Membership Rewards

250 Membership Rewards will transfer to 300 British Airways Avios from now until 11:59 p.m. CT on October 10, 2016. The normal transfer rate is 250 Membership Rewards = 200 British Airways Avios, so this transfer bonus will get you 50% more Avios.

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For only 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes in economy from the West Coast to Hawaii. Here are the possible routes.

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1: Seasonal

That means with the current transfer bonus, you could convert 21,000 Membership Rewards to 25,200 British Airways Avios (transfers must be in increments of 250) to book yourself a roundtrip to Hawaii if you live in one of the cities listed above. That is an unbeatable deal.
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And that’s not all Avios are great for.

Other High Value Avios Redemptions

British Airways Avios are very valuable for short, direct flights without fuel surcharges (i.e. American Airlines flights within the Western Hemisphere, Alaska Airlines flights, Aer Lingus flights, airberlin flights, and British Airways flights within Europe).

If you have had a British Airways Avios and Iberia Avios account open for three months, you can transfer freely between them. This is extremely useful when you consider:

  • You pay much lower fuel surcharges when redeeming Iberia Avios on Iberia flights as opposed to British Airways Avios
  • You can redeem Iberia Avios on American Airlines flights (but not Alaska–they’re not partners). The price of an Iberia Avios award depends on the total distance flown, not the distance of each segment flown like British Airways Avios. They are not priced per segment so you are not penalized for connections. So if you’re taking a short trip but it requires a connection, an Iberia award will probably be cheaper. The only downside is that when redeeming Iberia Avios on American Airlines, you must book roundtrip awards as no one ways are allowed.
  • For any of the dates not highlighted in red on these calendars, you can fly Business Class between New York or Boston to Madrid on Iberia for only 34,000 Iberia Avios.

And neither British Airways nor Iberia Avios collect last minute award booking fees.

Speculative Transfers

I value Membership Rewards at 2 cents each, and Avios at 1.6 cents each. That makes 1,000 Membership Rewards worth $20 and 1,200 Avios (which is how many Avios you would get from transferring 1,000 Membership Rewards)  worth $19.20.

I’d rather have $20 (the Membership Rewards) than $19.20 (the Avios), so I probably wouldn’t transfer speculatively, but that margin is extremely narrow. This transfer bonus is a good deal, no doubt about it. Plug in your own valuations of Membership Rewards and Avios to figure out if a speculative transfer is worth it to you.

Bottom Line

Until 11:59 p.m. CT on October 10, 2016 you can turn 250 Membership Rewards into 300 Avios. This 50% transfer bonus represents huge savings over the normal transfer rate of 250 Membership Rewards to 200 Avios.

Transfer Bonus Terms & Conditions

Terms and Conditions for the Membership Rewards® program apply. Visit membershiprewards.com/terms or call 1-800-AXP-EARN (297-3276) for more information. Participating partners and available rewards are subject to change without notice. 
 
The value of Membership Rewards points varies according to how you choose to use them. To learn more, go to www.membershiprewards.com/pointsinfo.
 
You must be enrolled in the British Airways Executive Club program in order to participate in this offer, visit ba.com/executiveclub to enroll. American Express is not responsible for availability of flight, accommodations or any other rewards in the British Airways Executive Club program. Once you have transferred Membership Rewards points, they become subject to the Terms and Conditions of the British Airways Executive Club program and cannot be transferred back to your Membership Rewards program account. Taxes, fees, charges and surcharges, including airline surcharges, apply on British Airways redemption flights and upgrades. See British Airways Executive Club Terms and Conditions for details. Individual air carrier restrictions may apply. 
Minimum transfer is 250 Membership Rewards points. Redeem for this exclusive offer from 12:00 a.m. CT on August 10, 2016 to 11:59 p.m. CT on October 10, 2016, to receive 50% additional Avios. Additional Avios will be awarded at the time of transfer.
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Let’s talk about transferring Membership Rewards to airline partners for redeeming on domestic awards. This is part three in a series that will allow you to master redeeming awards within the United States, no matter what kind of points or miles you might have.

For those of you that have already read the first and second post in this series, you will notice repeat information at points in this post (as well as the rest of them to follow) because some of the airline partners overlap between transferrable points programs. 

“How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions” Series Index

American Express Membership Rewards can transfer to 17 types of airline miles.

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They also transfer to three types of hotel points at varying rates.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-11-at-12.49.18-PMMost have a transfer rate of 1:1. The following regarding non 1:1 transfer rates is from Membership Rewards terms & conditions (click to enlarge):

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You’ll get more value using these transfer partners’ miles when Membership Rewards offers a transfer bonus, like this 50% transfer bonus to Virgin America that happened last February for example.

Now let’s get into some of the higher value redemption options on awards within the United States when transferring your Membership Rewards to one of their 17 partner airline programs.

Flying Blue

Both Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) and Delta are part of the Skyteam Alliance. It costs 30,000 Flying Blue miles + standard taxes/fees (no fuel surcharges) to fly roundtrip in Delta economy between the mainland United States and Hawaii. You can also book one way Flying Blue Awards for half the price of a roundtrip (in this case, 15,000 Flying Blue miles).

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Delta charges 45,000 miles roundtrip between the mainland United States and Hawaii.

Stopovers are not allowed on one way Classic Flying Blue Awards. It is not clear how may stopovers you can have on a roundtrip, but definitely at least one. Travel is Free also reported that you have to call Flying Blue (1 800 375 8723) if you’d like to include stopovers as a part of your roundtrip award.

**BONUS** 

There is currently a glitch with Flying Blue’s award prices between the mainland United States and Kauai (LIH) specifically. While it should be priced at 15,000 Flying Blue miles, it’s actually priced at 12,500.

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Read Flying Blue Glitch: 12,500 Miles to Kauai to learn more.

British Airways Avios

I love that British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart. They also do not charge fuel surcharges on American Airlines nor Alaska Flights within the western hemisphere. But 250 Membership Rewards transfer to only 200 Avios, so you lose significant value. There are still instances however when transferring to Avios could be a good deal. I will calculate the loss in below to show you what I mean.

Here is the chart for award bookings of flights that touch the United States (all values represent thousands of Avios):Screen-Shot-2015-10-28-at-2.50.49-PM

To see how many Membership Rewards you would need, multiply each amount above by 1.25, and then 1,000.

For a flight between 0-1,151 miles, you would need 9,375 Membership Rewards (7.5 x 1.25 x 1,000). You can only transfer in increments of 250, so you’d have to transfer 9,500 Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios in order to have enough for the redemption.

For perspective, American Airlines charges 7,500 American Airlines miles for direct economy flights of 500 miles or less, and United charges 10,000 United miles for economy flights of 700 miles or less. Any domestic flights longer than that are 12,500 American/United miles each way. So the sweetspot for using Avios (at least in direct comparison to American and United economy redemptions) would be for flight distances between 501 and 1,151 miles.

