United

I have an adorable two year old boston terrier named Omar that I share with my boyfriend, pictured above in his carrier on a ferry to Uruguay earlier this year.

My home base is Buenos Aires, but when winter strikes we escape back to North American summer to enjoy time with family and friends around the country. This year, we looked pretty seriously into bringing the fur baby home with us, so he could meet his grandparents and we wouldn’t have to go without him for so long.

In the end we decided not to since our schedules were still very much up in the air and erratic.

But before we had made that decision, in the midst of my research, I realized there wasn’t much aggregated information about airline policies for traveling with your pet. Checking a myriad of sources is a pain. Hopefully the information in this post will equip you with the knowledge to plan more travel with your fur baby.

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Below I’m going to cover policies of the three major American carriers. Perhaps at a later date I will write a Part II, covering other popular American and foreign carriers.

All policies detailed are regarding travel with normal pets, not service animals.

Rules That Generally Apply to All Airlines Listed Below 

  • Dogs must be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down in their kennel
  • The amount of pets allowed on flights is capacity controlled, so before booking your ticket or award make sure to call the carrier you will be flying first to see if there’s room.
  • Most airlines don’t allow brachycephalic (aka snub-nosed) dogs or cats as checked luggage or cargo. Exceptions are noted in each airline’s section
  • The following excerpt is from united.com but applies to all pets entering the United States:
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require all dogs entering the U.S., except those arriving from certain rabies-free countries, to be immunized against rabies. Vaccinations must be completed at least 30 days before arrival in the U.S. Since puppies must not be vaccinated before three months of age, puppies under four months old will not be admitted into the U.S. unless they are arriving from a rabies-free country. Each dog entering the U.S. must be accompanied by a valid certificate of rabies vaccination, signed by a licensed veterinarian and including the following information:
      • Name and address of the dog’s owner
      • Identifying information for the dog, including breed, sex, age, color and markings
      • Date of vaccination and the name of the vaccine used
      • Date when the vaccination expires. If no expiration date is stated, the vaccination must have been completed within 12 months before arrival in the U.S.
  • As far as health certificates/requirements for traveling outside the United States, you’ll need to check your destination country’s policy
  • As far as health certificates/requirements for traveling domestically, I’m pretty sure that varies from state to state. Let us know in the comments if you have any experience in that arena.
Carry On VS. Checked Luggage VS. Cargo

Before getting into each major airline’s policies, I want to explain what the difference is between taking your pet as carry on, checked luggage, or shipping them as cargo– at least from what I gather.

Carry on: You take your pet in a kennel in the cabin of the airplane with you.

Checked Luggage: Your pet travels underneath the plane (in the same general conditions as cargo), the main difference from cargo being that you are on the same plane.

Cargo: Your pet travels underneath the plane (in the same general conditions as checked luggage) but you do not have to be present on the plane.

American Airlines

You have three options for traveling with your pet on American Airlines. You can bring them in the cabin if they’re small enough, check them, or ship them as cargo.

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Carry On

  • Personally you’re allowed to carry on one kennel.
  • American Airlines flights can have a maximum of seven kennels on each (not including service animals).
  • On American Eagle flights, five kennels are allowed (with only one allowed in First Class).
  • Non-collapsible kennels must be no larger than 19 inches x 13 inches x 9 inches.
  • Soft-sided collapsible kennels can be larger if they’re made of water-repellant material, are padded or have nylon mesh ventilation on two or more sides, and totally fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean (based on specific country’s entry policy), the cost is $125 per kennel.

Checked Luggage

  • Personally you’re allowed to check two kennels.
  • Kennel cannot be collapsible.
  • No brachycephalic (aka snub-nosed) dogs or cats can be checked. Read this page to see a list of examples.
  • Maximum dimensions on kennels: up to 40 inches x 27 inches x 30 inches. Series 500 is the largest acceptable, except on the Boeing 737, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 (S80), or American Eagle airplanes. Kennels checked on an MD-80 must be able to fit through the cargo door whilst in an upright position.)
  • Checked pets cannot travel on A321S, A321H, A320, A319 aircraft and all flights operated by regional partner Air Wisconsin.
  • Within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, the cost is $200 per kennel.
  • American Airlines doesn’t recommend sedating your pet, but if you do, you’ll need to give an agent the name of the medication, the amount and date and time the animal took it.

Pets younger than eight weeks are not permitted to travel on American Airlines.

Read American Airlines’ Cargo Animals page for detailed information on shipping your dog as cargo.

Your pet cannot travel if the forecasted temperature is above 85 degrees F or below 45 degrees F at any location on the itinerary. Cold temperature restrictions can be waived with a letter from your vet as long as forecasted temperatures is above 20 degrees F.

Read American Airlines’ Traveling With Pets page for more specific details on kennel requirements, breed restrictions, destination restrictions, and restrictions on flights with connections.

United

You have two options for traveling with your pet on United. You can bring one in the cabin if it’s small enough or ship it via PetSafe®.

Carry On

  • Personally you’re allowed one kennel as carry on.
  • Four pets per flight are allowed in United Economy® on all United flights.
  • Two pets per flight are allowed in our premium cabins on select aircraft. Pets are not permitted in premium cabins on Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777 or 787 aircraft.
  • You cannot be seated in the bulkhead or an emergency exit row with a pet.
  • If traveling with a pet in economy on a Boeing 757-200 aircraft, you have to have a window seat.
  • Non-collapsible kennels must be no larger than 17.5 inches x 12 inches x 7.5 inches.
  • Soft-sided collapsible kennels can be larger (recommended maximum of 18 inches x 11 inches x 11 inches) as long as it will fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Cost: $125 each way for flights within the United States.

There’s not other information on United’s site about traveling with your in-cabin pet internationally other than the restriction of pets on flights to, from, or through Australia, Hawaii, or Micronesia (including Guam, a United hub). You’ll have to call United Customer Service at 1-800-864-8331 to learn more.

 PetSafe® (Checked Luggage)

For dogs that are too big to fit in the cabin, you can ship them via United’s PetSafe.

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  • Kennel cannot be collapsible.
  • United does allow you to send most brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs and cats via PetSafe, but they do have their own set of policies listed here.
    • English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogs, Shorty Bulls/Bulldogs or mixes of these breeds that are more than six months old or 20 pounds are the exception– they are not allowed.
    • American Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs and mixes of these breeds are OK, but you must follow these regulations:
      • May 15 – September 15: None will be accepted.
      • September 16 – May 14: These animals will be accepted as long as the forecasted temperatures along the itinerary are expected to be no higher than 85°F at the time when the animal’s flights are scheduled to arrive and depart. Animals with connecting flights may also be kenneled during the day to avoid the heat.
  • Check this pdf to see how much it will cost to send your pet via PetSafe.
  • Here is a chart of kennel types that are accepted:Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 4.47.39 PM
  • All of the above kennel types are allowed on all types of United planes except:
    • the 700 series, which is not accepted on Boeing 737 aircraft
    • Embraer Regional Jets (ERJ and SRJ) operated by ExpressJet Airlines don’t accept any animals
  • Fun fact: you’ll earn 500 United miles for every pet you send via PetSafe domestically, and 1,000 United miles for every pet you send internationally.

