Buying Miles & Points: Is It Ever Worth It?

buying miles and points worth it featured image

In many of our articles on Frugal Flyer, we have talked about how earning credit card welcome bonuses is the best path to earning a significant amount of frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty program points. Simply put, credit cards in both Canada and the United States often have outsized bonuses that are not very difficult to earn with some careful planning.

However, there are of course other ways to accrue miles and points, such as participating in the loyalty program as intended, partnered programs such as shopping portals, and purchasing miles and points. Exchanging cash for a miles or points currency might seem like a silly concept, especially when you look at how much miles and points can cost when purchasing outright.

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into the somewhat foreign idea of buying miles and points with cash to determine if it is ever worth it.

The Concept of Buying Miles & Points

Many, if not all, frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs present some sort of option to purchase points. The concept is simple when purchasing miles or points: you are trading a liquid currency for an illiquid currency.

Miles and points are typically purchasable at a flat rate of a few cents per point (depending on the program), and may often become cheaper through promotions that offer additional points on top of your purchase, reducing the cent per point cost.

buying aeroplan points bonus promotion

So the question remains: why would frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs sell points for their own program? Loyalty programs often serve to fill unoccupied space on flights and in hotels. Thus, by selling points and having a member redeem at a lower overall cost than paying cash, they are still making more money than if the seat or room sat empty.

Interestingly enough, airlines can also earn money by selling discount points. When part of an alliance, airlines reimburse one another small amounts of money for award redemptions. For example, if Air Canada Aeroplan is selling points at a discount, but the member turns around and uses them for an EVA Air business class booking, the points sale may remain profitable even after Air Canada Aeroplan reimburses EVA Air for the award booking.

Let us not forget that miles and points, in addition to loyalty programs, are a massive industry with many players involved.

Spending Multipliers When Buying Miles & Points

As an aside, it is important to note that miles and points purchases typically do not code as travel, especially when they are purchased through However, there are certain loyalty programs that may code as a travel or airfare purchase, such as buying American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Avianca Lifemiles.

Do your research on the buying points process for the program you are interested in before you make your purchase to determine if the purchase will be coded as travel or airfare. If so, make sure you use a credit card that has a strong spending multiplier for the correct category to maximize the value you get from your purchase.

When is Buying Miles & Points Worth It?

Personally, I believe the value in purchasing miles and points is few and far between, especially when you consider how easy it is to earn large volumes of them through credit card welcome bonuses and other methods. However, there absolutely are use cases for purchasing miles and points, including some that can make your dollar go even further.

For all of the scenarios listed below, the value becomes even greater if the frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program is running a promotion that results in a reduced cent per point cost. Keep that in mind before you purchase miles or points, especially if your need is not urgent.

Getting Close to a Flight or Hotel Redemption

The most common need for purchasing points is when a loyalty program member is getting close to an award flight or award hotel stay booking. Their latest credit card welcome bonus might have left them short of the required points and in this situation, purchasing the remaining required miles or points is an easy way to finish accruing the points required.

Simply put, purchasing miles and points to top up your existing balance for your next redemption is often well worth it. However, there are certain things to be aware of when purchasing miles and points for both frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.

When it comes to topping up mileage purchases for a flight redemption, remember that availability comes and goes meaning that the two seats you found on Air France business class tonight might not be there tomorrow, let alone once your purchased points are deposited. With that in mind, I would recommend only searching for award flights once you have the fully required points balance, lest you end up disappointed when you find availability and cannot book.

Focusing on hotel redemptions, there is less variability with pricing and availability so buying points is often a safer bet. Also, when it comes to the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors loyalty programs, purchasing enough points to redeem for a consecutive four-night award stay will allow you to receive the fifth night free, a benefit that can cut your cost by 20%.

marriott bonvoy fifth award night free discount

Of note, miles and points purchases are often not instant and it may take a few days for the points to hit your account. If you find a crazy good flight redemption, don’t expect to be able to purchase the required miles and still have the seat availability two or three days down the road.

Saving Money on Luxury Travel

Another common use case for purchasing miles and points is to save money on luxury travel. With this use, a loyalty program member will purchase a set amount of miles or points required for the redemption they are interested in at a lower cost than the cash price of making the booking directly. This can result in significant savings, depending on the flight or hotel in question.

For example, say you wanted to stay at the St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. The nightly rate runs around 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $1,800 USD. However, you can purchase 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for $1,250 USD, meaning you would save $550 USD on this one night booking by purchasing points instead of paying the cash rate.

St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort plunge pool
Overwater Villa with Pool – St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

There are some caveats that come into play when purchasing miles and points with this intention. When redeeming miles or points, you are often dealing with limited availability which means that you might not be able to get on the exact desired flight whereas with a cash fare, it wouldn’t be an issue. Depending on the loyalty program, you also might deal with dynamic pricing which can cause redemption prices to fluctuate for better or worse.

