A fact you learn when you get started with miles and points is that the earning part is relatively easy. You don’t have to learn a lot to get going and jumpstart those balances. This can cause problems down the line if you get too enthusiastic so here’s a list I made of what you should do if you’re rather new to the game.
Redeeming your miles and points for rewards can be a bit more difficult. For starters, there’s the availability problem. Unless you’re in a fixed value program like Southwest or JetBlue, not all flights have award tickets available.
Even if you find an available flight, if you have transferrable points there are numerous programs you have access to, and each of them might charge a different amount of miles and fees for the same award ticket.
If you can keep track of every award in every program, good for you. I know I can’t. But that’s not as much of a problem as it used to be…
There’s no shame in looking for help on the internet. This used to consist of spending hours doing Google (or Dogpile) searches for posts and newsgroup threads but now it’s just a few clicks away.
I needed to book a flight from Frankfurt to Salzburg. It’s a short hop but cash prices were a little steep for a 55-minute flight. So I decided to check on using miles instead. The only airline that made sense was Austrian because it flies non-stop and is a member of Star Alliance. This means we should be able to check our bags through from our initial flight on Singapore Airlines through to the final destination.
Juicy Miles is a website that provides many services including help with award bookings. I was more interested in their new service offering a one-stop search engine to list all the possible award redemptions for a route. I decided to pay the $10 for a 5-day trial run.
It was pretty easy.
I entered in my flight information including the dates, class of service, number of tickets and if my travel plans were flexible by 1 day. Within a minute, I had the results.
Wait, when are there 8,000-mile tickets available with United MileagePlus? Turns out, they’ve offered them since November 2017. Since I don’t usually pay attention to United, I had no idea. If you’re wondering, the Chase Ultimate Rewards 8,000 point flight requires you to transfer your UR to United so it’s the same award.
These 8,000-mile rewards are for flights less than 800 miles in the same region. Unfortunately, United passes on the taxes and fees on Austrian award tickets so I’d still have to pay the $49.40 in fees.
A cash price ticket is currently going for $157 so I’d be saving $107 for my 8,000 miles, a value of 1.345 cents per point. Not great but since I’m looking for reasons to use up our United miles, it’s a decent value.
If I didn’t want to pay the fees, I could book the same ticket through Avianca LifeMiles. It would cost 12,500 miles and $12.91. Juicy Miles also shows the flight would only cost 10,000 Citi ThankYou points because there’s currently a bonus if you transfer from Citi to Avianca.
Most likely, I would have stumbled across the United 8K mile deal on my own. United’s website is the first place I go to look when searching Star Alliance flights for availability. Still, I think it’s nice to have all of the options spelled out for you right in one chart.
I wanted to give the Juicy Miles engine another test. I decided to plug in the flight info for the award ticket I booked through Air France coming home from Germany.
Once again they did pretty well, finding the same 72,000-mile redemption on Flying Blue that I did with my searches.
You can’t keep up to date on everything and bringing yourself up to speed on the ins and outs of booking an award can take a bunch of time, sometimes more than it’s worth. Having a website that provides a quick way to search multiple programs seems to be a great solution. It’s been tried before but the results never worked that great. There were just too many moving parts with point charts constantly changing and transfer bonuses and award availability that can change by the second.
On my quick test of the site, Juicy Miles performed admirably. It found the same low-cost awards I did (or would have) in a fraction of the time. It also keeps tracks of all the credit card programs transfer bonuses so for airline programs that deal with multiple banks, you can see which one will get you the best value. I like that they also include Marriott Bonvoy as one of the programs since you’re able to transfer points from there into several airlines who are not partners with anyone else.
I’m not sure if I’d ever need to buy a membership but I’m more than happy to fork over $10 whenever I need to do a few searches to find award options for upcoming trips.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
Featured Photo by Aero Icarus on Flickr