Pets younger than eight weeks are not permitted to travel on United.

More specific details can be found here regarding destination restrictions when shipping your pet via PetSafe.

More specific details can be found here regarding kennel requirements when shipping your pet via PetSafe.

Delta

You have two options for traveling with your pet on Delta. If it’s small enough you can bring one in the cabin, and if not you can ship it via VARIATION® LIVE (Delta’s brand for animal cargo).

Carry On

  • Personally you can only carry on one kennel.
  • Delta flights can have a maximum of two kennels in First Class, two kennels in domestic Business or domestic Delta One, and four in economy.
  • No kennels are allowed in international Business Class or Delta One.
  • On American Eagle flights, five kennels are allowed (with only one allowed in First Class).
  • Delta doesn’t list the maximum kennel sizes for carry on, you have to call Delta Reservations about your specific plane to find out. The kennel must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Pet must be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel, 16 weeks if traveling from other countries to the United States, and 15 weeks for European Union travel.
  • One way fees for traveling with your pets to/from the following locations:
    • U.S./Canada: $125 USD/CAD
    • Virgin Islands: $125 USD/CAD
    • Puerto Rico: $125 USD/CAD
    • Outside the U.S.: $200 USD/CAD/EUR
    • Brazil: $75 USD

Read more specific details about carrying your pet onto a Delta flight–like destination restrictions– here.

Cargo

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  • American, English (including the Old English) or French bulldogs are not allowed to be shipped as cargo under any condition.
  • Delta doesn’t define the accepted dimensions of kennels, apart from: “You must use a kennel that meets USDA and IATA LAR regulations”.
  • Look up the cost of shipping your warm-blooded pet as cargo here.
  • If you choose to sedate your pet you’ll need to attach a note from the veterinarian on the kennel.

Read Delta’s cargo page for more specific details about shipping your dog via VARIATION® LIVE.

Bottom Line

If you collect miles and points to travel and also want to take your pet along, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the major airlines’ policies as that could very well affect the kind of miles you should be collecting.

For example, American Airlines doesn’t allow travel with pets as carry on luggage between Argentina and the United States (a trip I take often), and my dog is snub-nosed, therefore he cannot travel as checked luggage nor as cargo on their planes. So if I wanted miles for a trip to take Omar home next South American winter, then I shouldn’t focus on American Airlines or other One World Alliance miles. Instead, the airline (out of the three listed above) with the most lenient policies towards boston terriers is Delta. So I would want to focus on collecting Delta miles or another type of miles that could book Delta flights.

Bookmark this page in case you plan on traveling with your fur baby in the future.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Award space is wide open in Austrian Airlines Business Class between the United States and Europe for EIGHT people per flight over the entire Summer.

This is amazing news because normally award space over the summer is the toughest to find– finding even four seats on the same flight in Business Class is almost unheard of.

You can book Business Class to Vienna for 70,000 United miles one way with no fuel surcharges.

Where Austrian Airlines Flies in the US

Austrian Airlines flies from Vienna to the following cities:

  • Chicago
  • Miami
  • Newark
  • New York JFK
  • Toronto
  • Washington Dulles

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Award Space

All these calendars show award space for eight people. Days with a straight line and dotted line have eight Business Class seats available in economy as well as Business on Austrian Airlines. Just a dotted line means only eight Business Class award seats, and just a straight line means only eight economy award seats.

June and July have solid availability, often every day for eight people in Business and economy. Some even have wide open award space in the spring as well (April/May ’17).

Routes listed below are only to Europe. I checked the return directions for the same months and they look equally as open in Business Class and economy.

New York (JFK) to Vienna

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Washington D.C. to Vienna

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Chicago to Vienna

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Miami to Vienna

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Product

Austrian Airlines Business Class features totally lie-flat beds on Boeing’s 767-300.
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All seats have aisle access.

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I flew Austrian Business class in the fall of 2013 between Chicago and Vienna– read my trip report here. The food was impressive with an onboard Chef that took orders.
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Searching, Connections, Booking

Search Austrian award space on united.com. Any Austrian award space you find there, you can book with any Star Alliance miles, but watch out for fuel surcharges if booking with anything other than United miles.

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If you don’t live in a city served by Austrian, that’s no problem. You can hook up any United Saver award space in economy or first class to get to an Austrian gateway (listed above) for no extra miles. If you want to connect to somewhere else in Europe or to Africa or Asia, you can definitely do that too, though other continents will cost extra miles.

Book online on the website of the airline whose miles you want to use, or if that’s not possible, by calling the airline whose miles you want to use.

I’d recommend booking with:

Options for less miles but with expensive fuel surcharges:

  • 55,000 Aeroplan miles + about $445 in fuel surcharges to Eastern Europe (if you connect to Europe 2 price rises to 57,500 miles). Aeroplan is a 1:1 instant transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards.
  • 40,000 Asiana miles + about $445 in fuel surcharges each way. Asiana is a 1:1 slow transfer partner of SPG, with 5,000 bonus Asiana miles for every 20,000 SPG points transferred.

See the prices to Europe in Business Class with all major Star Alliance miles here.

Bottom Line

There are no excuses for not taking your whole family to Europe this summer in Austrian Airlines Business Class.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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United is running two award sales at the moment:

20% Off Domestic Awards

Here are (what look to be) the conditions for the unannounced domestic sale.

  • Register here
  • Economy Saver only
  • Roundtrip only (open jaw itineraries within the same region also count)
  • Must book by 11:59 p.m. CT on August 23, 2016
  • 14-day advance purchase is required
  • Good for travel August 23, 2016 – December 15, 2016
  • Blackout dates:
    • November 22 – 23 and November 26 – 28, 2016

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Example Itineraries

This means that awards that are normally 10,000 United miles each way (for flight distances equal to or less than 700 miles) are reduced to 8,000 United miles each way.

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Awards that are normally 12,500 miles each way are just 10,000 miles each way.

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You can also get the discount on just the outbound leg if the return leg is after the sale period ends. For example:

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The reverse situation also works, if you wanted to travel before the sale period starts on August 23, as long as the return leg is during the sale period.

