The Best List: How to Use My Frequent Flier Points
Wanderlust With Us - Issue XXXVI
April 22, 2021
The best thing about pent up demand is you might be sitting on a pile of frequent flier or credit card points. If you want to exercise the best bang for your points, you want to use them with the airline directly or transfer them from your credit card directly to the airline. Not all points programs are created equal, so we'd like to share the easiest places to redeem them. In some cases airlines offer points seats readily, but at a higher point value, where other airlines covet those points seats, but when they do come available it's at a lower rate. Don't feel like all the hassle, let's talk about how to put your points to work for you.
What's great about Delta is points seat are pretty much available any time to any destination. The downside is their seats are about double the amount of points as other airlines. On high demand, nonstop routes where there is little competition, you may not see points seats at all such as the Atlanta-Johannesburg flight. Delta makes it easy to book, easy to cancel, and they do not carry the hefty taxes you will pay with foreign carriers' points. We go into more detail on the taxes below, but with Delta you might pay $12.00 in taxes per ticket vs $1000.00 with someone like British Airways. You also have access to other Sky Team carriers such as KLM and Air France. We do not recommend redeeming points for upgrades on Delta. AX
What was once an exclusively domestic carrier, Jet Blue now has options to whisk you away to the Caribbean, Central America, and coming soon JFK to London. What we love about Jet Blue is the Mint business class that just got even better for adding a lay-flat seat with a 1/1 configuration on most transcontinental routes. Availability for Mint points seats is usually pretty easy to secure online and while point values vary we think around 100,000 points round trip for a transcontinental flight is great compared to 184K points on American, IF you can get it or about the same level on Delta with an older aircraft. Check out their route map here and it may surprise you. AX/CS
First and foremost, it's a great travel experience. Even when paying for a ticket, we think you will enjoy the first or business class cabins on Emirates as they pride themselves on lavishing you will service and space. The best routes to consider are trips to Africa, the Maldives, or Middle East such as Egypt or Oman, since most flights transit Dubai. However, don't forget about the JFK/Milan route which is quite lovely for a Lake Como getaway! Skiing in Switzerland anyone? Business class seats are readily available on most routes at very reasonable point rates. As mentioned above, the downside, is that the taxes are hefty and you should budget $1200-$2000 for two roundtrip business class tickets to Africa for the taxes. AX/CS
Flying first class on to Hawaii from the mainland can cost about the same as a roundtrip ticket to Europe in business, so this is a great place to use points. Some Hawaiian Airlines routes have flat bed seats which comes in handy for the typical red-eye return from Hawaii. Plus, they have introduced some convenient routes such as the Phoenix to Maui nonstop or the Long Beach to Maui for our Orange County clients. The new routes have the old aircraft, but it's still worth considering for the convenience. AX
American is the king of economy seat redemption. High availability, low points makes it a nice solution on your short haul, no frills trips. When it comes to first and business class the points seats are readily available, but, like Delta, pricy. We are talking about 200k per person for round trip Europe flights, compared to the identical flights on British Airways which might be 100-125k per person. The problem being - and the reason we purposely left British Airways Avios off the list, is getting the right schedule with points is a bit like pulling the handle at a slot machine and hitting a jackpot. It takes a lot of queries. AA is super easy to search and book and includes British Airways flights that touch the United States.
KrisFlyer's online point availability and access is very user friendly and pre-COVID pretty easy to find availability and book. Let's see what happens as Asia flights begin to emerge as Singapore is already back on route from some US cities. Long beheld as the best onboard business class cabins, using your points can shave $4000-$6000 off per person your travel expense, and you fly in style with terrific food, seats, and service. AX/CS
Better known as Asia Miles, you will enjoy moderate access to points flights, but Cathay Pacific will allow you to waitlist and they will contact you when it clears! It's also one of the few airlines that works well with front of the plane upgrades. Buy Premium Economy, upgrade to Business or buy Business and Upgrade to First - however, do know you will be responsible for the taxes on the class of service you upgrade to. Like many of the foreign carriers you are taxed the same amount as though you purchased the tickets. Most flights will transit Hong Kong. We think the dim sum is worth the points, hands down. AX
Air Canada - Aeroplan
While Air Canada is a great airline when connecting via Toronto or Vancouver, the big news about their points program is it gives you access to other Star Alliance airlines who do not except credit card transfer such as United, Lufthansa, Turkish Air, to name a few. So, it opens up gateways the world over. AX
The problem being - and the reason we purposely left British Airways Avios off the list, is getting the right schedule with points is a bit like pulling the handle at a slot machine and hitting a jackpot. - Anonymous (hey, we do a lot of business with British Airways!)
If you've been reading Wanderlust with Us this year, you probably already know we've been having a love affair Qatar Airways since they debuted the QSuite - "first in business" as they like to call it. Like Emirates, its a great way to access Africa via Doha, and some clients think the quality of the business class is so great they're willing to take the US to Doha to Auckland flight on points. It's a bit out of the way but New Zealand is one of the toughest destinations to score points seats on. It speaks volumes about just how good a value the superior QSuites are on Qatar when you can use points. Don't worry if you can't transfer directly from the big travel credit cards, you can redeem via Asia Miles (see above for Cathay Pacific).
The often overlooked, pretty fantastic carrier tends to be a great place to find business class points seats. It's also one of the largest airlines in the world and more seats equals more points availability. And since consumers don't think of Turkish Airlines first for Europe or Africa connections, it just makes it that much easier to find seats. While they don't play ball with any major credit card you can access seats online with Aeroplan (see Air Canada, above). With gateways in major US cities and connections in just about everywhere in Europe via Istanbul, this is where we go when the usual suspects don't have seats.
In Case You Missed It!
Check out reviews of our favorite first and business class seats.
Key and Disclosures
AX = direct transfer from AMEX
CS = direct transfer from Chase Sapphire
Please note all availability and partnerships are subject to change.