On Monday, I published a post arguing that a popular transferable currency is relying too much on a single domestic hotel transfer partner. In the spirited response in the comments, a few people mentioned valuing familiar domestic frequent flyer miles over foreign programs. It was implied by some that domestic programs like United MileagePlus are easy to use and that foreign programs involve difficult hoops to jump through. While there certainly are some foreign carriers that make redemptions particularly challenging (which I’d argue isn’t always a bad thing as the sweet spots that require more effort are often more available!), many of them are not significantly more complex than US-based carriers. This post features some of the easiest options for booking award tickets for yourself and others.
A word of caution: Always be aware of change / cancellation fees
Years ago, it was a near-universal truth that US-based carriers like United, Delta, and American Airlines had horrific award change and cancellation fees and foreign airline programs had the best change / cancellation policies.
These days, the opposite is true: a competitive advantage of booking through the US-based programs is (mostly) free cancellation of awards and redeposit of points. Most foreign program charge a fee to cancel your award and redeposit miles. Fees are often reasonable, but it’s worth checking what it will cost to cancel if you need to change plans.
See our Award ticket change and cancellation fees by transfer partner post for more.
How long do points take to transfer?
Points should transfer instantly to those programs included in this post, but for reference see How long does it take to transfer points to airline and hotel programs?.
Easiest foreign airline transfer partners: Transfer instantly, book online for anyone
Air Canada Aeroplan
- Points transfer instantly
- Easy online search and booking (no need to log in to search)
- Book for anyone whether or not account holder is traveling
- Ability to add a stopover for 5,000 miles when booking online
- Not all stopover itineraries can be booked online, so you might need to call for desired routing
- Award costs are higher than some (though with a stopover they get more interesting)
- Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One, Marriott
- More information: Anatomy of an Aeroplan award
Air Canada Aeroplan is among the easiest transfer partners with whom to book provided you’re not trying to put together a single one-way award with 6 segments to 5 different countries on 5 different airlines over 5 days (but then, you can’t do that sort of thing online with any other program, either).
You don’t even need to log in to search at AirCanada, just check the box that says “Book with Aeroplan” on the home page.
Results populate quickly. You can easily sort by business class price ascending / descending if you prefer.
Note that you will get some mixed cabin results if you don’t filter them out. When it says “Mixed cabin” in black letters, that means that more than 50% of the itinerary is in business class. If you mouse over the price, it will show what percentage of the itinerary is in business class.
If the words “Mixed cabin” are in red, less than 50% of the itinerary will be in your chosen cabin class.
Either way, if you click on the price to expand the flight details, you can easily see the cabin class for each segment.
Note that Aeroplan allows a stopover on a one-way award. You can presumably book that yourself online if your itinerary has 4 segments or fewer, but note that the tool won’t pick up all of your stopover options, so if you want to add a stopover (which costs 5,000 miles on a one-way award), your best bet may be to call. If you want to search for one online, you simply select “Multi-City / Stopover” and then click the link to “Add stopover for flight 1” and then you’ll enter the city and number of days immediately under the destination.
But, again, note that the tool is so-so at best. I tried the above search with a stopover in Frankfurt of 5 days. I knew from a search that there was an itinerary from Frankfurt to Tokyo (on Lufthansa) to Singapore (on ANA) available entirely in business class on the 16th that would work, and also an itinerary from Frankfurt to Muscat to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore entirely in business, but those options didn’t come up in the results (I only got mixed cabin/economy class results). If you want to book a stopover, your best bet is to do your own searching to know what’s available and then call to book that over the phone.
However, for simple itineraries, Aeroplan is great.
It’s also worth noting that Aeroplan can sometimes save you on United domestic itineraries, particularly if you don’t have elite status access to expanded availability with United. For instance, I looked up a flight from Cleveland to Miami for tomorrow. United is asking 14,800 miles for the least expensive awards.
But Aeroplan starts at 10K miles each way. Unfortunately, Aeroplan has a $39 CAD (about $30 USD at the time of writing) partner booking fee, but the mileage savings makes up for that.
You can easily book for anyone you want through your Aeroplan account.