And for only 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes from the West Coast to Hawaii in economy. Here are the possible routes.

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To adjust for the transfer ratio, you would need 31,250 Avios. That is still a very good deal when you consider that it costs 40 to 45k American Airlines miles.

The strength in British Airways chart lies in short haul, direct redemptions. You will pay the Avios prices above for every segment, not the total distance flown.

Watch out for Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios transfer bonuses as they are frequent and will greatly increase the value of your redemptions. In fact, there is a 50% transfer bonus happening right now through October 10, 2016.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta is one of the three American legacy carriers, so obviously their miles are useful in the sense that they grant access to a good deal of domestic award space. Delta doesn’t publish their award charts online anymore, so the only way to really know the price of a Delta award is to look it up on delta.com.

Here are some examples I just searched for varying distances:

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Note that the above prices may be influenced by the domestic “award sale” Delta is running right now through September 30. It seems they run these sales quite often, like this one last month. I say “award sale” with quotation marks as I don’t see how you can have a sale when you don’t have published prices; not to mention when your sale appears to be a state of being rather than an actual discount.

Either way, Delta has some very cheap domestic award prices comparatively, so search delta.com when comparing your options. If you want to fly Delta One, look to book it with Virgin Atlantic miles instead. More on that in the Virgin Atlantic section below.

Etihad Guest

Etihad is a non-allied airline but it has a ton of partners– one of which is American Airlines.

Etihad Guest’s award chart for redeeming Etihad miles on American Airlines makes it appear that you cannot redeem Etihad miles on American Airlines flights within North America. However The Points Guy claims that you can book First Class on American Airlines A321T for transcontinental service (three cabin First Class), and that an agent quoted him only 25,000 miles and $92.45 to book the ticket, which is just half of what American Airlines’ charges for it (50,000 AA miles).

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I haven’t tested this myself, but if any of you have done it, let us know in the comments.

Iberia Avios

Just like British Airways Avios, 250 Membership Rewards transfer to 200 Iberia Avios. You don’t see transfer bonuses as often to Iberia Avios, however you can freely transfer the two types of Avios between accounts if both accounts have been open for a few months. So if there’s a Membership Rewards to BA Avios transfer bonus happening (like there is right now), you can take advantage of it and then move those BA Avios right on over to Iberia Avios.

And why would you want to do that? Iberia and British Airways Avios are very similar but have slightly different award prices. Iberia Avios are slightly more valuable because they can book Iberia flights with lower fuel surcharges and because they offer a lower miles price on Business Class from the United States to Europe.  But more on topic, the reason why they might be more valuable to you for domestic redemptions is because of two reasons:

1. The price of an Iberia Avios award depends on the total distance flown– they are not priced per segment like British Airways Avios awards are. So if you’re taking a short trip but it requires a connection, an Iberia award will be cheaper.

2. Some of the prices are cheaper, especially on short flights. Below is the redemption chart for American Airlines. The distances are for the total roundtrip distance flown as you cannot redeem Iberia Avios on one way awards flying American.

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Don’t plan on redeeming Iberia Avios on Alaska flights though. British Airways is partners with Alaska, but Iberia is not.

JetBlue TrueBlue

As the fifth largest airline in the United States, low-cost carrier JetBlue’s network is growing rapidly.  It won’t take you as many places as the legacy carriers, but where they can take you they will take you in a nicer product. Mint Class is the nicest Business Class experience on a transcontinental flight in the United States–by far, and if you book it in time you can get one of the enclosed suites (there are four in each Mint Class and they are first come first serve).

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The cost of a TrueBlue award is tied to the cash price of the ticket, so this means there aren’t technically “sweetspots” since the revenue cost of a ticket fluctuates. Like British Airways Avios, 250 Membership Rewards transfer to 200 JetBlue points, so again you are losing significant value with the transfer. There might be instances (like on cheap, short flights or spur of the moment award sales) that a transfer is worth it.

Singapore Krisflyer

Singapore Airlines and United are fellow members of Star Alliance. You can redeem Singapore Krisflyer miles between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)

You can also fly within the United States on United Business Class for 20,000 Krisflyer miles each way (10,000 miles cheaper than redeeming United miles on their own Business Class).
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Virgin America

As it takes 200 Membership Rewards to equal 100 Virgin America Elevate points, you probably don’t want to transfer your Membership Rewards this way unless there is transfer bonus, in which it might behove you to take advantage.

Elevate Points are redeemed differently depending on whether you use them to book a flight on Virgin America Flights or one of its five partners.

  • If redeeming on a Virgin America flight, the required amount of points is tied to the revenue cost of the ticket (like JetBlue, mentioned above). This means that you don’t have to search for specific award space, as any flight that is available on virginamerica.com can also be booked with Elevate points (ie no blackout dates.) Elevate points are on average worth about two cents a piece, but that’s not accounting for the loss when you transfer from Membership Rewards without a bonus). Cheap, short domestic flights or airfare sales would be the best case scenarios in which to use Elevate Points.
  • For flying partners, the award pricing is fixed. There is no traditional chart like other loyalty programs often use, but you can price out awards (including taxes, fees and fuel surcharges) with the award calculator tool on Virgin America’s website.
    • Potential sweetspots on partner charts, especially if there is a transfer bonus:
      • 20,000 Virgin America Elevate Points is a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
      • 3,000 Virgin America Elevate Points is a one way Economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have flights within the United States, but they are partners with Delta.

For 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you can fly Delta One roundtrip within the United States, which is 5,000 miles less than what Delta normally charges for it. It must be booked as a roundtrip however, as Virgin Atlantic partner redemptions will cost the roundtrip price even if you book a one way.

You can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Hawaiian or Delta flights to Hawaii from the mainland as well, but there are better deals redeeming British Airways Avios, Singapore Krisflyer, or Flying Blue miles (which are all Membership Rewards transfer partners).

Virgin Atlantic won’t collect fuel surcharges if the partner airline that you fly doesn’t.

Bottom Line

There are a ton of Membership Reward transfer partners you can leverage on awards within the United States.

  • British Airways Avios and Iberia Avios are some of the most useful for short haul flights as well as to Hawaii, however they do not transfer 1:1 so you should watch out for transfer bonuses. Virgin America has the worst transfer ratio out of any of the airline partners (200 Membership Rewards = 100 Elevate points), so I’d definitely only transfer with a bonus.
  • Apparently you can book three cabin First Class on American Airlines A321T for transcontinental service with half the amount of Etihad miles as it would cost using American’s own miles.
  • Redeem Singapore miles on United Business Class, as well as to Hawaii. Flying Blue miles are also a great deal to Hawaii.
  • Delta often has cheap domestic awards whose prices aren’t published, so you’ll have to check those on delta.com.
  • JetBlue is also one you’ll need to check by hand as the prices of their awards are tied to the revenue cost of the ticket– and they also don’t transfer 1:1.
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta One.
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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I get questions all the time like this:

Hi, I have a million American Express Membership Rewards/Chase Ultimate Rewards/Citi ThankYou Points, what is the best transfer partner to go from [here] to [there.]

