As has already been plastered all over the travel blogosphere, US Airways is running their share miles promo, which is effectively one of the best ways to buy airlines miles out there. While US Airways normally runs buy miles promos where you can buy US Airways miles for roughly 1.8 cents per mile, with the share miles promo, you can buy US Airways miles for about 1.13 cents per mile, assuming that you or someone you know has a base of US Airways miles to start.
Many people suggest that it’s worthwhile to buy miles speculatively at this price, since this means that a roundtrip flight to North Asia (which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) in business class is a little over $1000, which is a steal considering that it’s hard to find coach airfares lower than that to some cities. And you get a stopover or an open jaw, which you often have to pay extra for on a cash fare.
So how should you maximize this promotion? Most blogs suggest something like finding another person and transferring 50k miles from person A to person B, who then has 100k miles, and then transferring 50k miles from person B back to person A, so person A gets their 50k miles back plus an additional 50k miles. So in total, person A has bought 50k miles at the price of 1.13 cents per mile, and person B has bough 50k miles at the price of 1.13 cents per mile.
But 50k miles isn’t enough for the 90k needed for a roundtrip business class ticket, and US Airways doesn’t have one-way redemptions, so there’s not too much of a point in going half way. And if 1.13 cents per mile is a price to buy speculatively, then you should want to try to buy as many miles as possible, right?
If you have access to another account where the owner of said account doesn’t care about the promo, then you can do better. Person A starts with 50k miles and transfers 50k to person B, so person B now has 100k miles. Then, person B transfers 50k miles to person A and 50k miles to person C. Person A is in the same situation as the typical blog recommendation (having received an extra 50k miles at 1.13 cents per mile), but now person C has 100k miles, as they’ve effectively bought 100k miles at the price of 1.13 cents per mile. Person B is left with no gain, as the miles that they were bonused are now in person C’s account.
But if you’re starting from zero, person C is in a much better position, as 50k miles won’t get you to Asia in business class, but 100k miles will. So this seems to be a more optimal way to use the promo. Rather than making a “circle” trade of sorts, it’s better to have one account as a dead end where all the miles are going out. This enables other accounts to go from 0 to 100k miles, rather than just 0 to 50k miles.