Avios (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Qatar)
- Easy online booking
- Possible to move Avios between all four programs
- Keep miles alive with activity every 36 months
- Low cancellation fees on British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Qatar (24hrs in advance or more).
- Cancelling Iberia awards can be a major headache (and in the past Iberia partner bookings, such as flights on American Airlines, were totally nonrefundable
- Awards are generally priced cumulatively by segment, so connecting itineraries may not be a deal.
- More information: Avios sweet spots for award tickets
- Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott, Bilt
Four airlines share the “Avios” award program: British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar Airways. While all four programs share some similarities, there are key differences. For instance, British Airways offers easy cancellation of awards (something Iberia could stand to improve!), Iberia has a great sweet spot for off-peak business class to Europe and more reasonable surcharges, etc.
The good news is that you can easily combine your Avios and move them between these four programs (or, in the case of Qatar, you may even be able to book through Qatar using your British Airways Avios without moving them). For more info on combining Avios, see: How to transfer Avios between British Airways, Qatar, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.
To keep this simplest, I’m focusing on British Airways Avios in this section, but see our Complete guide to Avios: British Airways, Qatar, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.
British Airways Avios is a very simple program to use for booking flights. Simple log in to your British Airways Account here. Pop in our dates and airport codes:
Then click on the flight you want to see the price — in this case, 7,500 Avios and $5.60 from New York (JFK) to Charlotte (CLT).
From there it is the same as booking any airline ticket, but for fewer miles than what American would have charged for the same route.
You can use your Avios to book a ticket for anyone.
Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- Easy online booking
- Reasonable change / cancellation fee (55 Euro)
- Can book with a stopover on Air France / KLM but most do so over the phone
- Poor award calendar functionality
- Moderate surcharges
- More information: Air France / KLM Flying Blue Sweet Spots for Award Travel
- Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Brex Cash, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Marriott Bonvoy
At AirFrance.us, you must select the tab to “book with miles” and log in to your account to search for awards.
Then it’s as simple as entering cities and dates in a search box just like with any airline website and selecting your desired cabin class. For instance, I searched from “NYC” (for New York City) to London.
As you can see, the search tool populates results for Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and KLM flights on this route. Miles transfer instantly from every major transferable currency to Air France, making this a very easy program in which to accumulate a bunch of miles.
You can easily book online for anyone, but beware of a couple of “gotchas”.
First of all, if you credit paid flights to Air France, all of your miles will expire after a set period of time with no way to extend validity other than getting the Air France credit card (which prevents your miles from expiring). If you never credit a paid flight to Air France, you can simply transfer from a transfer partner program and extend the validity of your miles. See this post for more detail: Air France Flying Blue miles are easier to extend than I thought.
The other “gotcha” of sorts is outdated, but worth a mention: Years ago, Air France used to lock up accounts and require the account holder to show up in person at a ticket office when people opened a brand new Flying Blue account, immediately transferred in a bunch of miles, and booked an award ticket right away. I haven’t heard reports of this happening for years, but I always recommend opening an Air France Flying Blue frequent flyer account now, before you need it, just in case. I’ve never had a problem and I’ve used my Air France miles to book itineraries for my family without issue, but I do wonder if you may run into a problem if you create a brand new Flying Blue account, transfer points, and then book a ticket for someone else as your first course of action.
Change and cancellation fees on Air France / Flying Blue are reasonable: 50 Euro for a change or cancellation/redeposit.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club*
- Easy online booking
- Reasonable cancellation fees
- Calendar function is very useful if you know the trick
- Great lap infant fares (2,500 / 5,000 / 7,000 in economy / business / first)
- If you have to call, phone agents are very competent
- Devalued most Delta awards with no warning over the pandemic
- More information: Best uses for Virgin Points across Virgin Atlantic & Virgin Red (Sweet Spot Spotlight)
- Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Citi, Chase, Marriott
I put an asterisk with this one not because Virgin Atlantic is difficult but because only some awards can be booked online. One of the most popular uses of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles is to fly Delta One business class to Europe for 50,000 miles one-way. Since Virgin Atlantic partners with every major transferable currency, it is very easy to accumulate the miles to book an award with them. Furthermore, we frequently see point transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic, so you may score an even better deal than sticker price.