Up to 25% Off Awards to Asia

View from the Wing also claims that starting tomorrow, you can get up to 25% off United awards to North Asia (instead of 70,000 roundtrip, cost is reduced to 52,224 roundtrip) and South Asia (instead of 80,000 roundtrip, cost is reduced to 62,224 roundtrip). Here are the conditions:

  • Register here
  • Economy Saver only
  • Roundtrip only
  • United-operated non-stop between the US and China or Hong Kong required for the transpacific segment
  • Must book by August 22, 2016
  • Good for travel August 29, 2016 – April 30, 2017
    • Blackout dates: December 9, 2016 through February 3, 2017
  • Advanced purchase necessary (how much is not defined)
  • Only good for North Asia and South Asia, so by United region definitions that excludes Japan which is in its own region

Check this link tomorrow (promo code is not active until then) to see more details.

Bottom Line

Got United miles to burn? Book economy roundtrip awards for travel through the rest of the year at 20% off within the United States, Alaska, and Canada. If you don’t mind economy for the long journey to North or South Asia, then you can get up to 25% off roundtrip awards good for travel through April of next year. Just make sure to book before the end of this month– cut off booking date for domestic sale is August 23, and for the sale to Asia it’s August 22.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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1

My friends and I have saved hundreds of dollars with the trick to avoid paying the $75-per-ticket fee for booking United awards within 21 days of departure.

The basic idea is that you book the trip you want online except with fake dates that are more than 21 days from now. After ticketing the award, you immediately call United and ask to change your award for free since you booked within 24 hours. You change dates to the real flights you want, which are within 21 days of departure. The agent forgets to manually add a $75 fee, saving you big cash!

My latest experience with the trick happened this weekend. My friend has been visiting Europe for several weeks. He arrived on a one way ticket without much of a plan. He is finally ready to go home this week from Madrid, and he wants to use United miles.

He found a fantastic one stop itinerary from Madrid to Los Angeles for 30,000 United miles and $52 in taxes, a really great deal since cash tickets were over $800 one way. However, if he just booked it without any tricks, he’d also have to pay a $75 fee.

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He was all ears when I told him that he could save the $75 with 10 extra minutes of work, and he followed my instructions perfectly.

First he booked himself a ticket from Madrid to Los Angeles for September 1, which is more than 21 days from now.

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That allowed him to book the award for just 30,000 miles and $52 with no fee. He had to spend five minutes finding this dummy booking with Saver availability, but I told him that he should really find the same routing and carriers, so that his dummy award and real award would have identical taxes.

If he had chosen a dummy award flying different airlines with different connections, his taxes would be different and that could cause the agent to pay closer attention to the change on the phone, which might make her to remember to charge you $75.Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 8.29.14 PM Immediately after booking, he called United at 800-UNITED-1 and said, “Hi, I just booked an award a few minutes ago and want to change the date of travel.” He fed the agent his confirmation number and the date, cabin, and flight number of the award he really wants to fly this week.

She found the space and made the change during a five minute call. She informed him that since taxes were the same, and he can make free changes within 24 hours of booking, she could make the change instantly without needing his credit card details again.

As soon as he hung up and refreshed his United account, his new itinerary showed up under his original confirmation number.

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He’s going home this week and not paying United’s $75 penalty for his spontaneity.

Bottom Line

The trick to save $75 per ticket on United award bookings within 21 days of departure is alive and well. Read the full post on the trick here.

It remains to be seen how this trick will be affected by United’s upcoming award fee changes.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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4

United is removing round-the-world awards, free one way awards, and Three One Ways awards on October 6, 2016. You will still be able to book simple stopover awards under the new name “Excursionist Perk.”

In addition to those negative changes, we get some positive and mixed changes. United’s multi-city award searching will get better, and award change and cancellation fees are being change in a way that’s bad for elites but good for the hoi polloi.

End of RTW, Free One Way, and Three One Ways Awards

End of RTW–Who Cares?

Round-the-world awards on United are too expensive for the five stopovers they allow, so losing them is no great loss. But if you want to book one, book it by October 5, 2016 and don’t make any changes later, which would kill the award and cause it to be re-priced as a series of one way awards according to the FAQ on united.com about the changes.

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End of Free One Way and Three One Ways Awards: Boo!

A Free One Way is a standard roundtrip award to which you add an unrelated one way trip to your home airport before the main award for zero extra miles or from your home airport after the main award for zero extra miles, like:

  • San Francisco to New York [free one way] months before
  • New York to London roundtrip

Or:

  • Houston to Buenos Aires roundtrip months before
  • Houston to Vancouver [free one way]

Do read the full post on United free one ways.

Free one ways use your free stopover on roundtrip United awards at your home airport. Starting October 6, 2016, that will be against United’s award rules, so free one ways on United awards will be dead.

A Three One Ways award is three one way awards booked together as one “roundtrip award” to save miles over booking them as three one way awards. I put “roundtrip award” in quotation marks because the award is not a roundtrip. Many of the best awards all go in one direction, like:

  • Los Angeles to Paris
  • Paris to Bangkok
  • Bangkok to Sydney

Or:

  • Seoul to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to Auckland
  • Auckland to the Cook Islands

Do read the full post on United Three One Ways Awards.

By using a free stopover, both of those trips are cheaper booked as a single award than as three awards. Starting October 6, 2016, these types of stopovers will be against United’s award rules, so Three One Ways Awards with United miles will be dead.

In the place of these high value awards, we’ll get the lower-value Excursionist Perk.

New Excursionist Perk

The new Excursionist Perk is that United will offer a free stopover on roundtrip awards–like now. But the stopover and destination must be in the same region, and that region cannot be the region where you started, and your award must start and end in the same region.

So the Excursionist perk preserves all of the boring-est, vanilla-est stopovers while excluding the fun ones I’d write about. These will still be allowed as awards with free stopovers after October 6, 2016:

  • New York to Paris to Moscow to New York
  • Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro to Chicago
  • Dallas to Auckland to Sydney to Dallas
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong to Bangkok, returning Phuket to San Francisco

All of those awards start and end in the same region (continental United States), have their stopover and destination in the same region (Europe, Southern South America, Australia & New Zealand, South Asia), and the start/end and stopover regions are different. Here’s United’s example of a valid Excursionist Perk:

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The Excursionist Perk rules won’t allow a free one way because your stopover can’t be in your origin region and a free one way requires a stopover at your home airport.

The Excursionist Perk rules also won’t allow a Three One Ways award because your award must start and end in the same region and Three One Ways awards don’t do that.

