Ask Finder: Should I buy Velocity Points during a points sale?

Paying for points can score you reward flights faster, but doesn't always make sense even during a sale. Here's why.

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Virgin Australia aircraft
Hey Finder, I just got an email from Velocity saying that I can buy points at a discount. Is it worth buying points so I can score an upgrade on a Virgin Australia flight? Thanks, Upgrade Dreamer

Like many airlines, Virgin Australia lets you buy extra points if you're falling a little short of the total needed for an upgrade or reward booking. Our full guide to buying Velocity Points has all the details. You'll typically pay between $23 and $36 per 1,000 points; the more you buy, the lower the rate.

That's still not cheap though, and if you're not careful, the value of the reward flight might not be equal to what you're effectively paying for it. Buying a small number of points to achieve a high-value goal like a business-class upgrade usually pays off, but buying a large number of points just to get a "free" economy flight doesn't make sense.

Here's a detailed example. A one-way Sydney–LA flight on Virgin Australia typically costs around $9,200 in business. If you book it as a reward flight, it will require 111,500 Velocity Points. That means each 1,000 Velocity Points is worth around $96. (I've left out carrier charges for the reward flight in this calculation, but they don't make a material difference to the value here.)

That means that even if you spend money to buy extra Velocity Points, you're still getting much more value for those points than you paid for them.

Let's compare that to an economy flight from Sydney to Melbourne. That usually costs $215 outside of sales, and needs 7,800 Velocity Points. In this case, each 1,000 Velocity Points is worth $27.56. So if you've paid $36 to acquire 1,000 of them, you've spent more than they're worth.

And I'm being generous here: a sale fare for the same route might cost as little as $119, in which case each 1,000 Velocity Points is worth just $15.25.

So that's the key to deciding whether to buy extra points: am I going to get back more than I've spent on them? And that rule actually doesn't change just because there's a sale on.

Velocity Points sales: What you need to know

Velocity routinely holds sales where buying points are cheaper. As I write this, there's a deal which offers 15% off the cost of buying points. (That particular deal runs until 10 February 2020, but similar offers pop up every few months.) So instead of paying $36 for 1,000 extra Velocity Points, you'll pay $30.60. At the other end of the scale, 250,000 Velocity Points will cost you $4,972.49, rather than $5,850. Expand out the table below to see what you'll pay for any available amount of points.

It's true that you get more Velocity Points for less money during a sale. If you're a few thousand points short for a business flight, then this is a slightly cheaper way to get them. But the fundamental logic doesn't change: it's not worth buying points if you can't get good value for them.

In practice, that means knowing that the reward you want is available. That's something you can check for reward flights and upgrades. However, it's less helpful for waitlisted upgrades, since those may not get approved at all. So for upgrades, buying points can be risky, because you can't be sure you'll get to redeem them at the right value.

Ultimately, it's better to earn points than to pay for them. So explore all your other options, including credit card bonuses, bonus point offers and even switching phone plans to score the points you need.

Ask Finder is a regular column where Finder's expert writers answer your questions. All rates and fees are correct at time of publication and we only give general advice. Got a question for Points Finder? Hit us up on Facebook.

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