Thankfully, when Delta awards are available to partners (which unfortunately has been “not often” lately), they are easy to book online.
At the time of writing, I am finding no Delta availability, though award availability ebbs and flows. To search for an award, just go to VirginAtlantic.com, enter your airport codes, and then click “Advanced search” to expand the options to book with points. Search “Upper Class” to find business class.
Make sure that the “Show flexible dates” box is also checked and you’ll see a week of availability (if it finds any availability within the 3 days before or 3 days after your search date). You can then switch to a calendar view if you have more flexibility — see this post for more detail if interested: How to book Delta flights with Virgin miles.
Note that you’ll also find availability via Delta and Air France / KLM on Virgin Atlantic’s website.
You can easily book online for anyone from your Virgin Atlantic account.
Pretty easy: Transfer instantly, book online for anyone, but . . .
- Transfer instantly (usually).
- Book online
- Reasonable award chart
- Not all options show up online
- Must outsmart the Smart Search
- Miles expire after just 12 months of inactivity
- High change or cancellation fees
- More information: Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots for award flights
- Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott
Aviana LifeMiles are usually available instantly after making a transfer, but in some cases the transfer seems to not complete until sometime overnight. If your miles don’t seem to transfer right away, it can be worth trying to log in on the app and desktop to see if they are available for use in one place or the other.
You can book Avianca LifeMiles awards online for anyone, but the reason this program only makes the “pretty easy” list is because sometimes you have to outsmart the Smart Search.
What I mean by that is this: If you log in to your account at LifeMiles.com and you hit “travel”, you are presented with what appears to be an ordinary airline website search.
However, you can’t ignore that drop-down menu that says “Smart Search”. Sometimes, that works to find good options, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, remember that itinerary from Cleveland to Miami from the section about Aeroplan above? On Smart Search, the results Avianca returned were anything but smart . . .
So here’s where you need to outsmart the Smart Search. Go back to the beginning (by hitting “change” next to “one-way, economy” if you are on the page shown above).
Then, instead of “Smart Search”, I picked “Star Alliance” and suddenly I saw a bunch of the same availability that I had seen through Air Canada Aeroplan.
Crazier yet is that you want to check both “Star Alliance” and the airline you’re looking to fly in order to make sure that you’ve seen all of the possible options. For instance, here’s a different date with “United” selected from the drop-down. As you can see, LifeMiles shows one available itinerary:
But if you check that “Star Alliance” box next to the United box, there is suddenly another Star Alliance option….on United.
That’s kind of a pain and requires an extra step or two than what you’d need to do if booking an award through a program like United, Air Canada Aeroplan, etc — hence why LifeMiles is in the “pretty easy”. There is also the fact that some awards that should be available just inexplicably don’t show up via LifeMiles. I find that between the Star Alliance search and individual airline search, I find what I’m looking for more often than not.
The biggest pain point of Avianca LifeMiles is that miles expire after 12 months of inactivity and booking an award will not extend the life of remaining miles, so you’ll want to be sure to make a transfer at least once a year.
This post features some of the very easiest programs with which to book award tickets. There are many other programs that are easy enough for even someone with novice-level experience to navigate and we’ll cover some of those in a separate post. The bottom line is that many foreign airline programs aren’t much different than the US-based programs except for the fact that many feature better award pricing. Booking through foreign partners can save you a lot of miles in the right instance — so it can certainly be worth stepping outside the comfort zone and checking out these and other key transfer partners from the major transferable currencies.
[…] summary of The easy foreign airline frequent flyer programs you should be using. Mainly the following:Air Canada Aeroplan, Avios (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Qatar), Air […]
I just booked a FlyingBlue award (TATL from LAX) the other day. Leaving the departure and return dates blank got me the month-by-month calendar, which made it easier. After I selected the departure flight, I had to jot down the (alleged) cheapest return dates as displayed in the return calendar, because after checking the first return date, the calendar disappeared. It was a little frustrating and time-consuming at first, but I finally got something acceptable. I transferred Amex points to complete the purchase, and they showed up right away after refreshing the AF site. Fees and the miles cost were reasonable, when comparing to, say, an overpriced Delta award with lower fees. Lol!