I can’t help but notice that United is still going to allow free stopovers after October 6, 2016, and specifically the “normal” kind of free stopovers that I’d estimate 99% of their customers use, but that it won’t allow the “trick” kind of free stopovers that MileValue has written about first, most extensively, and most clearly. If anyone killed United stopover rules, I’d say it’s me. Sorry about that guys!

Hopefully knowing about the tricks for months or years and then having them taken away has been better than if I had never posted about them and people had never learned about them.

You still have two months to book Free One Ways and Three One Ways! Any awards booked by October 5, 2016 can follow current rules and will be valid tickets that you can fly even after October 6. However, the awards will not allow later changes, which must follow the future rules.

United Search Will Get Better

Supposedly United’s multi-city search tool will get better on October 6, 2016. This is totally unrelated to other changes in my mind, so I assume it is just a palliative throw in.

You’ll be able to pick a connection city, which I guess could be useful in some cases.

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You’ll be able to see results for only the cabin of your choice, which could save a few clicks.Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.18.33 PM You’ll have filters to only see flights with Wi-Fi or other amenities you care about. Nice!Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.18.49 PM

Award Change/Cancellation Fee Changes

Here’s the current United chart for award changes and cancellations.

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Here’s the one taking effect October 6, 2016 and United’s FAQ.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.36.13 PMPlatinums lose their free changes and cancellations, and Gold and Silvers see their change fees go up. But General Members, the great majority of us without status because chasing status is a boondoggle, get good news.

Cancellations drop in price from $200 to $75-$125 depending on how far in advance you cancel. Changes which currently cost $75 or $100 will cost $75 or $125, not a big difference.

The changes to the award change and cancellation fees are mixed, and simplify the chart. It remains to be seen whether there will still be a fee of $75 (lowered for elites) for booking an award within 21 days of departure, and whether this trick will work to get out of that fee.

Bottom Line

On October 6, 2016, significant changes take effect in the United MileagePlus program and on united.com:

  • We lose the ability to book Free One Way and Three One Ways awards: significantly negative for advanced bookers, neutral for casual users
  • We maintain the ability to book “normal” free stopovers under the new name Excursionist Perk: neutral
  • We lose round-the-world awards: neutral
  • We get improvements on united.com that should make award searches a little more responsive: slightly positive
  • Change and cancellation fees are changing and being simplified: neutral for some, negative for some, positive for some

As you can see, for me, all the news boils down to losing Free One Way and Three One Ways awards. Book those until October 5, 2016 to enjoy flying them through Fall 2017.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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1

I just booked myself a $1,233 economy flight from Hawaii to Chicago for 17,500 Singapore miles and $5.

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You probably already have the miles I used, so you’re only a 10 minute phone call away from a trip to Hawaii that costs thousands of miles fewer than it “should.”

The basic idea is that you don’t want to use United, American Airlines, or Delta miles to fly to Hawaii. You want to use their planes, but you want to book those flights with miles issued by foreign airlines, which for whatever reason, offer far cheaper award prices to Hawaii.

My flight is a direct flight from Honolulu to Chicago on United. It is cheaper to book the exact same United flights to Hawaii with Singapore KrisFlyer miles than with United miles.

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 United miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 70,000 Singapore miles. Instead of paying 160,000 United miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 120,000 Singapore miles–even occasionally for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use. Singapore has access to all the same Saver award space United releases to people with United miles (except for some space set aside only for United elites and credit card holders.)

For similar examples and even cheaper awards, look at this post about booking Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean, not Delta, miles or this post about booking American Airlines flights to Hawaii with British Airways Avios.

What’s the catch? For bookings to Hawaii, there really isn’t one.

  • Singapore awards cost fewer miles than United awards
  • Singapore awards are way cheaper to change or cancel than United awards if your plans change
  • Singapore awards do not have a fee for booking within three weeks of departure like United awards do (though here is how to get out of that fee on United awards)
  • Singapore awards of United flights do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of around $11 roundtrip.
  • Singapore miles are easier to get than United miles, and even share a key transfer partner.

Getting Singapore Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. Citi ThankYou Points, 1:1
  3. American Express Membership Rewards, 1:1
  4. SPG Starpoints, 1:1 with a bonus. Every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus, so the ideal transfers are in exact increments of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Singapore miles.

Right now, the best cards to earn Singapore miles are:

  • The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, 5,000 more bonus points for adding an authorized user.

To compare this to earning United miles, United has its own co-branded personal and business cards plus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards but not any of the other three transferable points programs.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

I need to get from Hawaii to Chicago in October. The direct United flight is definitely my preferred option for convenience.

To book United flights with Singapore miles, you have to search for award space on united.com; then you call Singapore Airlines at 312-843-5333 to book the awards.

Here’s how to search united.com. Make sure that you do NOT sign into united.com when searching for award space that you plan to book with another type of miles because signing in can cause award space set aside for elites or credit card holders to appear, and that space is not bookable with other types of miles like Singapore miles.

I found Saver award space on my date in Economy, but none in First Class.

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I would prefer to pay 12,500 extra Singapore miles for First Class even though it’s just this recliner First Class I reviewed from Houston to Honolulu.

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I used my method to estimate the likelihood of First Class award space opening on the flight later. Things don’t look good, though, as award space isn’t available any time in the next two months on the flight in First Class.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 1.34.33 AM

Even if First Class award space was likely to open though, I’d probably book economy now because I wouldn’t want to miss out on booking my preferred date and because Singapore’s change and cancellation fees are minimal.

  1. United charges $200 to cancel an award booking and get your miles back. Singapore charges $30.
  2. United charges $75 to $100 to change an award booking. Singapore charges $20.

Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points to Singapore miles all take about 19-48 hours. SPG transfers take at least as long as the other three.

Normally once I find award space, I initiate the transfer, though in this case I already had enough Singapore miles to book the award.

Award space changes all the time, so in a worst case scenario, your award space could disappear before your miles post from a points transfer. If you can’t handle this outcome, transfer Ultimate Rewards to United miles instantly instead, and pay the extra miles.

I can handle the small chance that my award space will disappear. Maybe it will reappear later. If not, I can always use Singapore miles in the future for a different high value award.

How to Book Singapore Awards

Once your miles post, you have to call Singapore Airlines to book the award. I called 312-843-5333 and was ready with your Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account number and six digit PIN.

The agent readily found my award space and quoted me a price of 17,500 Singapore miles and 7.20 SGD ($5.37.) From dialing to hanging up, the call took me 10 minutes.

Within a few minutes, I got an email from Singapore Airlines with an attachment like this.

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 4.43.39 PM

Picking Seats

To pick my seats and confirm that my reservation was ticketed correctly, I headed to united.com and input the Singapore Airlines confirmation number on the home page where it says “My trips.” The Singapore Airlines confirmation number is the six letter/number code listed on your email attachment next to “Booking Reference.”