There are basically two ways to answer the question:

  1. Look at award charts of all the points’ transfer partners and then look for award space using the cheapest miles. I used this method to suggest to my friend that he transfer his Membership Rewards to Flying Blue miles to get from Denver to Tel Aviv. I covered this method extensively in Best Way to Get to Israel with Miles, which is a much broader post than the title suggests.
  2. Look for award space on all airlines that fly from [here] to [there], then figure out the cheapest way to fly the itinerary you most like. I’ll cover this second method in this post.

My friend messaged me last week saying that she had access to a few hundred thousand American Express Membership Rewards and wanted to fly from Buenos Aires to New York on June 3 or June 6.

Since she had such specific dates and not that many airlines fly from Buenos Aires to New York, I thought the best strategy was to search award space, then figure out which transfer partner to use to book what I found.

The airlines to search were:

  • American
  • United
  • Delta
  • AeroMexico
  • Copa
  • Avianca
  • LATAM
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Air Canada

The cool thing is that all these airlines can be searched on three sites:

  1. United.com shows United, Copa, Air Canada, and Avianca award space
  2. Delta.com shows Delta, AeroMexico, and Aerolineas Argentinas award space
  3. BA.com shows American Airlines and LATAM award space

If you search those three sites (without signing into united.com) and find Saver award space on any of the airlines, it should be bookable with any type of miles that can book that airlines’ award space. That’s just another way of saying that airlines usually release all their Saver award space equally to all partners.

So I went to search (except I cheated and subbed aa.com for ba.com because I didn’t expect to find good LATAM award space, so going to ba.com would just be slower.)

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aa.com search
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delta.com search
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united.com search

Search Results

AA.com

On aa.com, I hit the jackpot–direct Business Class award space in a flat bed from Buenos Aires to New York on American Airlines at the Saver level.

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American charges 57,500 miles one way for that space, but that is irrelevant because American Airlines is not a partner of Amex. We’d have to transfer to a partner of American’s to book the space, and different programs charge different prices for the same awards.

Amex has four partners that could book the flight:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • British Airways Avios
  • Iberia Avios
  • Etihad Guest Miles (added April 2016)

The oneworld partners are distance-based programs, and unfortunately this is quite a long flight at over 5,200 miles flown. British Airways and Iberia charge an insane 150,000 Avios one way for the flight in Business Class. Cathay Pacific Asia miles charges 70,000 miles one way.

Etihad is a region-based program that is not a member of any alliance but has American Airlines as a partner. Amazingly Etihad uses American Airlines’ pre-devAAluation award chart for American Airlines flights, so this flight would be only 50,000 Etihad miles.

Unfortunately, my friend was looking to fly within the week, and Etihad Guest’s terms say:

9.3.5. Redemption travel on Partner airline flights must be booked no less than 14 working days prior to the date of travel via the Etihad Guest Service Centre only.

Delta.com

The results on delta.com were not very good. She could book an economy award on Delta for 47,500 Delta miles or Business Class for 147,500 miles. (These would not be bookable with Delta partners’ miles because this is not Saver award space.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.47.16 PMDelta.com pulled up no Aerolineas Argentinas or AeroMexico award space.

United.com

United pulled up Saver Business Class award space on Copa on June 3 with one stop in Panama.
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It also found Saver economy award space on United on June 6, and Saver economy and Business space on Air Canada/United for June 6.Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.48.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.59.53 PM

This Star Alliance award space is bookable with the following Membership Rewards partners:

  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Singapore KrisFlyer

ANA requires roundtrip tickets, and she was only booking one way. For one way awards, Singapore charges 50,000 miles in Business Class from Argentina to the USA; Aeroplan charges 55,000.

The clear best option in her opinion was to book Business Class on Copa on June 3 with 50,000 Singapore miles. (By the way, here’s a Copa Business Class trip report from when I flew the airline in January to Chile.)

What She Needs to Do

The Amex points she’ll use are not in her account. That adds an extra step, the redemption nominee form step.

  1. Open a Singapore KrisFlyer account in name of the person who has the Amex points. This is important because the owner of the Amex points cannot transfer them to an airline account in my friend’s name.
  2. Fill out a “redemption nominee form” in that KrisFyler account with my friend’s information. This is important because while all American airline programs allow an account owner to redeem awards for anyone, Singapore only allows you to redeem for people who you have listed as nominees first. This process is really simple and I detailed my experience with it here.
  3. Transfer 50,000 points from her friend’s Amex account to her friend’s new Singapore account.
  4. Wait. It will take 12-36 hours for points to arrive as Singapore miles. In this time, the award space could disappear. (It probably won’t, but it could.) In that case, my friend would be stuck with one of the other options from united.com.
  5. When the miles arrive, call Singapore Airlines at 800-742-3333 and tell the agent the dates, cabins, and flight numbers of those Copa flights. Here’s my experience booking awards with Singapore miles. She should do this immediately when the miles post because you must book Singapore partner awards at least three days before departure.

Bottom Line

There is usually no way to answer the best transfer partner from [here] to [there] without researching. The two main research ways are to check charts first and then find award space or check award space first and then figure out the best way to book it.

In general, I’d use the charts first method from my other friend’s Israel trip if you have more date flexibility and if more airlines fly the route. I’d use this award space first method if you have less date flexibility and there are are fewer award search engines you’d need to search.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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All Nippon Airways (ANA) has reduced fuel surcharges drastically on awards that travel to or from Japan. Now you can fly to Tokyo from the United States for 75,000 miles in flat bed Business Class roundtrip plus low taxes plus a $4–yes four dollar–fuel surcharge. That’s tens of thousands of miles fewer than competitors charge.

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The above screenshot is of a roundtrip Business Class award flying ANA between Los Angeles and Tokyo in February 2017.

Routing Rules

ANA has two award charts. A cheaper one for flying only ANA flights, and a more expensive one for flying partner flights.

ANA flies between Tokyo and Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington D.C.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.25.37 PMIf you don’t live in one of those cities, you can add Saver United award space to get to one of those cities (the United hubs of Washington-Dulles, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would be easiest), but that puts you onto the more expensive partner award chart.

When redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights, you can have one stopover if your flight originates outside of Japan. You can also have one open jaw.

 

US to Japan Roundtrip

ANA awards are roundtrip only– no one ways allowed. Hence all prices mentioned in this post are roundtrip.