By contrast, I couldn’t even get the Air Canada website to fully display in order to create an account, due to my browser/network privacy measures. Hmmm.
Great article. I’d add the warning about LifeMiles that if a carrier makes any change to the timing of your itinerary, you need to have LifeMiles reissue the ticket and it can be a pain to get someone to do that. On my first attempt, I was trying to do this from Zanzibar and gave up; by messaging via WhatsApp I got them to cancel the ticket and waive the cancellation fee (and rebooked instead on QSuites, which had opened up and were preferable).
Came back from Dubai last week on a LifeMiles ticket that had been reissued due to a schedule change (with new ticket numbers!), and I never was completely convinced that I wasn’t going to be making an arduous phone call at the check-in counter. Got a little worried when the agent asked, “Did you change your ticket?” but it turned out to be fine.
Great post, Nick! Great tip for Aeroplan on the stopover to Europe from Asia. Are there any other airlines that provide this option as well?
Nick – This was a great, informative article for the beginner learning about best foreign programs.
One follow-up question, since Air Canada & Avianca are both Star Alliance, they should (typically) have access to the same partner award availability/inventory. Which of the two do you think is better to book through for Star Alliance awards? I think both have similar award milage rates (correct me if I’m wrong) and Avianca has lower award taxes/fees and cancel/change fees. But you’d have to put up with their clunky IT and customer service if anything goes wrong. Thoughts?
I am pretty new to the points and miles game. (June 2022) I have already booked through Turkish, Aeroplan and Avios. I have had a lot of trouble with Avianca though. I couldn’t even make a frequent flyer account on their website in multiple tries. So I gave up. I also did a pre-mature transfer to Virgin Atlantic (rookie mistake?) to take advantage of a transfer bonus. I plan on going to Amsterdam in 2024 and Japan in Oct of this year so hopefully it works out for one of those options. Crossing my fingers.
Great post. A couple observations:
In theory everything is bookable online with BA, but in practice not necessarily. I still have had to call in a few times lately. Want to use their miles to fly AS to Dallas Love (DAL)? Try searching that online (not on their consumer website, but phone agents can access the inventory). I have also noticed not all Aer Lingus availability shows up.
I would really put Flying Blue’s complicated mileage expiration as a con. Yes, if you only transfer points from Amex, in practice the miles stay alive, despite what it says on their website. But I do not find that reassuring, especially since it is not necessarily in writing. Maybe I am just bitter because I credited a flight to them four years ago and now more or less have to hold their credit card until I use up my miles.
The usefulness of these programs is really tied to their partners. We all live in different cities and travel to different places. For me, living in the PNW, I just have never found Star Alliance to be very helpful. I think I have used my United miles once in the last decade. For that reason, I don’t get excited by Aeroplan or Life Miles. I have used BA some, but as others have mentioned, if airlines tighten up saver availability, these foreign programs lose their appeal.
a lot of people don’t want the headache of learning different programs. just like any other subject – learning things that are unfamiliar. people fear the unfamiliar. there is an emotional resistance.
Plus some are more “loyal” then others….what, am I anti-American for using Qatar Airways? Am I traitor for using British Airways?
Used all on the list….but never booked with Air France/Flying Blue… though I’ve pecked around.
…could add – Iberia IT issues..
I’ll second on the Iberia IT issues — just being able to log in has been a rollercoaster for me over the past year
Iberia expired 20,000 BA-transferred Avios from me in the height of the pandemic (November 2020) and refused to give them back on appeal! Very unfriendly!
So much great information in this post. I use Avios a lot for trips to the Caribbean on American Airlines and the sweet spot to Madrid via Iberia.
You didn’t mention Citi as a Transfer partner for Avios bookings. Citi transfers to Qatar.
Thanks! My mistake. I took the ‘transfer from’ out of something old that I see needs to be updated. Thank you!
