It’s difficult to assign a value to a mile. For me, a spur of the moment ticket from Denver to Calgary currently costs about $1,300. But sometimes I’ll use miles for a pre-planned flight, worth about $800. I try to book using the fewest number of miles, currently 25,000, for a round trip ticket. But, in an emergency, I might be willing to use as many miles as necessary – up to 50,000. Plus, flight costs are fluid, changing regularly. It’s probably best to figure out a general range of value for your personal situation. That way, if you’re presented with a scenario where paying more gets you more miles, you can determine if it’s worth it. In my case:
25,000 miles for a same or next day flight worth $1,300 would make each mile worth 5.2 cents.
25,000 miles for a pre-planned flight worth $800 would make each mile worth only 3.2 cents.
50,000 miles for a same or next day flight worth $1,300 would make each mile worth 2.6 cents.
50,000 miles for a pre-planned flight worth $800 would make each mile worth only 1.6 cents.
My goal is to build as many miles as possible with as little spending as possible, minimizing the cost per mile. So, unless I was desperate to build miles quickly, I probably wouldn’t spend more than an extra 1 cent/mile, which is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to valuing miles.
Try not to drown in the details!
Note: your goal is to increase the balance in your air miles account, not to increase your overall spending or level of debt or interest charges. Saving money takes precedence over earning miles, unless you are earning extraordinary miles for the money and/or have an immediate and urgent need for miles.