The price of redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights depends on the time of year. If you fly to Japan during any of the dates listed in the blue section of the chart (basically January, February, or April 2017), you will pay the lowest rates of 40,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 75,000 roundtrip in Business, or 150,000 roundtrip in First Class.
Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.28.07 PMHere are the current prices for all cabins (taxes and fuel surcharges for all are roughly $85):

Low Season (January, February, April)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 40,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 75,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

Regular Season (Most of the rest of the year, including most of summer)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 50,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 85,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

High Season (Christmas, New Years, late April to early May, and late July to mid-August)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

Any time of year if you include a United flight (same prices as High Season)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

For comparison, redeeming American Airlines miles to Japan would cost 70k/120k/160k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First. Redeeming United miles to Japan would cost 70k/150k/220k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First on partners.

Flights From the US to Other Countries ANA Flies To

While ANA’s award redemption rates are some of the lowest out of all of the Star Alliance options to a number of regions, their fuel surcharges can be prohibitive. Unfortunately–apart from Japan–fuel surcharges on those awards have remained intact and exorbitant. It appears that ANA has only cut fuel surcharges on awards that touch Japan.

Out of pocket costs to get to Bangkok are over $500, to Delhi are nearly $700, and to Sydney are nearly $900.

Good News from Another Angle

ANA axing fuel surcharges on awards to or from Japan is also beneficial for those of you with any type of Star Alliance miles that collect fuel surcharges when the carrier does (pretty much all of them do except United, Copa, and Avianca). You can now redeem your miles on roundtrip flights between the US and Tokyo (almost) fuel surcharge free!

However, the easiest way for Americans to collect foreign programs’ miles are through cards that earn transferrable points, so it’s most of you reading this have points that can transfer to a variety of programs rather than, say, Lufthansa or Asiana miles outright. In that case, don’t bother transferring to a different Star Alliance partner to redeem on ANA flights since ANA’s mileage prices on their own flights are by far the cheapest to Japan.

How to Search for and Book Award Space

You can search for and book award space right on ANA’s website. Read this post to learn how to use the ANA search tool.

How to Get ANA Miles

ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG points as well as Membership Rewards.

Until June 22, 2016, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 75,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

Premium Cabin Award Space to Japan During the Low Season

I checked the Los Angeles to Tokyo route’s award space in both directions for the first portion of the low season in 2017 (January 5 to February 28) to see how much space is available in Business and First Class. It appears to be completely, totally wide open in Business and First Class.

Los Angeles to Tokyo

Pretty much every week has six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.12.07 PMSix to seven days each week have four seats available in First Class. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.29.06 PM

Tokyo to Los Angeles

Beginning January 11, there are six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.15.33 PM

Also beginning January 11, there are four seats available in First Class five to seven days a week. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.35.37 PM

Bottom Line

ANA is now only charging $4 fuel surcharges on awards between the United States and Japan that used to be rendered much less attractive by expensive fuel surcharges. Depending on what time of year you travel, it will cost you 40-50,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, 75-90,000 miles roundtrip in Business, and 150-165,000 miles roundtrip in First Class. These prices are well below what competitors charge for the same routes.

Award space during the low season, which costs the least amount miles, is wide open in Business and First Class.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

American Express just added Etihad as a Membership Rewards transfer partner in April, and it is now offering a 30% transfer bonus through June 15, 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.08.18 PM

 

For the next six weeks, 1,000 Membership Rewards will transfer to 1,300 Etihad Guest Miles.

Good Deal?

Using Etihad Miles for Etihad Flights

Etihad Guest Miles aren’t very good for booking First Class on the Etihad A380, which is a current obsession of mine.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.55.33 PM

For instance, Etihad would charge 88,022 Etihad miles + $175 to book Abu Dhabi to London in First Class on the Etihad A380. During the transfer bonus, that’s 68,000 Membership Rewards.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.50.50 AM

A better deal, but not quite a good one, is booking JFK to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class for 117,556 Etihad miles + $179, which would be 91,000 Membership Rewards during the transfer bonus. You could book the same flight for 115,000 American Airlines miles + $6.Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.52.09 AMJFK to Delhi, which would feature two flights in First Class is 119,000 Membership Rewards during the promotion. Again, this would cost 115,000 American Airlines miles.Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.52.53 AM

So Etihad miles are competitive with American Airlines miles to book Etihad flights during this transfer bonus, but that’s not saying much. Both types of miles are still expensive for booking Etihad flights. The real value of Etihad miles is to book other airlines’ flights.

Using Etihad Miles for Other Flights

Etihad Guest miles can be used on 25 other airlines. On Etihad’s page, you can click on “Know more” and then click to bring up the redemption table for that airline’s flights.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.13.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.13.31 AM

For redeeming Etihad miles on American Airlines flights, the Etihad’s award chart is nearly identical to the old American Airlines award chart before the devaluation that happened March 22, 2016, at least for now. Remember 62,500 miles one way to Australia in Business Class and 20,000 miles one way to Europe in Economy? You can’t book those with American Airlines miles anymore, but you can with Etihad miles!

  • 125,000 Etihad miles (97,000 Membership Rewards) + taxes = United States to Australia roundtrip in American Airlines Business Class
  • 40,000 Etihad miles (31,000 Membership Rewards) + taxes = United States to Europe roundtrip in American Airlines Economy (however that out of pocket amount would skyrocket if you returned from London because of departure taxes, choose one of these European cities with lower taxes instead)

A few months ago I wrote about how you can fly to Europe in a flat bed for 37,000 ThankYou Points. That’s because it costs:

  • 36,620 Etihad miles (29,000 Membership Rewards) + $94.70 in taxes = New York to Brussels roundtrip in Brussels Airlines Business Class (featuring a flat bed)

This is technically still speculative, as I eventually found an Etihad Guest agent who found a Business Class award seat on this flight but I did not actually carry out the booking.

I wouldn’t exactly call this a sweetspot, but it is useful to know that if you ever need to book a flight on Air Serbia for some reason, hopping over to Romania on a Eurotrip perhaps, the only miles you can use to book their awards are Etihad miles. I just booked an award for 5,000 Etihad Miles (4,000 Membership Rewards) + $23 from Prague to Belgrade.

Bottom Line

American Express is offering a 30% bonus on Membership Rewards transferred to Etihad Guest Miles until June 15, 2016. This does not offer great value for booking Etihad First Class, but it does offer great value for booking partner flights like American Airlines, Air Serbia, and 23 other partners.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

Through March 10, 2016, American Express is offering a 50% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate Points.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.38.20 PMThe normal transfer ratio is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate Points, but for the next month, the ratio will be 200 Membership Rewards to 150 Elevate Points.
Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.38.31 PM

How Membership Rewards Work

As a quick refresher, there are two ways to use Membership Rewards:

  1. The dumb way: use them like cash to purchase flights, car rentals, hotels, or cruises at a paltry rate of 1 cent per point
  2. The smart way: transfer them to one of the 16 airline partners or three hotel partners. Then your points are whatever miles you chose, subject to that award chart and those rules.