In the Pros for Lifemiles I’d add frequent sweet spots, odd sales, and availability. You’ve published a lot of business class “specials” from them but just this past week I had to get one of my kids from LHR to FRA (economy fine) and Lifemiles had the cheapest deal (5k miles) and, more importantly, availability on every hourly LH flight on the day required. Other programs start at a low of 7.5k miles with larger co-pays and only offered one or two of the flights. The Lifemiles flights were marked “On Sale”, so it wasn’t just their regular award chart.
Under Cons for the same program I’d include disappearing inventory in which various partial booking scenarios seem to cause their inventory to zero out until the next refresh some hours later.
I use plenty of foreign carrier programs, but the aspect that you guys use, and I don’t, is using foreign programs to fly domestically. I don’t bother since you typically need saver space available, which domestic carriers don’t like to do, so your search will be futile. The savings is usually smaller compared with the savings you get using foreign programs for intl f/j anyway. Save 10k going through Turkish? How about save 200k going through VS flying ANA intl F! Besides, I have lots of Amex airline credits to use for domestic flights.
Every time I read an article like this, I go back to Aeroplan, British, or Avianca to check out possibilities for future domestic flights. After a few minutes of getting “no flights available on this day” messages, I give up.
Aeroplan now charges a “US Tax Recovery Fee” on all award tickets to/from US (26.50 CAD/ direction/ticket). Not brutal but was salty on this fee plus the award booking fee as this didn’t exist when I last utilized these points in 2019.
Datapoint was travel to Europe for 4x tickets
I know this might not be a popular opinion, but I would add AsiaMiles. I’m out of DFW so Qatar and JAL are pretty amazing. Their routing rules are insanely flexible. They also price like Avianca for mixed itineraries so you can really get outsized value if you play the game. They currently have a 15% bonus on their end and you can also frequently get bonuses from Amex. Surcharges can be an issue, but It was only around $200 for DFW to SYD through HND on JAL business class. AA and AS would make you book separate tickets for this routing. Their online booking is a little clunky since you have to book as a multi-city award, but it’s not the worst. It’s often a better deal than Avios for longer trips.
I originally had AsiaMiles in the list actually. The oddity is that the way they display like the “expected” number of miles versus actual — but you’re right that they could otherwise be included and arguably should be.
Very nice post and a smart decision to limit it to some of the most useful programs. The big miss here is ANA which is easily my most important transfer partner, though the non instant transfers and roundtrip requirements make them a little more challenging.
One thing I’d add about the domestic vs foreign carrier program discussion: besides the advantages of free cancellations, the domestic programs also have the advantage of superior customer service in my experience. The biggest win for them here is in wait times. The domestic carriers usually don’t have awful wait times and will often give you the option of putting in your number and calling you back (why don’t all companies have this???). Programs like Virgin and Aeroplan are known for their long wait times. Once you have someone on the phone, the domestic programs shine again. My experience is that the agents are generally knowledgeable and helpful. This is true of many foreign programs too (like the aforementioned Virgin and Aeroplan), but is not true of programs like LifeMiles and Turkish. Turkish is so bad that I have no intention of ever transferring miles there again. It’s just not worth it for me.
Again, thanks for the post and teaching me something new (FB allows stopovers).
I left out ANA for exactly the reasons you suspect. That will be a separate post about programs that are moderately painful but worth your time.
I have had (and always heard from others) the polar opposite customer service experience from you — I actually chuckled out loud while reading your comment because our experiences couldn’t be much more different in that regard and that just goes to show the wisdom of the old adage YMMV. I find customer service to be far, far superior with most foreign airline programs and the average Virgin Atlantic customer service agent to be far far far far far more knowledgeable about their program than anyone I’ve ever spoken to at American or United. Ever. Further, pre-pandemic, I almost always found Virgin to pick up on a single ring versus the hours it usually takes me to reach anyone at AA or UA. You are absolutely correct that LifeMiles, Turkish, and I’ll add Iberia are notably bad for customer service. But they stand out for that. I’ll take a call with Singapore, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, or Emirates all day versus calling AA or UA.
