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Cash is great because it can buy everything from travel to your basic necessities. But sometimes miles are better. There are a lot of things I can easily do with miles that I would never do with cash (at least until my bank account had a few more zeroes.)
Dream big with your miles. Better yet, dream big before your miles. Then get the right miles to turn that dream into a reality. Here are five dreams, five things I can do with miles that I wouldn’t do with cash.
- Fly Singapore Suites, a double bed in the sky
- Fly Lufthansa First Class and access the First Class Terminal
- Fly Etihad First Class for its shower, couch, and bed
- Fly Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy to London for a big upgrade from economy
- Hop around South America to 11 cities on one award with Asia Miles
1. Singapore Suites Los Angeles to Singapore: $8,700 or 92,000 miles + $276
Singapore Suites is famous for its double bed. The two middle seats in the 1-2-1 configuration can have their divider lowered to form an enclosed double bed that no other First Class cabin matches.
Singapore is also famous for its food and wine selections and service from the Singapore girls. I flew Singapore First Class and would love to fly Suites Class, but I wouldn’t pay $8,700 for the one way flight from Los Angeles to Singapore.
Instead I’d pay 91,375 Singapore miles + $276 (or less to fly Los Angeles to Tokyo or New York to Frankfurt.)
Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, Chase, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 ThankYou Points each after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly one way anywhere that Singapore Suites flies.
2. Lufthansa First Frankfurt to Washington: $8,700 or 40,000 points + $300
Lufthansa First Class is the most widely available excellent product between the United States and Europe.
Within two weeks of departure, Lufthansa releases a lot of First Class award space to partners. If you can only fly Lufthansa First Class one way, fly it home from Europe via Frankfurt, where Lufthansa has an entire First Class Terminal. Spend a few hours at the buffet, a la carte restaurant, cigar room, and in the bathtubs with your own Lufthansa rubber ducky.
I flew Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC once. I never would have done that if my only option were to pay $8,730 one way.
Luckily you can book the same flight for 50,000 Asiana miles (40,000 SPG points transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles) + ~$300 in taxes and fuel surcharges.
3. Etihad A380 First Class New York to Abu Dhabi: $16,700 or 90,000 miles + $6
Etihad begins flying its A380 from New York to Abu Dhabi on December 1, 2015. Award space has been intermittently very good and completely non-existent on the route. (Right now, it is non-existent.)
When space was very good last month, I booked myself an award from India to Los Angeles with the longest part in First Class on the Etihad A380. I am eager to fly in am enclosed suite with a couch/bed and seat. The amount of space is unreal. Plus the cabin features a shower, only the second airline that offers that.
I’m not an oil sheik, so I can’t pay the $16,653 one way fare from New York to Abu Dhabi.
But the same flight can be had for 90,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60, what you can get from two credit cards. Or you can connect anywhere in the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent for zero extra miles.
4. Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Washington DC to London: $2,800 or 22,000 points + $235
Flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy from the United States to London is like flying domestic First Class within the United States. You get the bigger seat with more leg room and more recline, better food, free drinks, and better service.
Virgin Atlantic charges quite a premium, though, at $2,764 one way.
Why pay that when the seat can be booked with 27,500 Virgin Atlantic miles + $234.60? Especially right now when Citi ThankYou Points have a 25% transfer bonus that makes the award cost 22,000 ThankYou Points + $234.60.
5. 11 City Tour of South America: thousands of dollars or 85,000 miles + a few hundred dollars
Yesterday I broke down the Asia Miles award chart and rules. Asia Miles allows you to book 11 city awards. I recommend going to South America to avoid the fuel surcharges you’d normally pay on Asia Miles awards.
Asia Miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 ThankYou Points each after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly an Asia Miles award with up to 20,000 miles of flying!
Everything is bookable with cash, but sometimes the price is so outrageous that only multi-millionaires would consider the ticket a good value.
With miles, the premium cabins and the mega-awards are democratized. Open one or two credit cards and enjoy the nicest cabins in the world like Singapore Suites, Etihad First Class, and Lufthansa First Class; the biggest adventures in the world like an 11 city trip in South America; or the simple pleasure of a little more space and comfort in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy.
What’s an amazing thing you’ve done with miles that you wouldn’t have done with cash?
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.