16 Airline and 3 Hotel Partners

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.49.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.49.18 PM

Best Uses of Virgin America Elevate Points

Virgin America points are worth about 2 cents each toward Virgin America flights. They are usually worth more than that when redeemed on award charts for Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia flights. The only one of those partners on which Virgin America collects fuel surcharges is Virgin Atlantic.

Bottom Line

Through March 10, American Express Membership Rewards enjoy a 50% transfer bonus to Virgin America Elevate Points, bringing the transfer rate to 200 MR -> 150 Virgin America points.

This unlocks some incredible deals on partner airlines like Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia.

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

I use united.com for most of my award searches when redeeming Star Alliance miles because it shows most Star Alliance partners’ award availability, but it does have some drawbacks. Namely, it doesn’t show all partners and it sometimes displays phantom award space–award space will show as available but in reality, it doesn’t exist.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM
Star Alliance Airlines Whose Award Space I Want to Search

The best way to confirm Star Alliance award space is using the All Nippon Airways (ANA) search tool. ANA’s tool is trickier to use, but it’s the most reliable. The website and search tool’s interface has undergone some changes since the last time I wrote about how to use the ANA search tool three years ago, so I’m rewriting that post today to clarify any doubts.

First of All, Great News!

ANA no longer restricts members from using it’s award search tool for a lack of miles in their account. Anyone can search Star Alliance availability as long as you are signed up as a member of the ANA Mileage Club— no more annoying work arounds necessary!

Using the ANA Award Search Tool: Step-by-Step Guide

1. If you haven’t already, sign up for a ANA Mileage Club account here. Though this page looks like a credit card application (no annual fee!) simply click “Apply Here” at the bottom of the screen.

ANA mileage club sign up2. After filling in your pertinent information, you will be assigned a Mileage Club frequent flyer number and a password. Once you are signed up and logged in, you can access the award search tool directly from the ANA home page, just click Award Booking in the bottom right corner of the regular flight reservation box.

ANA homepage, award booking box

3. You will then be taken to the ANA Award search tool, where you can start searching for your desired Star Alliance award. Check the bubble next to “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.”

ana search tool

4. Checking the bubble next to Compare seat availability +/- 3 days will show you a week’s worth of availability.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

5. Occasionally a search will turn up this ugly error message, but it only means the specific day and class you searched for doesn’t have a seat available. Click Confirm and the rest of the week’s availability will display.

Mia to Bue error, confirm anyways ANA

6. Choose your dates for both legs.

LAX to tokyo, day specific selection

7. And then select your preferred flight schedule for both legs.

If you don’t have the sufficient mileage in your Mileage Club account, a box will pop up like this:

lack of mileage ANA

8. Just click Confirm and it will allow you too see all the details anyways.

Displayed will be the summarized flight itinerary, the price of the award in miles as well as taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges….

ANA itinerary, payment breakdown

…and the award type descriptions, with convenient links to the corresponding award chart/rules. The baggage limitations are also displayed. (This is only important if you are redeeming ANA miles.)

award type bagge ANA

A Common Glitch

I received this pop-up multiple times while choosing the flight itineraries for my preferred days of travel:

wonky error ANA

It seems like you can ignore the error message if the previous screen said there were flights available on the day you’ve selected.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

Try to select the date again, and you may see the space and no error message.

In my experience, even if you keep getting the error message, there is award space on the flight. (You can check this by calling United and asking the agent if the flight has award space. I did that for the example of a Business Class seat from Los Angeles to Tokyo above, and there was indeed award space available.)

Can I Plug in my City Pairs and Expect ANA to Come up With Good Itineraries?

No. ANA’s search tool has improved somewhat over the years, but searching Kansas City <-> Mumbai likely won’t yield anything usable. You should search segment-by-segment (like Newark to Mumbai on Air India and Kansas City to Newark on United.)

How do I search multiple segments?

There’s no short cut to this with ANA’s search tool unfortunately. You’ll need to search every segment separately.

This seems tedious. Any shortcuts?

Searching United.com is faster but can sometimes display false positives and negatives as previously detailed in my post about phantom award space. United’s site is a great place to get routing ideas while confirming them using ANA’s tool.

Do ANA miles have any value?

This is outside the main scope of this post, which is how to SEARCH ON ANA.COM to USE ANY STAR ALLIANCE MILES.

But yes, since you ask, ANA miles have plenty of value.

Though ANA assesses fuel surcharges on all Star Alliance partner flights except United, their chart has some great sweet spots that allow for low mileage redemptions. Check out how ANA’s chart compares to other types of Star Alliance miles here: Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts.

Bottom Line

ANA’s search tool is the final word on Star Alliance availability. If united.com displays the space but you don’t see it on ANA’s site, the award isn’t bookable.

The only requirements to use ANA’s search tool are a Mileage Club membership and a little bit of patience to do the segment-by-segment searching. Once you find award space on ana.com, you can book it with the Star Alliance miles that offer the cheapest award price to where you’re going. Find that out here.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

Until December 21, 2015, there is a 25% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Hawaiian Miles. One thousand Membership Rewards transfer to 1,250 Hawaiian Miles.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.21.47 AM

This is actually the third ongoing offer at the moment, with transfer bonuses to Iberia (and indirectly British Airways) Avios and Virgin America points that I have already covered.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.21.40 AM Good Deals with Hawaiian Miles

Hawaiian Airlines is not a member of any alliance, but it has a number of partners. You can use Hawaiian miles on:

  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ANA
  • American Airlines
  • China Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Korean Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Check out the award charts for all partners here and for Hawaiian Airlines flights here.

Here are some deals I like.

Flying Hawaiian

20,000 MILES (16k Membership Rewards)

Economy, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • New York City

new-york-city-wallpaper

  • Las Vegas

Las-Vegas-images-300x200

British Airways offer excellent deals from most West Coast cities to Hawaii, but they do not have any partner flights directly from Las Vegas. Thus, Hawaiian miles are the best miles to use for award flights from Las Vegas to Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Airlines award chart states that flights from Hawaii to the mainland cost 20,000 miles. However, for holders of the Hawaiian Airlines credit card the price is discounted to 17,500 miles.

27,500 MILES (22k Membership Rewards)

Economy class, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • Pago Pago, Samoa
  • Papeete, Tahiti

honeymoon-ideas-Tahiti-Cooks-Bay

40,000 MILES (32k Membership Rewards)

Economy class, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • Brisbane
  • Sydney
  • Auckland

western-australia-kangaroo-beach

First class, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Sacramento
  • Oakland
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix
  • New York City

Here is a trip report of Hawaiian Airlines First Class.