I’m not saying the domestic carriers provide better service once you get them on the phone than Virgin or Aeroplan or BA. But my experience post pandemic is that it’s reasonably comparable ie pretty darn good. When I’ve had issues with flight times changed or canceled, United and AA have been willing to give me pretty much whatever flight I wanted. I remember post pandemic the first time I called UA’s call center, the person who picked up was almost certainly in India. I had an “oh no” moment but the person was knowledgeable, helpful, and empowered. Future calls to UA ended similarly and have caused me to confront my bias against offshored CSRs. I’ve also always gotten good customer service from Alaska CSRs. And I actually have had a bad experience with a Virgin CSR but given my other good experiences I don’t hold it against them.
Some of this may be YMMV but I wonder if some of it could be an improvement over time from the domestic carrier CSRs that you’re not noticing. You have mentioned a couple times pre-pandemic policies and behaviors: the domestic airlines didn’t allow free cancellations pre-pandemic, the Virgin wait-times weren’t bad pre-pandemic, the United hold times used to be hours. Well, we are post-pandemic now. Who cares who was better in 2019?
One last thought experiment. If you needed to make a call to a CSR, and could spin one wheel where you’d get United, AS, or Alaska or another wheel and you’d get one of the airlines in this post, are you telling me you’d spin the international wheel?
I have found Avianca customer service to be greatly improved since their website refresh a few years ago.
Don’t forget ANA, an amex transfer partner,
North America to Europe in Business class for 88000 round trip. fees usually ~$200 each way.
Easy to book online once you create an account.
No change fees
Low cancellation fee of 3000miles
Transfers usually take 48hours
Miles expire in 36months with no way of extending.
Certain airlines may pass on massive fuel surcharges (lufthansa)
I dig this program and have two r/t Europe sets of points I need to use up. But my searches generally produce LH with up to $1K in fees — you have a trick for the $200 awards?
As I mentioned to someone above, I left them out because they aren’t easy. You have to book round trip, transfers aren’t instant, and their website is not at all intuitive compared to all of the other programs in this post. ANA is awesome, but they didn’t belong in this post.
I should also add that ANA only allows you to book for a narrow set of family members. No, they don’t necessarily check that like Korean does/did, but it felt like exactly the kind of hoop that turns off people looking for an easy experience.
I don’t understand why you would burn up 88,000 miles to go TATL when you could do it for 63,000 via Avianca with no fuel surcharge fees.
I think you missed two key words: “round trip”. You must book round trip, but it’s the equivalent of 44K each way (88K round trip vs 126K round trip with Avianca).
The issue is surcharges. There are a number of airlines with no or low surcharges, so if you book one of those you’re obviously far better off with ANA, but the airlines with high surcharges can be a better deal with LifeMiles depending on the route and surcharges.
I’ve been reading trying to get up to speed on the redemption side of points/miles, as a beginner, starting with domestic redemptions that are constrained in dates because of my job. PHX-SFO this week- I see BA available at fewer miles than AA, and AC available at fewer miles than UA. This, after basically nothing useful with partner miles since I started learning. Maybe the “summer of lost award availability” is starting to loosen its grip.
The complete list of transferrable airlines is daunting, so I really appreciate this 90% solution of 4-5 of the best/easiest.
I also love Love LOVE Greg’s 10 min video on how to navigate the quirky and fickle Virgin Atlantic site. Without this knowledge, the VA site is almost useless; With this knowledge, the VA site is one of the best free sites for finding awards availability.
Please consider creating brief how-to videos for the other 3-4 programs you have listed and posting prominently on your resources page.
Does just transferring a couple miles over to LifeMiles extend the life of the total balance?
Yes. But most (all?) transferable points currencies require a minimum transfer (usually 1,000 points).
Other reported this working, but I haven’t tried it.
For people who are using miles/points for domestic travels, these miles/points in foreign airlines’ frequent flyer programs are much less useful these days, because US domestic carriers offer so few saver awards that can be redeemed using those miles/points. Are they the best use of miles/points? Of course not, but that’s what most people do with their accumulated miles/points.
