Beginner’s Guide: How to Play the “Buy Miles to Fly In Style” Strategy to Net Up to 86% Off Premium Travel


A primer for new members and a reminder of the nuances for the more experienced.

Business and First Class airfares have recently been high, even though there are many sales. Still, buying miles—most airlines offer them for sale online—can be a powerful approach to flying premium class at up to 86% off.

When should I buy miles?

In short: When published premium fares are high. Maybe $1,500+ for domestic tickets and say $3,500+ for Business and $4,500+ for First Class international tickets. Published international First and Business Class fares are often at their highest when booked inside the 50-day advance-purchase window, when you don’t have the minimum-stay requirement, or when special fares are not offered on your route.

No Experience or Miles Necessary

FCF calls it the “Buy Miles to Fly in Style” strategy, and we advise using it only when published Business and First Class fares are high. Keep an eye out for mileage-purchase sales to build up a war chest on the cheap—but only if you fly semi-frequently and/or are flexible—otherwise buy miles on a per-trip basis.

The gist is that you can buy miles for award travel without ever flying or using a credit card to earn mileage or points.

FCF has published many special reports on the airlines and credit cards that allow the purchase of miles and has been recommending this long before they became popular.

Two Ways to Work the “Buy Miles to Fly in Style” Strategy

#1 Buy Miles to Build a War Chest.

The best sales are on Air Canada, Alaska, American, LifeMiles, Lufthansa, and United.

Potential Downside: The airline devalues its miles for the redemption you had in mind. Overnight, miles bought can lose value if the airline raises the mileage requirement. It’s mileage inflation. American and United changed to dynamic awards—increasing award costs—by as much as 100% to 200% and Delta—by as much as 300% on some routes.

Upside: with American and United award costs on many partner airlines are still reasonable, at times. I feel comfortable having 200,000 miles in as many accounts as possible to maximize my opportunities. But if you don’t fly often or are on a tight schedule, see the points below.

#2 Buy Miles for a Specific Trip

But make sure that award space is available before committing to the purchase. American and United are less risky because you can hold space while the miles-purchase transaction transpires. With Alaska you can buy miles on the phone while making the reservation online. I recommend the Buy Miles to Fly in Style strategy only if there is a nice cluster of seats on days before and after your desired date (your insurance policy). If the trip falls through, bank the miles.

Be Ready to Strike

Some airlines require loyalty-program membership before you can buy miles. If you want to play this game aggressively, open accounts with LifeMiles (Avianca) and Mileage Plan (Alaska), so when miles go on sale, you’ve already met the waiting-period requirement.

Need Even More Miles?

There’s generally a hard limit to the number of miles you can buy. Here’s how you can get around miles and points purchase limits:

Amex allows you to buy up to 500,000 points annually (at 2.5¢ each), for example; double that if you have two accounts.

Airlines: Keep in mind that most airlines allow you to redeem miles from your account for someone else’s travel. Translation: Open an account for your dad, daughter, or dogcatcher, fill it with miles however you like, and then use the miles for your trip. The airline may ask you for a credit card with the account holder’s name to cover the ticket taxes—that’s it.

For Example…

Ten Ways, in no particular order, FCF members have leveraged Buy Miles Deals:

How Japan Airlines and Kaizen Can Get You a $23,300 First Class Ticket to Tokyo for $3,221 (or 160,000 Miles).

The Cheapest Business Class Round-Trip I Ever Found to Australia? Maybe This $2,232 One.

Spontaneous Combustion: How Etihad Can Spark an Epic Discount First Class Escape, Whether You Already Booked or Not.

Upgrade Economics 101, Part 8: A Look at Free and Low-Cost Two-Class Upgrades With American Airlines.

Hunting Season for Miles / Points: Get Business Class to Europe for 53,000 R/T or Just $1,567 in Cash.

Get Fresh First Class Lufthansa Opportunities at 69% Off – for Up to *Four Travelers* – All Year Long.

How Secret (Last-Minute) Cheap Seats Can Vastly Improve Your (Already-Booked) Flight: The Iterative Upgrade Mindset, Part I.

Business Class: How Anyone Can Save Up to 61% from 50+ U.S. Cities to 100+ Cities in Europe on Austrian, Lufthansa, and SWISS.

First Class: How Anyone Can Save Up to 58% from 50+ U.S. Cities to 100+ Cities in Europe.

What’s the Best Way to Fly Emirates First Class After the Miles Price Hike?

Save Up to 90% On Business & First Class Flights With Flash Deal Alerts & The Exclusive Upgrade Academy

Score like never before with Covid’s unprecedented
Premium Airfare and Mileage Opportunities.


14-Day / $1 Trial