When purchasing miles or points for this usage, do your due diligence on award availability and the loyalty program you are looking to redeem within. The last thing you want to have happen is that you purchase a sizable amount of points and are then stuck with them if redemption options change, availability disappears, or prices change.

Ultimately, buying miles and points with this usage case in mind is only worth it if you value the flight or hotel at or above the total price you would be paying for the required points. It is also important to be realistic about your valuations of travel experiences, as the sticker price or cash rate may not be reflective of how you actually value that experience.

For example, simply because you can book a $10,000 seat on a flight while only needing to buy $2,000 in points to make the redemption doesn’t necessarily mean you are saving $8,000 if you wouldn’t have paid cash for the flight in the first place.

ana the room business class review featured image
Purchase Aeroplan Points to fly ANA’s “The Room” Business Class

On the flip side, if you were going to pay $2,000 for an economy ticket but can instead buy $2,000 worth of miles or points and book a business class ticket, that would absolutely be worth it. Each situation you would consider buying points will be unique and as a result, will need to be analyzed before making a decision on whether to pull the trigger or not.

Ensuring Your Miles & Points Don’t Expire

With many frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, miles and points can expire after a set period of inactivity. This represents a serious risk, as you might be sitting on a ton of miles and points, waiting for the perfect redemption or the year you can travel, without derisking through semi-regular activity on the account.

For example, Air Canada Aeroplan points expire after 18 months of inactivity, however, they are easy to keep alive by holding and using an Aeroplan credit card. On the flip side, Alaska Mileage Plan miles are currently harder to come by in Canada, and as such, may be harder to keep your account active before it is closed after two years of inactivity.

Either way, in both of these situations, purchasing the lowest amount of Aeroplan miles or Alaska miles will count as a valid transaction on your account and reset the expiry timer. While there is a small cost associated with this transaction, it is well worth it to keep your account active and your points balances available.

The Secret to Buying Miles & Points as a Canadian

When buying miles and points as a Canadian, you will be charged GST/HST on your purchase at various percentages depending on the province of your billing address.

For example, on a purchase of 20,000 Aeroplan points, you will be charged 5% GST if you enter an Alberta address as your billing address. This would also mean that you would be charged 13% HST if purchasing with an Ontario billing address. This cost can add up, especially when purchasing a larger volume of points.

However, you can get around this by using a US billing address with a US credit card. This simple trick results in the purchaser being charged no tax, resulting in significant savings as can be seen below.

buying points with a canadian credit card vs a united states credit card price comparison

While you may not have needed another reason to get into the US credit card game, saving taxes when buying points is definitely a nice perk. If you are curious as to how you can hold US credit cards, check out our obtaining US credit cards as a Canadian guide.

My Experience in Buying Miles & Points

In late 2021, I was planning a trip to the W Maldives for October 2022. While I had accrued almost enough Marriott Bonvoy points for a five-night stay (four award nights with the fifth night free), I was short around 10,000 points.

Not wanting to transfer any American Express Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy, I opted to purchase a small chunk of Bonvoy points for a nominal cost. As mentioned above, points do not typically appear in your account instantly, but I figured that the stay was still far enough away that availability wouldn’t disappear. 

Additionally, this was before dynamic pricing was implemented in the Marriott Bonvoy program, so I knew the cost would stay relatively the same.

marriott bonvoy purchase transaction

Sure enough, the points showed up after a few business days and I was able to complete my award redemption. In this situation, I didn’t wait for a buying points promotion since I was only purchasing a small sum in addition to wanting the points in a timely manner. If you were looking to purchase a larger amount, it would absolutely be worth waiting as promotions come around quite often for many frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.

Finally, always have a plan before pulling the trigger on buying miles or points as I did in the above example. Never purchase speculatively.


Buying miles and points presents a unique value-added opportunity in the right situation. As always with everything miles and points, it will depend on your personal situation and travel needs to determine if purchasing miles and points is a desirable approach.

Even then, while you might not be purchasing a large volume of points, you might find yourself wanting to top up your balance in the future for a redemption so it’s good to be aware of the tips and tricks to get the most bang for your buck.

Josh Bandura

Josh Bandura

Co-Founder at Frugal Flyer
Josh has been involved in the miles and points game since 2015 but has scaled up his knowledge and points earning potential in recent years. With a consistent attitude of "min-maxing" in many aspects of his life, Josh has transferred this mindset over to the miles and points game. Always looking for the next big opportunity, he aims to share content on a variety of topics including his travels, miles and points, and most importantly, how to get the most out of your credit cards


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