To your point, AA is eliminating Saver awards in favor of dynamic pricing. This raises a big question as to how any partner might redeem any award on AA. I’ve communicated the issue to a special group within AA and they are now aware of the issue. If something results, we’ll know soon enough.
This is a great post. It’s why Frequentmiler is the one travel blog I check every day. Thanks for the info, Nick!
Very useful post, even just for purposes of refreshing ones knowledge on these topics.
FYI: Iberia award cancellation fee is $25 right now, lower than BA (~$55) or AirLingus – something worth noticing.
On the topic of Chase UR usefulness: they are become less useful in the last 3-5 years (compared to Amex MR i.e.) mainly caused by devaluations at United, Avios and IHG programs in the same period. Many people resolve to simply cashing out URs at 1.5/1.25 cpp – hence treating Chase points as cash-back currency, which is fine (and most notably that Chase wants it that way.) Hyatt is the lonely program that had great used in the past, but also devalued lately and only partially accounts for keeping URs aficionados exited about Chase points.
On the bigger scale, the miles/points game is in decline as CC players and Loyalty CEOs are making devaluations more and more often, along with decreasing the usefulness of any given program to majority of the players: more rules, more restrictions, higher award charts or no award charts at all with astronomical values for tickets/nights – all points in the same direction. One day the bubble will burst, an shareholders will loose a lot of gravy (looking at AAdvantage HUGE mortgages as an example). Then it will go downstream, probably in exception of gulf carriers, as they government/oil subsidized anyway. So get ready…
Happy and safe travels!
I’ve heard others express your sentiments about Chase.
Prior to the recent Pay Yourself Back devaluation, Chase had a unique value proposition. For me, it was 1.5 cpp for restaurants. With PYB off the table (no pun intended), what does Chase have that other point ecosystems don’t? Other than SWA (ha), Chase has no unique transfer partners. (Note: Bilt’s transfer partners.) So, why deny oneself opportunities in other point ecosystems just to stay within 5/24? The opportunity cost to me is too great.
There are those who work the Ink card merry-go-round and good for them. For me, I’ll take a different path.
Interesting thoughts. With the Inks, I can acquire 96K UR (with MSR) for $0. With Amex, I can acquire 195K MR (with a standard Biz Plat NLL offer & MSR) for $695. I can offset some of that annual fee with Dell & airline credits, but it is a lot of hassle — I value the credits at 50% at most. So my effective AF is about $300. I feel like these comparisons of UR & MR, including Nick’s, ignore how much cheaper it is to acquire UR en masse.
The one sore subject is the lack of availability of partner award inventory. Sometimes a “target” airline is simply not opening up that specific flight or route to partners at all. For example, you will rarely find AA Flagship transcon flights on BA.
At other times, the lack of availability is due to IT. The “target” airline has opened a specific flight or route to partners but it just isn’t showing up. But, while the lack of award visibility might be affecting your “points bucket” airline, it might not affect a different partner of the “target” airline.
For example, you want to book a flight on OneWorld airline X with BA points but don’t see availability. Qantas is known to have particularly good visibility. Look on Qantas to see whether airline X has partner award space even though you will not use Qantas for the booking. If award space appears on Qantas, copy down all of the flight specifics and then call BA to book the itinerary over the phone. Walk the reservation agent through the details. Tell the reservation agent that you were unable to book it online and the telephone reservation fee will likely be waived.
Hope this helps.
Happy New Year Nick! Thank you for the walkthrough, great as usual. I just came back from a Caribbean trip with Southwest which is straightforward with their existing routes. Now I am looking at point redemption options Nov-Dec esp. around Christmas time from Washington DC to Los Cabos. Apparently both UA and AA have flights on their own sites. But I can not pull out any results from BA, Virgin etc. Ironically ANA has some close window availability though none for Christmas time. Do you think it’s simply due to no partner ticket at this time?
Award availability for travel around Christmas is always very limited. Everybody wants to travel and those with a billion miles will use them no matter the cost at that time of year. It’s a tough time for awards. You just have to keep hunting and get lucky.
Got it. Appreciate your response Nick!
Isn’t it a little early to look for Christmas? Most programs don’t release until 331 days.