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Buying miles and points from the various loyalty programs can be an effective and economical way to book great value awards if you’re prepared to put a little thought into your purchase and if you’re not afraid of doing a bit of math but, for the next two to three weeks, it will probably be a good idea to resist the temptation to top up your accounts regardless of what deals come along.
At the time of writing Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and Alaska Airlines aren’t running any points/miles sales and American Airlines and United both have mileage sales ending in the next 24 – 48 hours so it’s quite likely that we’ll see a fresh batch of sales launching in the next 7 to 10 days…but these are sales you should approach with a good deal of caution.
We are currently 25 days away from “Black Friday” and 28 days away from “Cyber Monday” and it’s around these dates that we often see loyalty programs offering some of the very best sales of the year.
Right now American Airlines will sell you miles at approximately 2.03 cents each though midnight tonight and United will happily sell you miles at approximately 2.04 cents each through midnight tomorrow, but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see these miles on sale for between 1.8 and 1.9 cents each in the post-Thanksgiving sales (American may even sell is miles for under 1.8 cents each).
Also, bear in mind that loyalty programs can change the deals they’re offering in the middle of a sale so any sales that you see launched in the lead-up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday may not be the best deals eventually offered even if the sale dates include the period immediately after Thanksgiving.
In a recent year (I think it may have been last year) American Airlines launched a mileage sale that ran from the middle of November and into December but, as Cyber Monday approached, the airline unexpectedly added an extra bonus/discount to the sale lowering the cost of miles even further – anyone who had assumed that the original deal would be the best offer available was caught out.
As with all things, there will be exceptions to what I have written above as there are some programs that have a history of not discounting their currency below a certain point.
IHG Rewards is currently selling its points at 0.05 cents each through 16 November and, while there’s every chance that the program will bring out yet another sale in time for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, it’s unlikely that the cost of points will drop below the current level – if you need IHG Rewards Points you’re probably safe to buy them now.
Likewise, if Alaska Airlines launches a sale offering a 50% bonus, if the World of Hyatt launches a sale offering a 40% bonus or if Hilton offers a sale with a 100% bonus in the leadup to Thanksgiving, then we can be reasonably certain that those deals will offer the cheapest miles/points rates that we’re likely to see as those are the best deals we’ve ever seen those loyalty programs offer.
The Black Friday/Cyber Monday period can be one of the best times of the year to top up loyalty program balances so unless you’re absolutely sure that a deal you see offered in the lead up to Thanksgiving will be the best deal available I suggest waiting to see how much the various currencies can be bought for on Black Friday (25 November) and Cyber Monday (28 November).
Personally speaking, even if I see a sale launched in the coming weeks that’s offering miles or points at their generally accepted lowest rate, I won’t be buying. I don’t know what the various loyalty programs have in store for us so as I don’t have an immediate need to top up any accounts I’m happy to wait and see what transpires after Thanksgiving.
I’d hate to miss out on an unexpectedly good deal just because I got unnecessarily impatient.