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United.com will recognize the Singapore Airlines confirmation number. You can select your seats and note your United confirmation number, which will be a different six letter/number code.

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You can also permanently add this reservation to your united.com account, which will be convenient for checking in without having to search for it again. To do that, click “Save to my Account” from the tiny links above “United Confirmation Number.”
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Bottom Line

Use Singapore miles instead of United miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on United flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, lower fees, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Singapore miles are so easy to get as a transfer partner of pretty much everyone.

  • The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, 5,000 more bonus points for adding an authorized user.

If I didn’t have miles, I would have paid $1,233 for the same flight or, more likely, slogged through a much worse itinerary for $370.
Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 4.47.01 PMOr if I had miles, but didn’t know the right ones to use, I might assume that United miles are best for booking United flights and paid 22,500 miles for my ticket instead of the 17,500 I did pay.

For more info on booking awards to Hawaii with Singapore miles, see Complete Guide to Booking Singapore Awards to Hawaii on United Planes

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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2

Although United offers no stopovers on one way awards, the airline allows one stopover on roundtrip awards in addition to your destination. This can lead to all sorts of outsized value:

Lately I’ve been most excited about the possibilities of the Three One Ways award. That’s probably because I’m a nomad and have booked my awards as an unending series of one way awards for the last few years. (If you’re not a nomad, you’ll probably get more value from Free One Ways and 2-3 cities for the price of one awards.)

I was toying around with a Three One Way award recently to get from the Chicago Seminars (where I’ll be presenting about miles twice in October) to South America and then Africa. I found a way to fly to three cities in Business Class for only 100,000 miles, 20,000 miles cheaper than if I booked the award as a series of one way awards.

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The Award Search

Start your Three One Way search on united.com by searching separately for each of the three one way awards that you plan to stick together. I started with Chicago to Buenos Aires.

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Award space in economy is much better than Business Class on the route, but I found some Business Class the week of Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.17.32 PM Then I searched Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo. Award space is wide open on Turkish Airlines in flat bed Business Class.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.19.03 PMTurkish flies this short tag flight at a terrible time as part of its route to Istanbul.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.18.50 PMFinally I searched Sao Paulo to Cape Town, which is wide open in Business Class and has some economy available.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.19.37 PM

South African Airways flies Sao Paulo to Johannesburg daily with connections throughout South Africa. (I flew and reviewed South African Business Class from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, a route which has since been cancelled.)

Amazingly United charges only 45,000 miles one way in Business Class for this longhaul.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.19.48 PM

Putting It All Together

Once I noted the dates of the award space, I went back to the home page of united.com and clicked “All search options” to do a multi-city award search for all three one ways.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.16.00 PM

I selected “Multi-city” and typed in my cities.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.23.41 PMMulti-city award results are always weird on united.com. Look how some Saver Business Class awards showed as 55,000 miles and some showed as 27,500 miles for the first leg.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.24.23 PM

Ignore that weirdness, and select the legs you want. All the Saver space will show up as the same price at the end. (For those interested, the 27.5k awards are considering Sao Paulo the destination and charging 27.5k + 27.5k + 45k for the award while the 55k awards are considering Buenos Aires the destination and charging 55k + 22.5k + 22.5k, both of which equal 100,000 miles.)

I selected the award space I had found on my original one way searches.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.24.53 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.06 PM And the award totaled 100,000 miles + $132 in taxes.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.25 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.33 PMThat price is what makes this a Three One Ways Award. As you can see from the original one way searches, if booked as one ways, these awards would have cost:

  • 55,000 miles in Business Class from Chicago to Buenos Aires
  • 20,000 miles in Business Class from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo
  • 45,000 miles in Business Class from Sao Paulo to Cape Town

That’s 120,000 miles separately. But booked together, it’s 100,000 miles. That’s the magic!

Getting United Miles

You need United miles to book Three One Ways awards. You could get the 100,000 miles for the award in this post from just two cards.

United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and the best cards to get Ultimate Rewards are the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

Stopovers lead to tricks. Delta and American no longer allow stopovers, but United still allows one on roundtrip awards.

United Three One Way awards are enabled by using this stopover and your destination to book three one way awards together and save thousands of miles over booking them separately.

It took me all of 15 minutes to come up with and search for the example in this post. Can you come up with another Three One Ways Award example that would save thousands of miles?

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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1

United is giving away one billion miles to Untited Mileage Plus members in a sweepstakes. 
Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.41.24 AM

The only condition is that you are a United Mileage Plus member.

How to Enter the Sweepstakes

Between August 1, 2016 and September 30, 2016, you can enter:

1. automatically via purchases on your United Mileage Plus Explorer Card.

2. by logging in here on the billion mile giveaway homepage (not active yet, will be on August 1, 2016) and follow the instructions (fill out a form, I assume). Each entry has to be manually keystroked.

You can win up to one million miles if you’re a grand prize winner, or 25,000 or 5,000 miles if for first or second prize.

Also, note:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.42.46 AM
(click to enlarge)

Grand prize winners are technically responsible for paying taxes on the winnings, which is why United is giving away $7,500 cash to them along with the million miles. Considering the numbers above, they are valuing the miles from the grand prize at 2 cents each (total retail value is $27,500, less the $7,500 cash portion of the prize is $20,000). However, as View from the Wing points out, United sells miles for 1.88 cents a piece relatively often, so you could at least make a case for that valuation and possibly pay less taxes on your winnings.

The lower tier prizes have retail values lower than the threshold that requires taxation.

Bottom Line

This is somewhat of an incentive to use your United card more often over the next couple of months, however I wouldn’t see at as a large one unless you have no other travel credit card that earns better category bonuses and you aren’t trying to meet a minimum spending requirement for a sign-up bonus.

If you were already thinking of signing up for United’s co-branded card, then you might as well now to boost your chances of winning that grand prize.

The current sign-up offer is 30,000 United miles for spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account. While I can not directly link to the offer for the United Mileage Plus Explorer card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I received the following email from a reader.

Dawn writes:

I wanted to ask a question that I didn’t see an answer for on your site or clearly on the interwebs.

I am hoping to do a trip this winter to India. The way my schedule is looking, I won’t have the 85,000 miles I need until about a week and a half before the trip…

My question is, how difficult is it going to be to get an economy seat that close in? Any info I’ve found always seems to be about business class.

Thanks again for your great site and have fun on your travels.

Keep reading for my answer to how difficult getting last minute economy space will be for Dawn and how to estimate this for your own trips.

Will You Find Last Minute Award Space?

