There is a huge debate going on in the travel blogosphere about the value of miles. I don’t want to incite it further but am just sharing my view, which I guess many others would share. As always YVMV (your views may vary).
Almost as a principle, I always redeem in coach. I have never ever redeemed or bought business class tickets. Would I never redeem for J or F? I don’t know. I may do it for my honeymoon. I can redeem miles for my parents’ trip across the continent. However, I won’t travel up front for solo trips unless the upgrade to J/F is free.
Does that mean I redeem miles in coach for every flight? NO! I don’t redeem miles unless I am getting at least 2 cents per mile valuation. So, if any domestic ticket is less than $550-600, I will bite the bullet and buy the ticket rather than spend 25K miles and lose ~1-5K EQM (elite qualifying miles). For buying these tickets, I save money by keeping aside the money obtained from 2% cashback cards like the Capital One Venture. This is where I differ in view from Mommy Points and Million Mile Secrets.
Why won’t I redeem miles for business? Redemptions probably depend on a lot of factors: age, experience, economic status and of course the reason you are flying. Let’s consider these one by one. I am a few years away from hitting 30; I can sleep sound standing in a crowded bus or leaning on a tree while backpacking in a forest. Y seats are much more comfortable than that. On my last 15 hr flight in Y, I slept more than 12, enough for allowing me to drive another 3 hours and attending school on arrival.
In most cases, redemption in coach and business differ in at least 25K miles. That is worth at least $500 to me, a huge amount (at least to me!). There is a big opportunity cost too, 25K miles mean another National park trip! I would choose two trips in relative discomfort over one trip in comfort any day.
This is where it matters what kind of a traveler you are: Gary (View from the Wing) says, “the point of this hobby, to me, is making the travel part of the trip (relaxing) — not just the getting there”. My priorities are totally opposite: I travel to see a new location. The travel is something required to reach the destination. unless the route is scenic, I want to get to my destination as soon as possible. I won’t pay extra unless I am gaining time. The type of vacations I go to are hectic anyway; hiking or driving around National and State Parks. I am so excited to see a new location that I forget discomforts if any.
I personally feel redeeming miles below 2 cents/mile is wasteful. Of course that threshold is set by you, depending on your flying and earning pattern. My threshold is set by the 2% cashback cards which are my piggy bank for travel expenses.
Is redeeming in business/first class worth it? I don’t think there can be a right answer.
Is redeeming in coach worth it? To me it does, even on long international Y, with stopovers. Maybe I am missing out on a lot of luxuries and amenities. Do I care? I don’t know; I don’t care enough to know.
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