Johnny Jet is a travel writer and a long time user of Cellular Abroad’s services. He gets paid to travel the globe writing about his passion; traveling. He is also as nice of a guy as he looks!
Johnny has take the time out to write a guest blog for Cellular Abroad on using your miles and points while traveling. He has thousands of other articles and a plethora of travel tips on his website, www.johnnyjet.com. If you love traveling, we recommend you sign up for Johnny Jet’s Newsletter.
Do you want to use miles and points in 2019 to travel for free? Whether you’re visiting family domestically or planning a trip around the world, miles and points can help you travel further and more often. If you’re new to award travel, there are many ways to optimize your travel rewards. Let’s talk about how you can make this happen.
Using Points and Miles
If you’re loyal to a certain airline or hotel, you will most likely redeem your travel rewards directly through the airline or hotel website such as Southwest Airlines or World of Hyatt. But it can also be applied towards rental car agencies, cruise lines, train services, etc. It’s possible to use the points for free travel or reservation upgrades.
Your other option is using a flexible travel rewards credit card that lets you redeem miles using their relevant credit card travel portal. Or it may give you the option to transfer points directly to an airline or hotel partner to book future travel. Some cards also let you redeem your credit card points for recent travel purchases. If you’re not loyal to one airline or hotel, this is likely a better redemption option.
Using Airline Miles for Free Flights
Airline miles are usually the most valuable travel rewards. This is because plane tickets typically cost more than other travel costs like hotel rooms and rental cars. Using the best airline miles credit card, you have more redemption options such as for basic economy, economy, business class, and first class seats. Plus, you have multiple airlines to choose from. For instance, there are at least 5 different ways to use miles towards flights to Hawaii.
At a minimum, redeem your frequent flyer miles for award flights when your points are worth at least one cent each. Following this rule, you spend 10,000 miles or less when a ticket costs $100.
You still have to pay any fuel surcharges, fees and taxes (at least $5.40 each way), or incidental expenses like checked bag fees or in-flight purchases when you pay with points. But, you don’t have to pay the cash price for the seat.
Try Booking Award Flights Directly From the Airline First
Usually, you find the best award flight redemption values directly from the airline. With the notable exception of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards, most flexible rewards cards only value each point at one cent each. You may better maximize your points and miles on airline websites.
Unfortunately, most airlines use floating award rates where the number of miles you need to book a seat depends on the cash price of the seat. For domestic airlines, Delta and Southwest Airlines follow this variable pricing model.
But, some airlines still use a fixed pricing model such as United Airlines, American Airlines, and Aer Lingus. How much you pay depends on the flight distance or which continents you fly between, not the current ticket price.
You can see how much award seats cost by going to the airline website by showing the price in points instead of cash. Of course, compare the cash price to make sure you’re getting a desirable redemption rate. But, even paying points instead of cash can still be worth it if you’re short on funds.
Depending on the carrier, you can also use miles to upgrade seats once you book a flight.
Booking Alliance Partner Flights
You can also book partner flights with airline alliance members too. This is a good idea when you can pay less than booking directly from the airline you will fly. It’s also good if you want to avoid fuel surcharges on international flights.
For instance, you can use British Airways Avios to book an American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flight for fewer miles than paying with miles directly on the American or Alaska Airlines website.
Keep in mind, you may have to call customer service to book partner flights. Note that seat availability can be extremely limited.
Using Points for Free Hotel Nights
Booking free hotel nights with points is straightforward too. In general, hotel points usually aren’t as valuable as airline miles. Most free nights start at 5,000 points at a basic, lower tier property. But, you will have a hard time trying to squeeze at least one cent per point with most hotel loyalty programs.
Realistically, expect each point to be worth 0.7 to 1 cent each when booking directly from the hotel. One usual exception to the rule can be the World of Hyatt program.
If you have a flexible travel rewards card that reimburses your hotel purchases for at least one cent a mile, you might get more value booking award nights from your credit card travel portal instead of from the hotel website.
Best Ways to Use Points and Miles
If you are looking for some of the best ways to use points and miles, below are a few suggestions. The best option for airline miles can be whatever airline has the biggest hub at your local airport. Or, whichever airline, hotel, or rental car brand you use the most for business or personal travel.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Possibly the most valuable and flexible credit card points are Chase Ultimate Rewards. These points can be redeemed for travel, cash or gift card rewards and are always worth at least one cent each. With either Sapphire card or the Ink Business Preferred, you receive a travel redemption bonus when booking travel on the Chase travel portal.
You can also transfer your points to 13 airline and hotel loyalty programs including United, Southwest, World of Hyatt, and Marriott Rewards on a 1:1 basis.
American Express Membership Rewards
The American Express Membership Rewards program is also valuable if you like to transfer miles to loyalty programs including Delta, Emirates, and Etihad. You can also redeem your points on the Amex Travel website for one cent each for award flights. Note that non-award flight redemptions aren’t as valuable.
Another reason to consider American Express is if you’re a frequent flyer who wants free airport lounge access with the Platinum Card from American Express. Or, you might enjoy a lifestyle rewards card such as the American Express Gold Card which offers both travel and dining rewards.
There are many options available both domestically and internationally. The most common way to book award travel is directly from the airline or hotel website. But, travel rewards credit cards give you more flexible redemption options.
The first step is deciding which carrier you want to travel with. Then, you can decide if it’s better to book directly from their website or through your credit card rewards portal. After that, all you have to do is pack your bags, charge up your phone and ensure that it has the best coverage, and get ready to go!