Sometimes the best use of your miles is not for a luxurious longhaul first class flight but a short domestic flight in economy class.
An Award Expert client needed to travel from Chicago to Birmingham this weekend. Dates were set in stone. Times were set in stone. Out Friday morning, back Saturday afternoon.
Economy class fares were steep. At $720.40, United Airlines was the cheapest non-stop option. That’s steep for a short domestic economy class flight on a regional jet.
Don’t think I neglected to check Southwest out of Midway. Both American and Southwest were more expensive.
Ok, $720.41…but what about award space? The client had a glut of American Express and United miles.
Surprisingly, these same pair of flights that United was charging $741 had saver space: only 10K points each way because the flight was under 800 miles.
20K points or $720.40? That’s a no brainer.
But wait. United charges a $75/ticket close-in processing fee for those without status. My client has no status, so he’d be looking at 20K miles + $80.60 r/t in taxes/fees. Aeroplan, the loyalty program of Air Canada and an American Express transfer partner, charges 25K miles but has no close-in booking fee. Thus, the ticket would cost 25K miles + $5.60.
Is 5K miles worth $75? I value both United and AMEX points at 1.5 cents each, so 5,000 miles is $75. An even exchange. Since miles/points are a depreciating asset, we used Aeroplan and saved the out-of-pocket expense.
Completing the math, 25K miles for $720.40 meant 2.8 cents per miles. That’s an amazing redemption rate, especially considering my client was prepared to pay the $720.40.
Talk about a boring redemption…Chicago to Birmingham on a CRJ. But sometimes the best use of your miles and points are where you least expect them.
image: Tony Hisgett / Wikimedia Commons