120703-HawaiianA3301st-01

47,500 MILES (38k Membership Rewards)

First class, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • Pago Pago, Samoa
  • Papeete, Tahiti

120703-HawaiianA330200-01

65,000 MILES (52,000 Membership Rewards)

First class, one-way, Hawaii to:

  • Brisbane
  • Sydney
  • Auckland
  • Taipei
  • Beijing

inflightfood

Flying Partners

30,000 MILES (24k Membership Rewards)

Economy class, round-trip, Korean Air, Seoul to all its destinations in Asia:

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.35.27 AM

  • Akita
  • Aomori
  • Fukuoka
  • Hakodate
  • Kagoshima
  • Komatsu
  • Nagasaki
  • Nagoya
  • Niigata
  • Oita
  • Okayama
  • Osaka
  • Sapporo
  • Shizuoka
  • Tokyo (Narita, Haneda)
  • Beijing
  • Changsha
  • Dalian
  • Guangzhou
  • Hong Kong
  • Jinan
  • Kunming
  • Mudanjiang
  • Qingdao
  • Shanghai (Hongqiao)
  • Shenyang
  • Shenzhen
  • Tianjin
  • Tunxi
  • Weihai
  • Wuhan
  • Ximen
  • Xian
  • Yanji
  • Zhengzhou
  • Irukutsk
  • Taipei
  • Ulaanbaatar
  • Vladivostok
  • Bangkok
  • Cebu
  • Chiang Mai
  • Da Nang
  • Denpasar Bali
  • Hanoi
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Jakarta
  • Kota Kinabalu
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Manila
  • Palau
  • Phnom Penh
  • Phuket
  • Siem Reap
  • Singapore
  • Yangon
  • Guam
  • Colombo
  • Malé
  • Mumbai
  • Kathmandu
  • Tashkent

images

Korean Air, a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and SPG, charges 30,000 to 75,000 miles for the above itineraries.

30,000 Hawaiian miles could also be used for a round-trip ticket departing from any of the Asian cities listed above and going to Seoul.

35,000, 45,000, 60,000 MILES (28k, 36k, 48k Membership Rewards)

The chart to fly American Airlines with Hawaiian Miles is similar to what American charges for its own flights. With the 25% transfer bonuses, some of the deals get very good indeed.
Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.35.32 AM

Roundtrips to the Caribbean, Central America, Southern South America, and Europe are good deals in economy.

How to Book Partner Awards

You need to find Saver availability on the partner, which you cannot do on hawaiianair.com. For American Airlines space, I’d search aa.com; for Korean space, I’d search delta.com; for other partners, I’d search wherever its award space was searchable. Hawaiian Airlines should have access to all its partners’ Saver award space.

Then you book by calling 877-HA-MILES from 7 AM – 4:30 PM HST Monday through Friday, which is currently noon to 9:30 PM ET.

Other Ways to Get Hawaiian Miles

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® comes with a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Hawaiian Airlines cardholders with family members who also accrue Hawaiian miles can take advantage of a unique benefit: Hawaiian miles can be combined into one account through the share miles program. This free benefit can turn worthless “leftover” miles into an award goldmine.

Anyone who has a card open can receive Hawaiian Miles from another account for free. Most airlines charge over 1 cent per mile for transfers of this kind!

The other benefit of the Hawaiian Airlines card, that I mentioned earlier, is that you get to book Super Saver economy awards between the United States and Hawaii for 17,500 Hawaiian miles each way instead of the 20,000 mile price on the chart.

Bottom Line

You have 12 days to transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards to 1,250 Hawaiian Miles. That will be a good deal for people who want to book the sweet spots on the Hawaiian Airlines chart that I laid out in this post.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

Effective this Thursday, October 1, 2015, 250 Membership Rewards will transfer to 200 British Airways or Iberia Avios. That’s a 20% reduction of the current 1,000 Membership Rewards to 1,000 Avios transfers.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 3.58.38 PM
Source: Travel with Grant

This is a huge blow to Membership Rewards. It still has great 1:1 transfer partners like Delta, ANA, Aeroplan, and Singapore, but this majorly hurts the value of its best oneworld transfer partner.

In the past we’ve seen transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards to Avios like this year’s 40% bonus. I don’t know if this reduced transfer rate between Membership Rewards and Avios signals the end of those. A 40% bonus on the new transfer rate would mean 250 Membership Rewards transferred to 280 Avios, which is 12% better than 1:1.

Other Bad News for Earning Avios

This worsening transfer rate from Membership Rewards isn’t the only bad news we’ve gotten about earning Avios this year. Chase also changed the British Airways Visa to only earn 1 Avios per dollar spent, down from 1.25 per dollar, another 20% drop in rates for earning Avios.

Chase Ultimate Rewards earned on the Ink Plus and Sapphire Preffered still transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

About Avios

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Avios are good for short, direct, economy awards on partners without fuel surcharges like airberlin; Niki; and American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines within the Americas including Hawaii. The number of Avios for Business and First Class awards rose sharply in April, but that affected very few high value awards. Here are the basics of Avios, which every American frequent traveler should understand. Here are all the 12,500 Avios awards from the mainland United States to Hawaii.

Should You Transfer Your Membership Rewards to Avios Before Thursday?

It’s a tricky question with a lot of things to consider, so there is no definitive answer that covers everyone.

You’d hate to transfer 200,000 Membership Rewards to Avios only to see a big Avios devaluation (unlikely to happen for the next year or two in my opinion because we just saw one) or to see a big transfer bonus that brings the transfer rate above 1:1 (your guess is as good as mine about whether this will happen.)

I value Membership Rewards higher than Avios because of their flexibility–they can be Avios if those are the best miles for an award or Singapore miles if those are best or Delta miles, etc. So I am disinclined to send Membership Rewards to Avios this week to beat the devalued transfer ratio, however I understand if you look at the same facts and come to the opposite conclusion.

Hat Tip Travel with Grant

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

The page that shows American Membership Rewards transfer partners seems to require sign in, so I will put the partners and ratios here for those who are considering getting an American Express card and want to see where their points can transfer. The best options are Delta, Aeroplan, Flying Blue, Avios, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic miles depending on the trip you have in mind.

