You could be saving thousands of dollars on better award flights and nicer lie-flat seats in premium cabins. Gary Leff, the miles-and-points genius who writes View From The Wing and founded Book Your Award, shared how in our WOW Week 2023 Travel Talks. Watch the video, and read the top takeaways below, for dozens of tips for maximizing your miles and points. Gary recently merged Book Your Award into Point.me, a new service with great tools for do-it-yourself search for award seats. Check it out!
5 top takeaways
Know which airlines have the most award seats.
For international trips, especially in business class, there is often not much availability on U.S. airlines. You’ll find many more award seats available on those U.S. airlines’ international partners.
You can often get the same seat for fewer miles through a foreign airline’s program.
Numerous foreign airline programs sell the same seats for less. For instance, you can sometimes book Delta business class for a quarter of the points if you book it through Virgin Atlantic’s mileage program. Turkish Airlines charges just 7,500 points each way for a domestic United flight in coach, and 12,500 points for United business class (including Hawaii). United charges three times as much for their own flights! (Citi, Capital One, and Bilt points all transfer to Turkish Airlines.) You can book Iberia business class between the U.S. and Europe starting at 68,000 miles roundtrip when using Iberia’s miles. Booking those same seats through American Airlines AAdvantage would cost 115,000 miles.
When you can, collect credit-card points (that you can transfer to your choice of airlines) instead of miles with just one airline.
It’s better to have American Express points than Delta miles, for instance. That’s because American Express points transfer to Delta plus additional airlines. Similarly, it’s better to have Chase points than United miles. You want points that can be transferred to whichever airline is offering the best deal on available seats for the trip you want when you want it. As mentioned above, Air France offers better availability to travelers using Air France miles (that they got by transferring credit-card points to Air France) than to travelers using Delta miles. Similarly, Singapore offers better availability to travelers using Singapore miles (that they got by transferring credit-card points to Singapore Airlines) than to travelers using United miles.
Award tickets are easier to get than upgrades.
The conventional wisdom used to be that the best use of miles was to upgrade paid tickets. Nowadays, however, upgrades are tougher to get than awards. That’s because it’s easier to get award seats on partner airlines. By contrast, if you try to upgrade, you usually end up waitlisted, and if you don’t have top elite status with the airline, you’ll be at the bottom of the list.
Because U.S. airlines now allow free cancellation and redeposit of mileage, you can book a “worst case scenario” itinerary and then work to improve it. United, Delta, and American no longer charge fees to cancel an award ticket and redeposit the miles. So, if you can find an itinerary that will do, lock in the trip. It may not be perfect, but it lets you lock down the rest of your travel. Now you have all the time between booking and departure to go back and search again for awards, and if you find something better, consider a change; there will be no extra fees to do it.
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