Frequent Flyer

Yes, You Can Redeem Your Frequent-Flyer Miles for a BMW

Members of one major airline loyalty program can now redeem their miles for a BMW. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Much is made of the currency-like qualities of loyalty points. Just like dollars or yen, you can earn them, and you can spend them. They have value. And that value is subject to erosion, from inflation.

But just how far can the money-miles analogy be stretched before it breaks?

Sure, you can redeem your miles for a free flight or a magazine subscription or even a GE microwave oven. But what if you want a BMW; can you buy a high-end car with miles?

If you’re a member of Lufthansa’s Miles & More program, the answer is an enthusiastic “Ja!” If, that is, you have 11 million miles to spare.

Before adding 11 million Miles & More miles to your to-earn list, however, do the math.

In the U.S., an i3 costs around $45,000. So redeeming 11 million miles for one amounts to getting .4 cents (four tenths of a cent) in value for each of those 11 million miles. You’d get much better value redeeming those miles for flights on Lufthansa, or on one of its many airline partners.

Which, come to think of it, strengthens the money-mile analogy: As with dollars, your hard-earned miles may be spent wisely or foolishly. Or: Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it.

Reader Reality Check

What would you like to be able to buy with your miles?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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