Airlines (all transfer options 1,000 Membersip Rewards to 1,000 miles unless noted):

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • AeroMexico Club Premier Miles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia Club
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • British Airways Avios
  • Iberia Avios
  • El Al Matmid Points (1,000 MR = 20 points)
  • Emirates Skywards Miles
  • Etihad Guest Miles (added April 2016)
  • Hawaiian Airlines Miles
  • JetBlue TrueBlue Points (250 MR = 200 points)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
  • Virgin America Elevate Points (200 MR = 100 points)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels:

  • Best Western Rewards Points (1,000 MR = 1,000 points)
  • Choice Privileges Points (1,000 MR = 1,000 points)
  • Hilton HHonors Points (1,000 MR = 1,500 points)
  • SPG Starpoints (1,000 MR = 333 points)
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

I’m going to show you how to book a mega-award with seven stops to South America with Asia Miles. You already have Asia Miles because they are a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, AMEX Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.31.35 PM

Asia Miles can be used to book any oneworld airline‘s award space plus space on its partners Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.34.25 PM

Asia Miles charges fuel surcharges on award tickets when the equivalent cash tickets would have fuel surcharges. In practice, that means all Asia Miles awards will have fuel surcharges except flights on:

  • airberlin
  • Niki (Austrian low-cost subsidiary of airberlin that flies to these destinations)
  • S7 (Russian airline)
  • American Airlines flights within the Americas
  • LAN Airlines (South American airline)
  • TAM Airlines (Brazilian Airline with Paraguayan subsidiary)
  • Alaska Airlines

Since I like to avoid fuel surcharges, I would almost exclusively book those flights with Asia Miles. Asia Miles awards that don’t include a segment on Cathay Pacific (which I would book with American Airlines or Alaska miles, not Asia Miles) can have 5 stopovers, 2 open-jaws, and 2 transfers. I’ll discuss these rules in detail later.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.25.10 PM

Add up the distance flown on all the flights, and then read the award price off this distance-based award chart.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.24.50 PM

As you can see, there are a number of sweet spots in economy since the price barely rises from 1,001-4,000 miles flown or from 4,001-7,000 miles flown or from 10,001-20,000 miles flown.

In Business Class, the prices rises more steadily, but just under 9,000 miles flown looks pretty sweet.

The First Class chart is largely irrelevant because the only First Class by an airline on the no-fuel-surcharges list is American Airlines First Class, which isn’t that great and is being removed from most planes.

Rules for Awards

There are two award charts, each with its own set of rules. This post will only focus on the chart for awards that contain:

  • Two oneworld alliance airlines, where Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is not included; or
  • Three or more oneworld alliance airlines when Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is included.

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Cathay Pacific and Dragonair don’t fly to South America, so we’ll always be on the “oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart.”

The big rule of the multi-carrier award chart is:

  • You can make a maximum of five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route or turnaround point, subject to airline partners’ terms and conditions.

Ideally I’d book several Asia Miles awards on my own to figure out what the rule means in practice, but that’s impractical because my Award Booking Service clients rarely request an award for which Asia Miles make sense, and I don’t have a need for such an award myself at the moment.

So I’ve investigated the next best way: by reading threads on FlyerTalk to see the reported experiences of others. With that in mind, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. As usual a transfer is a layover of less than 24 hours. A stopover is a layover of more than 24 hours.
  2. If you need more transfers than the 2 allowed, you can ask an agent to count a transfer as a stopover. As an example, say you want to have 3 transfers and 3 stopovers–something like JFK-MIA-BOG; BOG-LIM-SCL; SCL-EZE; EZE-MIA-JFK where the stopovers are denoted by a semicolon after the airport code–this is illegal. But if you make a transfer a stopover, now you have 2 transfers and 4 stopovers, which is OK. Ask the agent to make the first Miami transfer a stopover even though it is under 24 hours.
  3. You get 5 stopovers and zero destinations for 5 total 24+ hour stops. Ordinarily if an award is allowed one stopover, like a roundtrip United award, that’s in addition to your 1 destination, so you really get to stop 24+ hours in 2 places. Here you get 5 total, not 5 + 1.
  4. Open jaws do NOT count as a stopover. As an example, a super-simple award like Miami to Lima, returning Quito to Miami has 1 open jaw, zero stopovers, and zero transfers. That is an award that sees two places with no stopovers.
  5. That means your 5 stopovers plus 2 open jaws, which each can see two places without burning a stopover is already 9 places you can see. Add in the under-24 hour transfers, and you can see 11 places.
  6. Unfortunately not all agents are well trained on the point that open jaws do NOT count as stopovers. Some agents will count open jaws as stopovers, but you should just ask them to try putting your routing into the system and the system will accept a routing with 5 stopovers plus 2 other open jaws. You may have best results calling the agents on the Cantonese line and then speaking English with them because these are the best-trained agents.
  7. An open jaw may be at any point during the award or even between where the award begins and ends. Some agents say that if there is an open jaw between the first and last city of an award, both cities must be in the same country.
  8. You may be able to later transit your origin region or even stopover there (which would allow you to combine two separate trips onto one cheap award. Here is an example of someone who ticketed Brazil/Argentina/Peru and a later trip to San Francisco onto one award.)
  9. The Asia Miles website suggests filling out a form to request your award. FlyerTalkers all call in to book their awards
  10. The ticketing time on awards–the time from your call until you receive a final confirmation that everything is ticketed–is between 15 hours and one week.

Here’s am award that follows all those rules that sees 11 cities in South America.

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  • Miami to Baranquilla, Colombia (1) on American Airlines. Stopover #1
  • Baranquilla to Bogota, Colombia (2) on LAN Airlines, layover of less than 24 hours, enough time to see a few museums and go out for a night. Transfer #1
  • Bogota to Lima, Peru (3) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #2
  • Lima to Santiago, Chile (4) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #3
  • Santiago to Buenos Aires, Argentina (5) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #4
  • Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, Brazil (6) on LAN Airlines, layover of less than 24 hours, enough time to eat at a churrascaria and go out for a night. Transfer #2
  • Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil (7) on TAM Airlines. Open Jaw #1 because you will not fly out of Foz do Iguacu
  • Porto Alegere, Brazil (8) to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (9) on TAM Airlines. Stopover #5
  • Rio de Janeiro to Natal, Brazil (10) on TAM Airlines. Open Jaw #2 because you will not fly out of Natal
  • Recife, Brazil (11) to Miami on American Airlines.

There are holes in two spots in Brazil that you can fill with buses or separate cash or award tickets.

The flown distance is 12,330 miles according to Great Circle Mapper, so this award would cost 85,000 Asia Miles in economy or 115,000 Asia Miles in Business Class plus government taxes. There would be no fuel surcharges.

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Practical Considerations

If you don’t live in Miami or Dallas, you’ll probably need to use your two transfers to get to and from those cities. The vast majority of South American flights on oneworld leave from Miami and Dallas, so if you live somewhere like Los Angeles, you will probably need one transfer in each direction to start and finish the award.

Here is an award from Los Angeles with four stopovers in South America, two transfers in the United States, and zero open jaws.

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That’s not to say that all international flights to the Americas leave from Miami and Dallas. The following cities all have international flights on American, Alaska, or US Airways. The black dots mostly have flights to Mexican vacation destinations, of which only Cancun is well connected to South America.

