If you haven't booked airline tickets for your holiday travel yet, do it now. Rates are only going to continue to go up. But if your flight is already in the expensive zone, you may think it's a good time to use those airline miles you've been sitting on.
However, be warned -- a free ticket isn't always a great deal. Before you cash in, it's important to understand what your miles are really worth.
At the bare minimum, your miles are worth a penny a piece, but you should try to find a flight that converts your miles to at least 2 cents each. This means, if you’re cashing in 25,000 miles, you should be looking for a ticket worth around $500 or more.
A round trip domestic ticket on most U.S. carriers is 25,000 miles. If those seats are unavailable, airlines will often let you pay double (50,000 miles) for a seat.
Some airlines won’t give you the option. For example, US Airways blacks out Thanksgiving for Dividend Miles travels. On United, Thanksgiving weekend the cost from Los Angeles to Seattle is $555 -- or 50,000 miles. This isn’t a great deal as later in the year, you can get a $406 ticket for 25,000 miles.
If you don't have cash, then yes, you’ll have to do what you have to do. But miles are a currency just like any other, and making sure you get the most bang for your buck is important.
Got a "What's the Deal" question or idea? Email Conor Knighton at firstname.lastname@example.org.