UPDATE 8/28: I’m flagging this post today because of the news of the American Airlines Devaluation. PLEASE remember that Miles are NOT an asset you OWN, they are a TOOL to get you from point A to point B.
I’m breaking a self-imposed rule here but for the sake of many of your wallets must speak up.
I’m seeing a whole lot of pushing the US Airways 100% bonus buy or gifting miles offer as a good deal (and I got it in my affiliate inbox as well so I know why it’s getting pushed). The logic seems to go that since US Airways is pending merger with American Airlines AAdvantange their product is about to get much better, so it’s time to get in at the bargain basement price of 1.8 cents a mile (after fees) as opposed to the usual 3.5 cents.
I’ll grant that if you have a specific use for the miles that can be booked right away and there’s a discount to the cost that you would actually book the trip in the class you would actually book the trip with cash that ok, maybe I can advise spending more than a penny a mile.
But speculatively? No way! I would never advise buying miles without a specific purpose for more than a penny each. Why not? The market is just too volatile and you have an asset that is not in your complete control, that is not transferable without cost, and that expires without use.
Last year I bought miles twice: once on US Airways, and once on Delta, and both times I paid a penny per mile. How did I do this? By waiting for the share miles promotions. Sharing miles is when you give miles to another member, and it usually costs a penny per mile. However, from time to time, the airlines give up to 100% bonus on sharing miles, meaning effectively you’re buying miles for a penny each. I haven’t seen share miles yet in 2013, but I won’t buy unless I do.
If you really want US Air miles the Barclay’s USAir credit card (which I have) may be a good move. The best link I know of for it is on flyertalk (affiliate free link) as it has no annual fee for the first year and a 35,000 bonus. Then use it to generate spend in the usual ways at, you guessed it, the cost of a penny per mile or less. May not be as fast, but you’ll get to where you want to go in good enough time.