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Open jaws are so powerful because they don’t cost you a stopover and you get two see two places. Some easy open jaws:

  • between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, which is served by a two-hour ferry
  • between Foz do Iguacu, Brazil and Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, which is a short car ride (and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay is right there too, but that is the sketchiest and most boring city I’ve visited in South America)
  • Punta Arenas, Chile and El Calafate, Argentina are a five-hour bus ride apart
  • Many Central American capitals are very close
  • Santiago, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina are a common bus-ride apart
  • Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina are not convenient A to B, but an open jaw between the two would allow you to explore Patagonia by boat, bus, and small airplane like I did last December

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Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires all have at least two major airports. I do not know whether flying into one airport and out of another airport in those cities counts as an open jaw or whether the airports are considered coterminal like JFK/LGA/EWR usually are in New York.

Fun Considerations

LAN flies to the Galapagos Islands (GPS is one airport) from Guayaquil and Quito, Peru.

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LAN flies to Easter Island from Santiago and Lima.

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There’s no reason your award has to start in the United States. It could make sense to book awards from the United States to South America and then just hop around in South America on an Asia Miles award. This one would be 35,000 miles in economy, and you can still add more segments and stops.

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If you convince an agent to let you stopover in your city of origin, you can have two trips on a single cheap award. This award is Dallas to Cancun roundtrip, followed months later by Dallas to Bogota to Lima, open jaw returning Cuzco to Lima to Dallas. It would cost 65,000 Asia Miles in economy and 95,000 in Business Class.

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Getting the Miles

Asia Miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points. The transfer takes one business day.

Asia Miles are also a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and SPG Starpoints.

Searching

The relevant airlines for a South America awards are American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, LAN, and TAM.

American, US, and Alaska are best searched on aa.com. You can only use MileSAAver award space.

LAN and TAM are best searched on ba.com. You can use any award space you see there.

Booking

Once you’ve found the award space, call Asia Miles at 866-892-2598 to book the award. Feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight you found with award space.

If your award comes close to maxing out the 5 stopovers, 2 open jaws, or 2 transfers, I would proactively lead the call by saying things like, “Next is Bogota to Lima on January 10 on LAN flight 123 in economy. Bogota is my first open jaw because I continue the award from Quito. The next flight is…” The agents seem to have some discretion in their counting, so you want to suggest how they count.

If you’re having trouble with the Asia Miles agents at that number, call the Cantonese line at +852 2747 3838 from your gmail account for 2 cents per minute.

Bottom Line

Asia Miles offers a distance-based award chart that allows you to visit 11 places on a single 9-flight award by maximizing the 5 stopovers, 2 open jaws, and 2 transfers.

Asia Miles is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints.

Asia Miles awards have fuel surcharges when an equivalent cash flight has fuel surcharges. Avoid fuel surcharges by flying to and around South America. (There are also European partners with no fuel surcharges, which I’ll cover in a separate post.)

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored by those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

  • Which miles do I consider broadly useful?
  • Which programs do I consider niche programs?
  • What are the niche programs’ strengths?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic miles will come with an automatic 25% transfer bonus from now through April 30, 2015. We last saw a 35% bonus in November 2014.

This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 14k Membership Rewards and $131.
  • One way from the US to London in Premium Economy for 22k Membership Rewards + $231.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 36k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

  • Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic?
  • What are the key features of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club?
  • How can you get to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 36k Membership Rewards?
  • How can you get Membership Rewards?

Until April 30, 2015, you can transfer increments of 1,000 American Express points to 1,250 Virgin Atlantic miles automatically at membershiprewards.com.

 

There are three main reasons you would want Virgin Atlantic miles.

1. Among the Cheapest Economy and Premium Economy Awards to Europe (in Miles)

The first reason to get Virgin Atlantic miles is that economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (14k Membership Rewards) for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards plus $131 and return from a low tax country–like Spain or Switzerland–to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

Or you can fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles (22k Membership Rewards) and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

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Each has its own award chart, and the values can be good, especially with this transfer bonus. Best of all, on many partners, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges!

Last year I called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles (36k MR) + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles (32k MR) + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles (20k MR) + $11.20
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles (48k MR) + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles (104k MR) + $11.20
  • New York to LAX in roundtrip Main Cabin Select on Virgin America: 50k miles (40k MR) + $11.20 from Tuesday to Sunday over Thanksgiving

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 36k Membership Rewards roundtrip is a steal. If you transferred Membership Rewards to Delta miles to book the exact same seats, you’d need 60k Membership Rewards.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America flights have award space that Virgin Atlantic has access to. There’s no way to check without calling Virgin Atlantic that I know of. Before calling, I didn’t know what to expect with respect to Virgin America space since Virgin America’s program is revenue-based and doesn’t include a concept of “award space.”

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is one of the best in the world with many folks comparing it to First Class. I am anxious to fly it.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket cost is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles (64k Membership Rewards) roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles (80k Membership Rewards).

Roundtrip Miles Prices to UK with Flying Club Miles listed Economy, Premium Economy, Upper Class from left to right

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Other uses?

Did I miss any great uses of Virgin Atlantic miles? These small foreign programs get so few expert eyeballs on them, so I know that many have hidden gems. Hopefully I’ve exposed some with the partner flights in this post. If you know of others, share them in the comments please.

Getting the Miles

Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles. Ultimate Rewards have never had a transfer bonus, and I like to use my Ultimate Rewards with United miles, so I strongly favor transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic miles if you want Virgin Atlantic miles.

Membership Rewards are earned by all Platinum and Gold cards.

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Right now, there is also a “90,000 mile sign up bonus” (not really, for reasons explained here) on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Recap

The 25% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic has some highly valuable uses including cheap one ways to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, access to better award space in Upper Class with low mileage outlays, and partner awards at very low mileage prices with no fuel surcharges.

Have any of the award possibilities piqued your interest?

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Well, it’s January 31. So today is your last chance to transfer. Since I posted this initially, I have two other posts on Avios:

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to British Airways Avios will come with an automatic 40% transfer bonus from now through January 31, 2015.

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Is this British Airways transfer bonus a good deal? Should you take advantage of the 40% transfer bonus?

Until January 31, 2015, you can transfer increments of 1,000 AMEX points to 1,400 Avios automatically at membershiprewards.com.

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If you have a use for Avios, this is a fantastic deal.

Avios are great for short, direct, economy tickets on airlines and routes without fuel surcharges.

For more information on Avios partners (all 18 of them), searches, award rules, fees, and how to avoid fuel surcharges, see: FREE FIRST CLASS 2014: BRITISH AIRWAYS AVIOS BASICS

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Starting in 2015, you will only be able to transfer 250,000 Membership Rewards to Delta miles per year and 200,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to 250,000 Delta miles per year. See Delta FAQ.

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Delta imposed the rule on American Express and Starwood, but it’s so easy to work around that it’s no big deal.

Here’s what membershiprewards.com says about the new rule:

“Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014.”

  • What is the exact limit on transfers?
  • What are the workarounds to basically get unlimited Delta miles from Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfers?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.00.14 AM

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