Some airlines, but not all, release seats as award seats close to departure that they think would otherwise be empty. I see more of this in premium cabins–probably because a higher percentage go unsold–than in economy, but I see it in all cabins. “Close to departure” varies by airline, and I see some seats released as late as the day of a flight.

The best way to see what a route’s last second availability is likely to look like when you want it is to search the award space for tomorrow (and the following days).

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future space, but it is the best gauge of which airlines and routes tend to see last second openings.

Keep in mind when doing this what season tomorrow is (peak or off peak) and what season your travel will be (peak or off peak), so you can adjust your estimation of the likelihood of award space opening up in the future accordingly.

Dawn’s Trip

I’ll just look at one part of Dawn’s proposed trip: a return from India to the US, specifically Delhi to the New York City area.

Right now is off peak time in India because of the extreme temperatures and monsoons. Dawn’s trip during the US winter will be more a more popular time to travel to Delhi, when temperatures are more agreeable and the weather is drier. For that reason, I would expect to see more last second availability now then when she actually plans to travel, and we should temper our predictions accordingly.

Here’s Delhi to New York for tomorrow and the next few weeks. The good news is that four out of the next 12 days have at least one way to return from Delhi to New York for 42.5k miles in economy class.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.26.15 AM
Blue = premium award space. Yellow = economy award space. Green = both.

Analyze More Closely to Find Patterns

At this point, I would dig even deeper, clicking on each day to see what the actual itineraries are. I’m looking for patterns in what routes and airlines have economy award space to see what Dawn can expect in a few months when she looks to book.

There is one direct flight, flying United, that leaves today.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.32.53 AM

Here are some of the multi-segment itineraries scattered over the next 12 days that have economy award space:Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.34.19 AM

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.50.30 AM Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.50.50 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.34.41 AM
Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.37.15 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.37.49 AM

While there are lots of different routing options (flying United, SWISS, Lufthansa, Air China, and Ethiopian), the airline with the most flights available with award space overall is Lufthansa.

At this point, I would dig even deeper and look at a few segments for their availability.

Checking Individual Segments

The first I wanted to check was Delhi to Frankfurt since the Frankfurt to New York route has the most economy award space over the next 12 days.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.19.14 PM
Direct flights from Delhi to Frankfurt

This route has three days over the next 12 that have economy award space options.

That means that DEL-FRA-NYC could be a good last minute routing option.  Let’s check out Delhi to Munich, Lufthansa’s other hub.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.26.43 PM
Direct flights from Delhi to Munich

There are two days with economy space between Delhi and Munich over the next 12. So while DEL-MUC-NYC could be a possibility, it looks more likely that Dawn will find space flying DEL-FRA-NYC.

Neither of Lufthansa’s routings are the most direct way to get from Delhi to New York, but from the pattern we’ve seen there is more of a chance that she will find last minute economy award space for 42.5k United miles flying Lufthansa rather than the direct United flight from Delhi to Newark.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.38.57 PM

Repeat the Analysis

For Dawn’s other segments, she can perform a similar analysis to see the likelihood of finding last minute award space.

What routes and airlines have you found with consistent last minute economy award space? First class space?

Pro Tip if Booking a United Award Last Minute

United charges a $75 fee when you book an award within 21 days of departure.

If you want to book a United award within 21 days of departure, book the same flight for 1+ months in the future, then immediately call in to change it to within 21 days of departure. No close in ticketing fee will be charged.

Bottom Line

The best way to predict last minute award space patterns is to search your desired routes for tomorrow and the following days, adjusting your expectations based on what the tourism patterns are for right now compared to when you actually want to travel.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Feeling spontaneous? You should be. You collect miles and points, which means you have the ability to fly all over the world without having to spend tons of hard earned money. Especially when the awards have the mileage price tags that all the redemption ideas listed below do.

I hope these examples inspire you to book a trip today, or start collecting to be able to do so!

All of the awards below (except #3) originate in the United States. None of them have fuel surcharges, just the standard taxes that apply to all awards.

Without further ado (and in no particular order of preference as I would go to all of these places without hesitation)…

1. 20,000 Etihad Miles to Venice

26425475725_a14b7f1470_o
By Moyan Brenn, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

You most likely don’t have Etihad miles, but there’s a good chance you have either Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG points. You can transfer any of those points to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 rate (if you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you’ll get an extra 5,000 bonus Etihad miles to boot).

You can book an American Airlines flight to Venice for only 20,000 Etihad miles one way if the trip is between October 15 and May 15 (because you can still book old American Airlines award chart prices/off peak dates with Alaska or Etihad Miles).

Surprise someone special in October, there’s plenty of award space for two people the second half of the month from Philadelphia:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.06.08 PM

2. 15,000 Alaska Miles to Lima

As long as you fly American Airlines between January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14, it will only cost 15,000 Alaska miles one way.

Lima’s food scene is one of the hottest in the world right now–so seriously– if you’re into food, don’t miss it. You can eat at restaurants like Maido pictured below, ranked the 13th best restaurant in the entire world (or Central, also in Lima, ranked #4!).

IMG_1742

Grab your biggest foodie friend and fly down in May. There’s availability for two almost every day between Miami and Lima.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.41.32 PM

3. 20,000 United Miles to Seoul (from Australia)

Some readers recently commented on a post that there are more Australian-based MileValue fans like them than I think. So Aussies, this one’s for you.

For just 17,500 United miles, you can fly to Seoul one way. To get there direct, fly Asiana from Sydney.

Seoul, South Korea
By Emmanuel DYAN, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

There is award space every day for two people in January and February from Sydney to Seoul. You can ski by day outside the city and party in a major metropolis by night.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.22.02 PMEven if you don’t live in Australia, think of this as an option to add to an awesome round-the-world trip.

4. 12,500 American Airlines Miles to Cozumel

If you fly between April 27 – May 20 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights, it only costs 12,500 AA miles one way to get to Cozumel, Mexico.

24443961115_34173d4ffe_z
By Wilfred Hdez, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

Take your whole family to the Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea that’s known for diving. The calendar below shows award space for four people from Dallas:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.57.09 PM

5. 20,000 SPG points to Tokyo

The award I am actually referring to is flying American Airlines to Tokyo between October 1 to April 30, which costs 25,000 Etihad miles. But if you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Etihad Guest, you will get a 5,000 mile bonus (which you always get for transferring increments of 20,000 SPG points to any airline transfer partner).

There’s tons of space for two mid September through Mid October from Dallas…Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.02.23 PM…which is prime season for watching Tokyo explode with cherry blossoms.

25546580673_2a950800db_k
By Yoshikazu TAKADA, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

I Don’t Live in the Cities Mentioned Above

You can add a leg from your hometown flying American to get to a gateway city for zero extra miles as long as the leg has economy Mile SAAver award space. This does not apply to #3.

