Use Your Points and Miles

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Published: December 31st 2023

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Most of you know that I use my airline miles and hotel points for travel. Most of my airline miles are used for upgrades. Hotel points are used when seasonal rates are high, or the exchange rate is favorable versus the cost of a hotel room. Plus, the reservation is always refundable. TravelBankrate insight42 percent of American consumers surveyed have redeemed points or miles to lower the cost of their trip and 32 percent expect to pay for all of their trip with points or miles (arrivia).56 percent of credit card holders belong to a loyalty program with travel benefits (arrivia).23 percent of consumers surveyed haven’t redeemed their credit card rewards in the past year (CreditCards.com).55 percent of consumers surveyed who did use their rewards have redeemed rewards for cash back and gift cards, while 13

Best Airlines?Best Airlines?Best Airlines?

percent have redeemed their rewards for a free flight and 16 percent for a free hotel stay (CreditCards.com).Millennials are more likely to have a credit card that earns travel rewards than other generations (arrivia).Roughly one-third of consumers surveyed believe travel rewards programs don’t provide enough value (arrivia).

More from Bankrate:

International business- and first-class tickets typically offer the most high-value return for your points and miles. A round-trip business-class ticket to Europe typically costs between 88,000 and 140,000 points or miles, while a cash fare will typically set you back about $5,000. An economy-class ticket typically costs 60,000 miles round-trip, with cash fares often going as low as $400 during the off-peak season. Overall, you’re more likely to get a better deal on a premium cabin redemption than on a coach redemption.

International business- and first-class travel doesn’t just provide the highest redemption value for your points and miles — it’s also something most people can’t afford without points and miles. That’s really the best use of points and miles for travel — not just keeping your expenses low, but accessing travel opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.
My thoughts: I could not agree more. Biz or First to Asia, Europe, or Africa is the best way to use miles. But it does require some planning.
Hotel points from Bankrate:

Luxury hotels can offer a tremendous return on your points. The Maldives, for example, is a popular destination for maximizing hotel points. Hotels in the Maldives can go well over $1,000 per night, making them a great use of hotel points and free night awards.

But one aspect that often gets overlooked is that these “free” luxury hotel stays often come with many additional expenses. Food is expensive in these remote destinations, and boat and seaplane transfers can cost over $500 per person. Unless you were planning to pay out of pocket for the room anyway, you may not save much money on this redemption. (And the dreaded “resort fee” is additional).

A high-value alternative would be booking all-inclusive hotels closer to home. Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott all have all-inclusive resorts that require a reasonable amount of points (Hyatt especially).

Me: Parking for your rental car is often about $50 a day, valet only, and a real P.I.T. A. I tend to use Marriott more often, and it works out for my domestic trips. We are using Marriott points in Nagoya, Japan since April is high season there. Another good place to use points is at airport hotels, which can save transportation costs on early morning flights.

Bankrate on avoiding peak season:

During peak travel seasons — such as during the summer, spring break and the holidays — everything from airfare to hotel rates skyrocket. This can be a great time to utilize points and miles to keep your costs down.

It’s worth noting that an increasing number of airline and hotel loyalty programs — many of which are highlighted in Bankrate’s travel toolkit — are moving toward dynamic pricing. That means redemption rates will fluctuate based on the cost of airfare and room rates. That said, you can still put your points and miles to good use with dynamic pricing in place.

While expensive peak travel bookings can increase the value of your rewards, off-peak awards can save you points and miles.

Case in point: American Airlines is one of the few major airlines that still publishes an award chart, which includes off-peak travel dates for its own awards and partner awards. You may be able to save around 20 percent on an award ticket by traveling during the off-season. For example, a one-way economy class fare to Europe typically costs 30,000 miles. The same award costs about 22,500 miles if you’re willing to travel during off-peak seasons.

Sweet-spot awards are one of the best-kept secrets of airline and hotel loyalty programs. A “sweet spot” refers to an award that’s offered at a significantly lower price compared to most other programs. Familiarizing yourself with sweet-spot redemptions is a great way to get more travel out of a limited points or miles balance.

For example, say United MileagePlus requires around 124,000 miles for a round-trip business class ticket to Europe. Meanwhile, fellow Star Alliance carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) might require just 88,000 miles for the same flight. ANA typically gives you a free stopover on these awards itineraries too, allowing you to book multiple trips for the cost of one.
My advice: Use the miles now. Who knows what the whacky Congress will do? And the airlines continue to devalue the miles every year.


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