We live in an era of points abounding.

There are rewards for grocery shopping, for gas purchases, for flying anywhere. If you get credit card rewards, you’ll get points for the purchase of just about anything, even something simple like a cup of coffee (but the cost of the card may far override the rewards).

We’ll talk about credit card and grocery store rewards another day, but today we’ll focus on airmiles for flights.

I could sum it up by saying I definitely don’t go, or fly, out of my way for points.

But I’ll expand on that.

Let’s look at a recent flight my husband took to visit his sister back east. We had a limited schedule to work with and needed an overnight flight so we ended up booking with Air Canada. While I really like air, and I really like Canada, the two together don’t always float my boat. I haven’t personally flown with AC for years because they are generally substantially more expensive than other options, e.g. to fly to England. And they have more stopovers for some reason. Then again, Canada is a big country so it may make sense to have to swing by a province or two on your way to another continent.

So, back to NY. We held back where we could, paying for just one meal, one seat reservation, and no extra baggage, bringing the total still higher than I’d hoped, over the mid $600’s for a brief weekend trip. But…we got 1400 Aeroplan miles as our reward.

To get an idea of what those miles are worth, I checked the Aeroplan website and since 6500 miles are worth about $50, I can safely say that 1400 are worth about $12.

In this case, as our options were limited, we won’t turn down a $12 tiny reward, but in my previous experience, it’s been much more rewarding to book with another company and pay a lot less. If I have the choice of paying $1000 and getting no points to fly to Europe as opposed to spending $1400 and getting $30 worth of points, the choice is easy. And I’ve made this choice many times. I may have no flight points in my name but I’ve spent about $1500 less than I could have on several flights over the last decade.

The different rewards can vary also in their true value. Our previous experience with cashing in 12,000 points definitely didn’t feel too exciting. Even though it sounds like a lot of points, we had limited options for a reward and ended up getting a small basket of chocolate, biscuits, and coffee valued on paper as being worth $120 but that could have been easily bought for half the price or less. Yes, it was sent to our house conveniently but that would have only covered about $20 of the value.

The points may add up enough with some companies to cover a flight, but keep in mind that on top of flight restrictions and increased connections, the base cost of the flight may cost more, and therefore have more added fees and taxes. Years ago, I was offered the use of airmiles by generous family members but the taxes and fees alone on the expensive flight were close to being on par with the full cost of a flight with a more affordable company, so it would have been a waste of point usage.

So rewards can be fun but not worth going out of your way for. While schedules, options, and expenses can be the key factors in booking a flight, what else you get out of it may be worth very little. If, however, you have a work expense account that pays for everything but you still get the reward, then that’s definitely a bonus. But if it’s money out of your own pocket, you might want to hold on to a bit more of it so you and your savings can make a safe landing.

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