A New Study Finds Exactly When and How to Best Use Your Frequent-Flyer Miles

Updated 06/14/17
Natalie Off Duty

Summer is right around the corner, and chances are you're planning on how you'll be spending your vacation time. If you're looking to finally use those frequent-flyer miles you racked up over the year, it's worth strategizing how best to maximize those points. NerdWallet just released a study that reveals exactly when and how to best use your miles. Researchers compared the rewards credit cards and loyalty programs of American, Delta, and Southwest and booked sample flights on 20 of the most popular routes during the summer months to see whether using points or paying with a credit card was more economical. Keep reading to discover their three major findings.

If you're flying domestically, choose economy. The study found that point values were higher for domestic round trips, averaging 1.03 to 1.08 cents apiece.

If you're flying under 1000 miles in business class, pay cash. Under 1000 miles, points averaged 0.72 cents in value whereas flights over 1000 miles averaged 1.13 cents per point. So for short flights, save your miles and just use cash.

If you're buying a one-way ticket, use points. A whopping 62% of one-way flights boasted better point values than round trips. If you're buying a one-way ticket, go ahead and put your points toward the fare instead of cash, especially on international flights.

Looking for more ways to save when traveling? This is the cheapest day to fly in all of summer 2017.

Related Stories