Let’s face it, miles and points are awesome, but they can be a major pain in the butt! Am I right? You have to balance the dates you want to fly with what’s available while making sure you still have enough miles to make the purchase. That’s why it is so key to remain flexible throughout the process.
Diversification of Miles & Points
Normally, one of the first rules I tell people when they want to start travel hacking is to focus their efforts on one program. It doesn’t do you any good to have a few miles in a bunch of different programs. You’ll never earn enough miles that way to redeem for a free flight. You’re better off paying a little extra on your flights to earn miles in one program so that you have enough miles for an award ticket.
Once you’re established, though, it pays to diversify into other airlines and bank programs that can pay cash for your tickets because the destination you want may not be available on the days you want to travel or for a price in miles that you find reasonable.
Mother-In-Law Wants To Travel
My mother-in-law wanted to visit her son and his family, so I offered to book her a ticket using my miles and points. She lives near a small airport (Fresno, FAT) and is looking to travel to another small airport (Savannah, SAV), which makes finding award space challenging… and sometimes expensive.
Cash Ticket from Fresno to Savannah
The “normal” option is to go online to the airline or an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia to book a ticket using cash. But, first off, I hate using cash to pay for travel. And, second, there’s no way I wanted her to pay $600 to fly from Fresno to Savannah. So, I took a look at some options to figure out a better way.
American Airlines AAdvantage miles redemption
Because my MIL lives in Fresno, the airline options are limited. Sometimes, we will have her fly out of San Francisco or Los Angeles because the drive (2-4 hours) is worth it based on the money she’ll save. For this trip, we focused on flying out of Fresno because she wanted to fly out immediately after work to maximize her time with her son and his family.
Out of Fresno, American Airlines is the best option for flights to the opposite coast…. well, except for the fact that they wanted 80,000 AAdvantage miles for the flight. Umm, no thanks. I can think of so many better uses for 80K AA miles.
Citi ThankYou Points Flight Redemption
Because the other airline options out of Fresno (United, Delta, Alaska) didn’t have award space available on the dates that my MIL wanted to travel, I shifted my focus towards the bank programs that use points to pay cash for tickets.
I have the Citi Prestige card which allows you to redeem Citi ThankYou points for $0.016 per point on American Airlines, so it was the first program on my mind when miles were not a good option.
As you can see here, for virtually the same flights above, I was able to reduce the points price from 80K AAdvantage miles to 47K Citi ThankYou points. Not bad, right?But, let’s see if I could do better.
But, let’s see if I could do better.
US Bank Flexperks Flight Redemption
US Bank Flexperks is a program that not too many people focus on. With the Visa or Amex version of the FlexPerks card, you earn 2x points at grocery stores and the points are worth $0.02 each when redeeming. 20,000 FlexPerks points is equal to $400 in airfare.
That means you could get $0.04 of value per $1 spent on the card at grocery stores!
The bad thing is that you have to redeem in 10K increments, starting at 20K. In other words, if you want to redeem for a $220 flight, you still pay 20K FlexPerks points. Your best option is to book a flight that is as close to $400 (or other increments of $200) as possible.
For my MIL, we were able to use 30K to book her a flight that was also very close to the American AAdvantage miles option that we first looked at. I had a bunch of FlexPerks from the Olympic offer back in August where you earned bonus points based on how many medals our Olympians won.
When you break down the price of the plane ticket from FAT to SAV, it would have been $504 for the base fare and $92 for fees & taxes. Yikes! Instead, it was just 30K US Bank FlexPerks points.
If you’re spending at grocery stores, that would be $15K in spend. If you’re buying certain cards, you can spend $15K in a hurry. Send me a message if you don’t understand what I’m talking about.
The Bald Thoughts
When looking to book your next flight, be flexible in your thinking. Although it is best to concentrate miles when you’re first starting out, eventually it pays to branch out and have miles and points in multiple programs. We can help you out with earning more miles and points with our free travel advice service. You can save a ton of miles and points if you have options. In this scenario, we turned an 80K mile ticket on American Airlines and redeemed instead for only 30K US Bank FlexPerks. And, to top it off, my mother-in-law will be earning United miles for the flight towards a future trip.