While we all love award flights, we certainly pay for a ticket occasionally–or even frequently for some. After all, even though flying may not always be the best way to accrue miles anymore, it is still a good way. But should you focus your earning by choosing a preferred carrier and frequent flyer program or do you need more than one?
How Do I Know if a Flight Redemption is Good Value?
When you collect points and miles you do it for the value, not for the mere pleasure of accumulating millions of them–although there is certainly some excitement when you see them piling up. I still remember how thrilled I was to accrue my first 30,000 miles. But I was even more excited to make my first redemption for a round-trip flight to South East Asia with the return flying Thai and Lufthansa first class. This was a ticket worth a few thousand dollars in value. The economy round trip-ticket would have easily run $1,200.
Why Alaska Airlines Miles Are Awesome and Considerations For Redeeming
Alaska Airlines miles are some of the most valuable airline miles out there. The Mileage Plan award program has some very unique and useful features but also some restrictions that can make their miles more difficult to use than other programs.
Here’s why I love Alaska Airlines miles even though they can be tough to use (and some considerations to make them less tough to use).
How to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Programs to fly Delta
Transferring points from credit card rewards programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, or American Express Membership Rewards is a great way to fly on their partner airlines, but that’s just the beginning. Since so many airlines are members of airline alliances (and those that aren’t can partner with other airlines in ways you wouldn’t expect), it feels sometimes that you can use points to fly on almost every one of them.
New Cash + Points Options for Hilton Honors and Basic Economy Fares Abound
Hilton Honors is about to add its newest feature with cash and points redemptions, which is exciting for many travelers. Plus, there are some new routes for mileage earning and redemption that are worth exploring, but beware the basic economy fares that seem to be expanding from third-party sites.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Generous Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 Miles
Barclaycard has one of the best bargains available for credit card signups at the moment offering 50,000 miles for being approved for the Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of holding the card. For those not familiar with the bank’s mileage program, there are lots of perks to take advantage of whether using them for miles or everyday purchases.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Mall Portal: A Primer
If Southwest Rapid Rewards is your main frequent flyer program, you need to be aware of Rapid Reward Shopping as well. This online shopping mall acts as a portal to all of your favorite online retailers, from Kohl’s and Old Navy to JCPenney and Ulta Beauty. All you need to do to earn extra Rapid Rewards points is visit the portal and click on the store you wish to shop at. Then, once you make a purchase, you’ll be rewarded with a certain number of Rapid Rewards per dollar spent. It’s that easy, but we’ll step you through the entire process.
Best and Worst Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemptions: British Airways
British Airways Executive Club is a great program that can really stretch the value of your Ultimate Rewards points. Since BA is an airline partner of UR you can transfer points to Execuive Club, the airline’s frequent flyer program. While British Airways is not a U.S. airline, you can use Avios to fly on its partner airlines, which include American or Alaska.
Also, unlike most U.S. based airline programs, British Airways Executive Club is a distance-based program, and it works best on relatively short, non-stop flights. Redemption levels start at 7,500 Avios per one-way flight (15,000 roundtip) in the U.S. and 4,000 Avios (8,000 roundtip) elsewhere.
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Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Best Redemptions
Short flights in the U.S.
Nonstop flights for distances up to 1,150 miles in the U.S. are priced at 7,500 Avios one way, which is a much better rate than reduced United flights priced at 10,000 miles for distanced up to 700 miles. The next level is 10,000 Avios for distances between 1,151 and 2,000 miles.
1) For travel originated or terminated in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $187.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $225 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site.
2) For travel not originating or terminating in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $112.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $135 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site
For better understanding of this valuation, read the Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.
A few examples of flights under 1,150 miles are: NYC – Miami, Toronto/Montreal, Washington, Chicago or Bermuda or Los Angeles to Seattle on the West Coast. You can find the distance between cities with this free tool.
West Coast to Hawaii on Alaska or American
Flights between the continental U.S. and Hawaii cost 22,500 one way, but the West Coast lies well within a 3,000-mile distance from Honolulu, so if you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC, you can fly between the West Coast and Honolulu on American or Alaska for 12,500 Avios or 25,000 per roundtrip.
Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus
One of the most amazing Ultimate Rewards values is redeeming Avios between Boston and Dublin on a British partner Aer Lingus for 25,000 per roundtrip. Even a business class ticket (redeeming Avios for business class tickets are not usually recommended) for 75,000 Avios per roundtrip is a good deal compared to United’s 100,000 miles price tag.
Northeast to Western Europe on Airberlin or Iberia
Transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and fly from New York to Berlin/Dusseldorf for 40,000 Avios on Air Berlin (per roundtrip), or to Madrid for 34,000 Avios on Iberia. United charges 60,000 miles for flights between the U.S. and Europe.
London to Europe on BA
We generally discourage people from using Avios to fly British Airways over the ocean due to high fuel surcharges, but short- and medium-haul flights between London and Continental Europe can be a real bargain. The fees on intra-Europe BA flights are capped at £35 (which is slightly above $45 with current exchange rates), so you can connect anywhere in Europe for cheap. You can fly to Marseilles or Copenhagen for 9,000 Avios per roundtrip, Rome, Ibiza and Budapest for 15,000 Avios, or Moscow, Athens and Istanbul for 20,000.
Save even more by flying BA off-peak
British Airways has discounts if you don’t mind flying off-peak with them. Your savings for short-to-medium-haul one-way flights are as follows:
- 4,000 Avios vs. 4,500 for Zone 1
- 6,500 Avios vs. 7,500 for Zone 2
- 8,500 Avios vs. 10,000 for Zone 3
- 10,000 Avios vs. 12,500 for Zone 4
Intra-South America on LAN/TAM
Intra-South American flights can be prohibitively expensive; a one-hour flight between Lima and Cuzco (a gateway to Machu Picchu) can cost hundreds of dollars. However, the same flight can be yours for 4,500 Avios one way. Same 4,500 Avios can get you between other popular cities, for example, Sao Paulo and Iguassu Falls or Rio and Florianopolis. Or you can fly from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile for 7,500 one way.
Intra-Australia flights on Qantas
Qantas holds a virtual monopoly on intra-Australia flights, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a 1.5- hour flight between Sydney and Melbourne can cost $300-400 sometimes. Instead, transfer you Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and book the same flight for 4,500 Avios and a few dollars of taxes.
Sydney – Auckland on LAN
This is a rare instance when we can recommend paying slightly more for a business class flight. This route is served by South American LAN on the way to/from Santiago and features Premium Business class with lie-flat seats. This 3.5 hour flight will cost you 20,000 Avios in business or 10,000 Avios in economy (one way).
Intra-Asia on Cathay Pacific and intra-Japan on JAL
You can fly from Hong Kong to Hanoi or Taipei for 4,500 Avios and to Chiang Mai or Siem Reap for 7,500 Avios one way. You can also use other oneworld partners Malaysia and SriLankan, but both add some fuel surcharges to their award tickets. Or you can redeem 4,500 Avios for any intra-Japan one-way flight on JAL from Tokyo – be it to Fukuoka in the South or Sapporo in the North.
Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Worst Redemptions
This list is amazingly short.
Avoid connecting flights
The way Executive Club is designed is that any extra segment adds costs. So if there isn’t a non-stop flight or if you can’t find a nonstop availability, the system will usually (although not always) charge you for two segments instead of one.
For example, the flying distance between New York and Tampa, is just a hair above 1,000 miles which means it would cost 7,500 Avios per one-way flight if there was a non-stop flight between these two cities on American. Unfortunately, there isn’t, so when the computer routes your flight via Miami or Washington, DC, it adds an extra segment, meaning that you end up paying 15,000 Avios instead of 7,500. That makes transferring to United or booking your trip with Ultimate Rewards points a better option.
Once again, this is not always the case, so try to price your itinerary on the British Airways website first.
Avoid redeeming Avios for premium class travel
With some exceptions, using Avios to book first, or even business class is rarely a good deal. The BAEC scheme operates with a premise of a four-class configuration.
- Premium Economy
So if an economy seat costs 4,500 Avios, then a premium economy seat is 6,750, which is 50 percent more; a business class seat is 9,000, which is twice as much as a seat in economy; and a first class seat is 18,000 Avios, which is twice as much as a seat in business.
