When you book an award ticket, points cover only the base fare. Taxes, fees and surcharges can add anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred dollars. Depending on how much those fees add, “it may be better to pay for the ticket yourself instead of blowing 100,000 miles and paying a fuel surcharge,” says Chris Lopinto, president of ExpertFlyer.com, a subscription service for air travel information.
Fuel surcharges (sometimes referred to as carrier-imposed surcharges) can add, say, $800 to the cost of a round-trip business-class flight to Europe or $300 to the cost of an economy-class flight, says Gary Leff, author of travel blog ViewFromTheWing.com. United doesn’t charge these fees, but American Airlines and Delta do when you redeem their miles for flights with certain partner airlines.
Some fees are avoidable, such as the “close-in fee” (typically $75) some airlines charge for booking award travel less than 21 days before departure. Others are minimal, such as the September 11 security fee ($5.60 one-way or $11.20 round-trip) for any flight originating in the U.S.