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Northwest sells tickets for cash and miles

As they do on a regular basis, Northwest is again offering members of its WorldPerks program the opportunity to purchase tickets using a combination of frequent flyer miles and cash.

Program members can combine cash with either 10,000 or 20,000 miles. Domestic tickets start at $139 plus 10,000 miles, or $89 plus 20,000 miles. Tickets for travel between the U.S. and Europe are priced from $298 plus 20,000 miles, or $388 plus 10,000 miles. And Asia tickets start at $488 plus 20,000 miles, or $598 plus 10,000 miles, and increase from there.

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Tickets must be purchased at least 14 days prior to travel and no later than February 16, and travel must be completed by March 6.

Certainly the ability to combine cash and miles is desirable from a flexibility standpoint. The question is whether the required dollar and mileage amounts represent good value or not.

Looking at the domestic tickets, paying $89 plus 20,000 miles amounts to buying the 5,000 miles necessary for a 25,000-mile award ticket for $89. Considered in those terms, you'd be buying the miles for about 1.8 cents each.

Similarly, buying a ticket to Europe for $298 plus 20,000 miles is tantamount to paying $298 for the 30,000 miles needed to reach the 50,000 miles required for a Europe award ticket. In that case, the effective purchase price of the extra miles would be just about 1 cent each, a considerably better deal than the domestic offer.

And finally, paying a minimum of $488 plus 20,000 miles for a ticket to Asia means you're effectively purchasing the 40,000 miles required to reach the 60,000-mile price of an award ticket to North or South Asia. That's like buying the miles for 1.2 cents apiece.

So there's considerable variation in the real value of the offer, depending on where one is flying. Combining miles and cash for a ticket to Europe looks like a solid deal. Domestic and Asia tickets purchased for miles and cash are less attractive.

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