While redeeming Avios for a business class seat may be a decent value (like our Boston-Dublin and Auckland-Sydney examples), in general, the best value of the BAEC program is in short trip redemptions. There just isn’t much value in spending a lot of points for a two to three-hour flight. If you’re interested in business or first, save your Ultimate Rewards points for another day and transfer them into a program providing a much better value for long-haul premium class travel.
Best Airline Programs to Fly in Premium Cabins to South America
When you think about ultra-long hauls we usually think Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. But flights to South America can be almost as long. A nonstop journey between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo is clocked just under 13 hours. That’s even longer than a flight from the west coast to Seoul. A journey from the east coast can be almost as tedious – about 12 hours for flights to Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile. That’s a long time to spend in a cramped economy seat.
The Best Credit Cards to Get to Australia and New Zealand With Miles
Planning a trip Down Under? A flight from the U.S. can be expensive, so it’s worth saving your miles and getting your ticket for nearly free. It can take as little as 15 months to earn an award ticket to New Zealand, and as little as 18 months to Australia if you channel $1,500 a month through a recommended credit card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions
United is arguably the most popular Chase airline transfer partner, and transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United often makes sense when the price in points on the Ultimate Rewards website is too high compare to what you could pay for the flight using alternative currencies — frequent flyer miles. Since the United MileagePlus program is region-based and isn’t linked directly to the price of a revenue ticket, you will come ahead if the Ultimate Rewards cost is more than $300 (for a Sapphire Preferred cardholder) or $375 (for a Sapphire Reserve cardholder). For better understanding of how this valuation works, read the first installment: Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.
How to Upgrade Your Flight with Delta SkyMiles
Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with Delta Air Lines.
Delta Quietly Raises Business Class Redemption Levels to Europe
In the last three years, all the major U.S. airline frequent flyer programs have had devaluations. Delta has gone further than everyone else though, by removing its SkyMiles award charts early last year. The goal was probably to stop complaints about program’s frequent devaluations because if you don’t have a chart you may not know that the award levels have increased. But what they are doing now has completely changed devaluations as we know them. Read on to see what we have uncovered about upcoming changes and when they take effect.
8 Ways to Redeem Miles with ANA Mileage Club for Maximum Value
ANA Mileage Club used to be one of the best ways to book awards on Star Alliance partners such as United Airlines, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines. That changed after they completely updated the program. Now there are actually four different award charts depending on when, where, and who you fly.
8 Ways to Redeem Miles with Lufthansa Miles&More for Maximum Value
How much value you can you get with Lufthansa’s Miles & More loyalty program? These miles don’t have a big presence in North America, but it’s still possible to accumulate them with Star Alliance carriers, by transferring points from Starwood Preferred Guest, or getting a credit card from Barclaycard. The program offers a few unique values despite collecting additional carrier surcharges on most international award tickets.
10 Ways to Redeem Miles on Alaska Airlines for Maximum Value
Everyone talks about the amazing trips you can take by redeeming frequent flyer miles, but just how much value do they really provide? This article takes a closer look at ten great ways to redeem miles through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. What, you’ve never flown on Alaska? It doesn’t matter. They have almost a dozen international partners, including American Airlines and Delta Airlines, which makes it easier than you’d expect to earn and redeem miles.
How to Use Miles to Get to Australia from the U.S.
When you earn miles you should always try to maximize them by flying the farthest you can using the awards available by your airline. One country that provides great value since its is about 14 hours away flying time from the U.S. west coast is Australia.
How to Get to Cuba With Miles
Until the U.S. began to normalize relations with Cuba last year, it was difficult to get to the island. You could buy an expensive ticket to travel with a group or fly through another country. It was even harder to use miles to fly there. The best option was to fly to Mexico, the Caribbean or South America on miles and then buy a cash ticket to Cuba.
10 Ways to Redeem Miles on Delta Air Lines for Maximum Value
You can redeem your frequent flyer miles for some amazing trips, but just how much value are you getting? This post examines ten great ways to redeem miles through the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program.
10 Ways to Redeem Miles on United Airlines for Maximum Value
How much value are you able to find when redeeming your frequent flyer miles? Quite a lot, it turns out. Here we takes a close look at ten ways to redeem miles through the United MileagePlus program to get an incredible deal.