Easy Ways to Get those Miles and Points

ThankYou Points

Citi Prestige® Card with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Starpoints (SPG Points)

The Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express earns 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 on the cards within the first three months of opening the account.

Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska miles are easy to accrue since the Alaska credit cards are still churnable.

You only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to unlock the 30,000 Alaska mile bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current public Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

United Miles

You also only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the United MileagePlus Explorer card (by Chase) to unlock the 30,000 United mile sign-up bonus.

While I can not directly link to the United MileagePlus Explorer card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

American Airlines Miles

 Limited Time Offer: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® with 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership
Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

Bottom Line

There are lots of ways to stretch your miles and points, even redeeming on long distance international awards. Especially if you don’t mind economy. Read more suggestions for high value redemptions in this post about how to book a round-the-world trip in 2016 using underpriced awards.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

I just wrote about United’s mile sale (lasts through August 15, 2016) where you can get up to 100% bonus miles. Sounds sassy, but probably isn’t worth it–the bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

One of the selling points is that if you buy United miles during this sale, you will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes Points.com is holding to win up to 250,000 United miles.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.36.50 PM

But I read something in the fine print, at the bottom of the page where you purchase the miles, that caught my eye. You don’t have to actually buy any United miles to enter in the sweepstakes!

points.com sweepstakes for united miles
click to enlarge

Bottom Line

All you have to do is send a postcard to Points, 351 California Street, Suite 1210, San Francisco, CA 94108, with the following information on it:

  • First and last name
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • A reference to the “Points.com Inc. MileagePlus Miles Sweepstakes

And you could win either 250,000; 100,000; or 50,000 United miles. Who knows, it’s worth of shot! The sweepstakes ends the same day as the points sale, August 15, so send your postcard to California with time for it to arrive by then.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Through August 15, 2016 at 11:59 CT, United is offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles. The size of the bonus depends on the number of miles you buy, with the largest 100% bonus kicking in at 40,000 miles purchased.

United miles normally cost 3.5 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax, bringing the full price to 3.76 cents each. During the sale, the prices, including bonus, are:
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  • Get 1,000 to 4,000 miles: 3.76 cents per mile
  • Get 5,000 to 14,000 miles: 3.01 cents per mile
  • Get 15,000 to 29,000 miles: 2.51 cents per mile
  • Get 30,000 to 75,000 miles: 1.88 cents per mile

Buying 30,000 miles–the fewest you need to purchase to get the biggest bonus–costs $1,128.75, which is 1.88 cents each for the 60,000 United miles you get.

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Is This a Good Deal?

No, this is a bad deal for speculative purchases. Since United’s huge devaluation in 2014, I value United miles at around 1.6 cents. The bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

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There are a few United awards for which you’ll get more than 1.88 cents of value per mile, but even in those cases, you’d probably be better off buying LifeMiles for 1.47 each and redeeming them for the exact same award.

Math

To figure out if you have a high-value use, use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes on the award
  • C: Miles used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.0188, and you can book the dream award now, and LifeMiles somehow is offering a worse deal, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 75,000 United miles for 1.88 cents each until August 15. That’s way too high to buy speculatively.

United sales are processed by points.com, so you do not get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x on purchases from airlines.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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TAP Portugal currently flies from Lisbon to three different destinations in the United States: Miami, Newark, and most recently to Boston. July 1, 2016 they will launch one more route that will fly between Lisbon and New York (JFK).

What’s interesting about the two newest routes is that they are flying different planes than the old routes, with an enhanced Business Class product– fully lie-flat beds and direct aisle access for every passenger. The Miami and Newark routes fly a Business Class with angle lie-flat beds.

Why is this good news apart from the obvious? Because it means there is more Business Class award space to Europe from the United States.

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Photo by Joao Carlos Medau, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

One Mile at a Time pointed this out via USA Today, who published a story about TAP Portugal debuting lie-flat seats on the Boston route, which is flying an updated Airbus A330. The New York route that begins in July will also fly the updated A330 with the improved Business Class product. The airline has plans to retrofit the planes that fly their Miami and Newark to Lisbon routes as well, and receive more updated A330’s, so that by March of 2017 anyone flying TAP Portugal Business Class from the United States to Lisbon will have a lie-flat bed.

In the meantime, fly out of or through Boston or New York if you want all 360 degrees.

Best Miles to Redeem on TAP Portugal’s New Routes

TAP Portugal is a member of Star Alliance. In my Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Every Region, there is specific information about the best star alliance miles to use to Europe.

There you can see that the cheapest mileage prices to Europe in Business Class are using Asiana miles (40k one way). However, Asiana charges fuel surcharges on awards where the cash ticket has a fuel surcharge (with the exception of United flights), so redeeming Asiana miles on a TAP Portugal award would incur fuel surcharges.  So just how much would those fuel surcharges be, and are they worth it considering the best option without fuel surcharges is 70k United miles per direction?

Let’s see. I’ll look up what the fuel surcharges would be on ITA Matrix– here’s how to use ITA Matrix.

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The red outlined line item “TP YQ Surcharge” is the fuel surcharge, which is $856. Ouch. That is too much to pay out of pocket to save 30k United miles, which I value at 1.6 cents each.

Conclusion: the best miles to redeem on TAP Portugal Business Class to Lisbon are United miles. If you have Avianca Lifemiles, then you could pay even less mileage (63k one way) and still escape fuel surcharges, but I assume most of you don’t have Lifemiles. Nor is Lifemiles a transfer partner of any of the big transferrable point programs.

Using United miles to fly TAP Portugal Business Class to Lisbon you will pay 70,000 miles + about $50 in each direction.

Award Space

Search for TAP Portugal award space on united.com. All the calendars below show space for one person on direct flights. Green days have space in Business and economy, yellow just economy, and blue only Business.

Boston to Lisbon

This route has tons of Business Class award space that just gets more open as the year goes on.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.06.14 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.15.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.16.24 PM Lisbon to Boston

The return is almost as open, but with a little less Business Class space this summer. But as the year goes on the route opens up completely.

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Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.22.55 PMNew York to Lisbon

This route has even more Business Class seats than Boston to Lisbon… nearly every day, even over the summer.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.39.04 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.40.44 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.41.27 PMLisbon to New York

This return has very little Business Class award space in August, but every month from September and on has plenty.

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But I Don’t Live in Boston or New York…

You can add a leg on United from your hometown to connect to the Boston or New York flight– as long its Saver space– for zero extra miles. Just take note that on United awards you can’t have more than four segments per one way.

How to Get United Miles

Check to see if you’re targeted for the current 70k sign-up bonus for the United Mileage Plus Explorer card, the limited time offer ends tomorrow! From the sign-up bonus alone you’d have enough to fly in a flat bed to Lisbon on TAP Portugal’s new Business Class.

