By: Spencer Howard
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One of the toughest parts when learning how to travel by using miles and points is knowing where to start. What’s the point in earning a bunch of miles if you have no idea what to do with or even what you want to do with them?!
To help get you thinking about your travel goals, we’re going to discuss some fun redemption options you should consider utilizing to really get some value out of your miles and points.
This will be the first of a three part mini-series on some great ways to redeem your miles and points for some awesome flights. After seeing what your miles can do for you, it will be easier to decide how you want to fly.
Perhaps your goal is a luxury-filled honeymoon like 10xTravel’s own Travis Cormier. Maybe flying business class and having a lie-flat seat so you can get some sleep on long flights is your top priority. Or, maybe you want to take as many flights as possible and are totally happy stretching your miles with economy class bookings.
The first four options we will discuss include airlines that are transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points should be a top priority for beginners because of their transfer partners and the Chase 5/24 Rule. The final redemption option is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
Now, let’s get into it.
1) Fly To Israel With Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles
Air France/KLM Flying Blue has a region-based award chart like many other airlines. However, the way they define their regions is a bit different and presents us with some amazing opportunities.
For 25,000 Flying Blue miles, you can book a one-way economy class award ticket from the United States to Israel. If you’re thinking that sounds like it can’t be true, think again!
While most airlines with region-based award charts include Israel in the Middle East, Air France/KLM include it in their European region. In doing so, they provide a fantastic way to visit Israel with miles and points.
Be aware that Air France/KLM will pass on carrier-imposed surcharges to you on award tickets so the taxes and fees might be a little on the steep side but, with so few miles required, it’s still a great way to book a trip to Israel.
BONUS: Now, let’s take things to another level. Every month Air France/KLM Flying Blue releases what they call Promo Awards which discount award prices by 25% to 50% (more commonly, they’re 25% off).
These awards stem from Europe and can be book in either direction so the next time you see a Promo Award between Europe and select U.S. cities, jump on it. At 25% off, your award flight to Israel would only cost 18,750 Flying Blue miles. That’s a screaming deal!
To make things even better, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG Starpoints to Flying Blue. That’s all four transferable points programs!
2) British Airways, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines for Cheap Awards To Hawaii
Understandably, our first instinct for using miles and points to fly to Hawaii is to use American, Delta, or United miles for the flights. That completely makes sense, but we can actually do better than that!
Through the frequent flyer programs of a few foreign carriers, you can take the exact same flights but book them with fewer miles so you can save the rest for future trips.
Let’s start with British Airways Avios, You can fly on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines from a number of west coast cities to Hawaii for only 12,500 Avios. If you used American AAdvantage miles, that same flight would cost you 45,000 miles!
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles provide a similar opportunity if you are on the west coast as it only takes 24,000 KrisFlyer miles to book a round-trip economy class award on Alaska Airlines. This is much better than the 40,000 Alaska miles you would need.
You can also use 35,000 KrisFlyer miles to fly to Hawaii on United from any part of the United States which is much cheaper than the 45,000 miles United will cost you.
To fly on Delta, you’re much better off using 25,000 Korean SkyPass miles for a round-trip booking than the 45,000 SkyMiles that Delta charges.
All three of these airlines are transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards and SPG Starpoints while British Airways also partners with Amex Membership Rewards. Singapore Airlines, like Air France/KLM, also partners with the four transferable points programs.
3) Cool Trick For Cheap Awards To Sydney With Flying Blue Miles
Flying to Australia can require a sizeable chunk of miles but there is a fun trick that can help you book a one-way economy class award for only 30,000 Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles.
If you book a one-way award ticket out of Los Angeles (LAX) through Flying Blue to some South Pacific destinations such as New Caledonia, you can often find a route that connects in Sydney. If you don’t need to check a bag, this could allow you to ditch the last leg of the trip so you can visit Sydney.
If you book a one-way award to Sydney from the states normally, it would cost you 50,000 Flying Blue miles. Even using United miles for an economy class award to Sydney would cost you 40,000 miles so this is a great trick to really save some miles and points.
Don’t forget! You cannot check a bag or book this as a round-trip – it only works on the outbound journey.
4) Use British Airways Avios To See More Of A Region
British Airways regularly gets knocked for the massive carrier-imposed surcharges they pass on to travelers who book award tickets. This is on top of the taxes and fees that are imposed when flying into the United Kingdom.
However, Avios can take a run-of-the-mill trip and turn it into an adventure of a lifetime thanks to their solid redemption rate of 4,500 Avios for flights 650 flight miles or less. If your flight is between 651 and 1,150 flight miles, you will need 7,500 Avios while flights of 1,150 miles to 2,000 miles will cost 10,000 Avios.
Let’s take a look at how this could be utilized in practice. If you fly to Sydney (SYD) from the states – perhaps by using the Flying Blue trick we discussed above – then you could easily book stops in other cities with Avios.
For example, you could fly into Sydney (SYD) then use 4,500 Avios to book a flight from Sydney (SYD) to Melbourne (MEL) followed by Melbourne (MEL) to Brisbane (BNE) for 7,500 Avios. Combining this with the Flying Blue trick, you could spend 42,000 miles and points to fly to Australia and see three cities. All that’s left after that is deciding how you’d like to return to the states!
There are also a bunch of great ways to utilize Avios within Asia thanks to British Airways’ Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific. In Europe, you’ll have access to flights on British Airways (taxes and fees aren’t as bad on short flights), Iberia, and more.
So, the next time you decide to explore a region of the world, see how British Airways Avios can help you put together an amazing adventure.
5) Book American Airlines Flights To Europe At Old Redemption Rate
In March of 2016, American Airlines devalued their award chart. Not only that, saver level award space was tough to find on flights operated by American. Now, it seems American has started to release a little more award space, particularly in economy class.
As a result, this gives us the opportunity to transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest to book American flights at the old redemption rates. That’s right, you can book at the old rate because Etihad never changed their rates.
During off-peak dates, which include any date that falls between October 15 and May 15, you will only need 20,000 Etihad Guest miles for a one-way economy class award between the U.S. and Europe.
While these are some fun ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, Membership Rewards points, ThankYou Points, and SPG Starpoints for some crazy cheap award travel, this is only snapshot of a much larger opportunity.
By booking economy class awards, you can stretch your miles and points to the absolute max so you can see as many places as possible. If you decide that’s your goal, use these ideas as a jumping off point.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some awesome business class redemptions for those whose goal might involve a little more comfort from a lie-flat seat to better food to pre-departure champagne.