaks. It can be really incredible for the deals which you can snag a bargain.


Regardless, if you use points or miles for a flight ticket, make sure you calculate the miles-to-dollar conversion with any flight purchase. As with any financial decision, using actual numbers helps to illuminate the price, whether that is in miles or in cash.

So, when booking flight tickets, keep in mind that true value does not always have to be about the dollar or redemption value per point. Smart travel is about getting you and your loved ones to whatever destination you are dreaming of, preferably for as little money and miles as possible.

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