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What Am I Supposed to Do With All My Credit Card Points

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is, “What should I do with my credit card points?”

There are various was you can spend the points, but we at Camelback Odyssey Travel like to focus on areas where you can extract the most value. For clarity, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Pay with Points: This is an option most credit cards offer. When you see advertisements that talk about “no blackout dates” and “any ticket, any time” this is a Pay with Points option, not a points seat. In actuality, you are buying a seat and the credit card is applying your points as payment to your bill. Sounds like a great plan, except this is a very inefficient use of points.

Points Transfer: This is where you move your points from the credit card to the airline of your choice’s frequent flier programs. The airline must be a participating partner of the airline credit card?. The upside is that it is a fraction of the points needed compared to the Pay with Points option. This could mean the difference of running one ticket for the same amount of points that it would cost in points for a family of four. The downside is that you are then subject to the points seats being available with the airline.

Here’s a real life example for an African safari with Emirates, who is one of our favorite AMEX points transfer partners.

The approximate cost of a business class ticket, Dallas/Dubai/Nairobi, round trip: $13,383.

If you used a pay with points option, it would cost you 1,338,300 points for one ticket.

If you transfer your points to Emirates from a credit card, this same ticket would cost you 332,500, plus the applicable taxes on the ticket. This includes four business class segments Dallas to Dubai, Dubai to Nairobi, Nairobi to Dubai, Dubai to Dallas.

Speaking of AMEX, we most frequently transfer points to Delta, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Air, Aeroplan (which allows ticketing on United and Lufthansa), in addition to Emirates already mentioned. The airlines where we have the most success getting seats at lower points levels are Emirates and Cathay Pacific.

Here’s the key to using your credit card points efficiently:

  • Have flexible travel dates where you can consider departure dates plus or minus a day or two on each side

  • If you live outside of a main airline hub, consider points seats only from the hub city, then buy domestic tickets from your home city

  • Certain airlines allow you to put seats on hold while your points transfer from the credit card to the airline, but you must have a frequent flier account set up with that airline for the transfer

  • It is far easier to obtain points seats, rather than to use points for upgrades

  • If you don’t mind using a higher point value, Delta tends to be highly available

  • During peak travel times such as Europe in the summer or travel over the winter holidays, expect points seats to be extremely limited

  • The points value on hotels is very low, i.e. on $1000, per night hotel, it could be 100,000 points, or more

Love the idea of using your points but don’t want the headache? We have great partners we can refer you to that can utilize points transfer options. Contact us at Camelback Odyssey Travel to discuss your options today!

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