Also, Ultimate Rewards transfer to United MileagePlus at a rate of 1:1. The Ink Plus by Chase is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months– it is ranked number two in my top ten list of travel credit cards at the moment.

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

You now have one more option to fly to Europe in Business Class with a fully lie-flat bed: from Boston to Lisbon on TAP Portugal, and Business Class award space on the route is prevalent Fall 2016 through Spring 2017. You can easily find space this summer as well if you’re flexible.

Beginning in just a few days, you’ll have yet another option to fly to Europe in Business Class with a fully lie-flat bed: from New York (JFK) to Lisbon on TAP Portugal. You can easily find a Business Class seat on this route at pretty much any time.

Unless you have Avianca Lifemiles, the best way to book this award is with United miles: it will cost 70,000 miles + about $50 in taxes in each direction.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Update 6/29/2016: These increased sign-up bonuses end TOMORROW, June 30, 2016! You have two days left to take advantage! 

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card is currently offering a limited time sign-up bonus offer targeted to United MileagePlus account holders:

  • 70k bonus miles after spending $3,000 in your first three months as a cardmember + 5k miles for adding an authorized user + $50 statement credit after first purchase (annual $95 not waived first year). You’ll also earn at least 3k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus, so that’s at least 78k miles.

There is also a limited time offer on United’s website (if you’re signed in to your MileagePlus account):

  • 50k bonus miles after spending $3,000 in your first three months as a cardmember + 5k miles for adding an authorized user. Annual $95 fee not waived first year. You’ll also earn at least 3k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus, so that’s at least 58k miles.

This is the normal offer through Chase’s website:

  • 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account + 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user + 1k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus  = at least 36k miles

How to Check if You’re Targeted for 70k

  1. Log in to your United MileagePlus account on United.com’s homepage.
  2. Click this link.

Card Benefits

  • Either a 30k, 50k, or 70k mile sign-up bonus
  • 5k mile bonus for adding an authorized user**
  • 10k mile bonus when you spend $25,000 in net purchases each year
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • $50 statement credit after first purchase (only being seen as a benefit with the 70k targeted offer)
  • Free first checked bag for cardmember and one companion on United flights purchased with Explorer Card
  • Priority boarding
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • EMV chip provides more security and global acceptance
  • 2 United Club passes per year
  • Annual fee is $95 for the 70k targeted offer, as well as the 50k offer on United’s website– it is not waived the first year of card membership. For the public offer through Chase’s website, the annual fee is waived the first year and is $95 thereafter.
  • Cardholders get more United award space than non-cardholders

**Add an authorized user to the account during the application for an easy 5k mile bonus– this applies to all offers, targeted and public. The extra card will be sent to you, so you can always decide not to give it to the authorized user. The authorized user will not be precluded from opening his own account with a 50k mile bonus later. You will receive the 5k miles after one purchase is made on the authorized user’s card.

Data Points of Targeted Offers

When I sign in to my United MileagePlus account, I see a sign-up bonus offer of 50k miles after spending $3,000 within three months of opening the account (+5k after adding an authorized user):

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Multiple Doctor of Credit readers have reported receiving a 70k mile offer (like this one posted by reader Red) for spending $3,000 within three months of opening the account (+5k after adding an authorized user):

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Why Collect United Miles

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Star Alliance Members

As I explained in the Basics of United MileagePlus, United is one of my favorite mileage programs because:

  • United miles can book flights on all 27 Star Alliance members, the biggest alliance with the best award space worldwide.
  • United doesn’t collect fuel surcharges.
  • United has great prices on economy awards and reasonable prices on awards in its own fully flat bed BusinessFirst and Global First products that I’ve flown many times and found very comfortable each time.

However, do not collect United miles to use in luxurious First Class on its partners’ flights. Since United introduced a separate, higher-priced award chart for premium cabin awards on its partners, these flights are a terrible deal.

Chase Matches

Chase is the best about matching people who have applied for and been approved for inferior offers to the best available offer. You can always send a Secure Message through chase.com to ask to be matched to a better offer on a card you have. In my experience, Chase will only match you if you were approved within 90 days of your Secure Message. Your experiences may vary. Share them in the comments.

Doctor of Credit reported that people who applied with lower sign-up offers within the last 90 days and are now targeted for the 70k offer have had success matching by sending screenshots of the higher offer to Chase.

Eligibility

You can only get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months. This 24 month clock starts when you got the last bonus (which may be several months after you got the card). Read more about issuing bank rules for approvals and new bonuses here.

The Chase 5/24 rule (that your application will be denied if you’ve opened five credit cards from any institution within the last 24 months) applies to the official public offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and I think it might also apply to targeted offers– see comment below this post. Let us know in the comments if you have any experience with the 5/24 rule in regards to these targeted offers.

Bottom Line

Check to see if you’re targeted for one of these inflated sign-up bonus offers for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card by signing into your MileagePlus Account on United.com and then clicking this link. You could earn up to 78,000 United miles for spending $3,000 within three months of the account opening and adding an authorized user.

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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We have seen a ton of cheap fares to Europe lately, like the $414 roundtrips to Zurich and Frankfurt at the beginning of the month. Now Star Alliance airlines are also running fantastic sales on roundtrip flights to Europe to keep up with the fare war. You can find fares as low as $425 roundtrip right now between many American cities and Europe.

How to Find the Fares

Use ITA Matrix or Google Flights to do a broad search over this fall and winter– both have calendars functions that will show you the price of a roundtrip depending on the span of your trip. Google flights has a more user friendly interface but you can get a lot more specific with ITA Matrix searches.

There are lots of city pairs with availability between the months of September and December (and a some with dates in early 2017) from the United States to Europe in economy for under $500 roundtrip.

Examples

Atlanta to Istanbul flying Air Canada- $425
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Chicago to Amsterdam flying Lufthansa- $466Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.17.45 PM

San Francisco to Istanbul flying United – $425

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Mileage Earning

If you’re flying United, check out my post about where to credit butt in seat miles. And no matter what airline you end up flying, just remember that you can enter your frequent flyer number with any partner instead. All of these cheap fares to Europe are classified in a discounted economy fare bucket so do a little research about which airline is most advantageous to credit miles to considering the fare class.

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Your top choice should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover a large portion of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement: a $175 roundtrip to Istanbul or a $216 roundtrip to Amsterdam!

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like it annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 40,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in a trip to Europe, check out these fares now as they won’t last! You can fly roundtrip to Europe from the United States for as little as $425, which in most cases is a better deal than using your miles or points.

Hat tip Secret Flying

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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.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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