Yes, I'm back in the air and on the road this week, though now for honest-to-god planned holiday travel. While I'm away, I thought I'd put up the following 'retro-deal' post to do with Avios and Amex points because...well, I wrote it and I keep meaning to. Happy Holidays all, real posts to return soon to finish out the Qualifying Mile year.
Miles deal to PHX, or...”What to do with MR Points”:
I recently found myself needing to get to Phoenix from LAX for a weekend. I wanted to fly American Eagle to stay within my airline and terminal comfort zone but I was feeling cheap and this once willing to forgo the Elite Qualifying Miles (“EQM”) for the flights since they would be minimal. However, it seemed ridiculous to use the amount of American Airlines (“AA”) miles it would take to travel less than 500 miles each way. I’d much rather save these for upgrades or long and costly flights. So, it was time to get creative.
Luckily, I have some AmEx Membership Rewards points sitting around from my Platinum Card (review to follow) and decided to put them to work. While the MR points are nice, I signed up for the card mainly for the other travel perks like lounge access, airline fee reimbursement, the Fine Hotels and Resorts program...and the list goes on. Much has been said about the best uses of MR points and while the consensus is they are best used on international premium fares, I didn’t have any of these on the near horizon. The deal I found I consider a close second best. Much has also been made of BA’s change to distance-based rewards for use of their Avios program but in this case that works to the traveler’s advantage. In addition, until September 27th, 2012, you could transfer MR points to Avios at a 40% bonus. These deals seem to come up from time to time, with 50% deals being reported on occasion.
British Airways Avios can be used to fly domestically since BA codeshares with AA on routes within the US. The further twist, however, is that in order for rewards seats to be available using Avios they have to be available as “Milesaver” tickets from AA. So don’t get big ideas about using Avios to book that already oversold flight for Thanksgiving this year.
Here’s how I managed to get my ticket to PHX and back on American Eagle for a few MR points and $10:
1) Set up a BA Executive Club account. This only took a few minutes and gave me someplace to transfer the PR points to.
2) Transfer MR points from AmEx at a 40% bonus. This requires linking your BA account via the AmEx website.
3) Go to AA.com, put in the dates I wanted and made sure Milesaver tickets were available for the dates.
4) Head over to britishairways.com to book the flight. There are a few wrinkles to know here since BA’s website isn’t super user-friendly. First, make sure you’ve signed in and are ‘booking using Avios’. Then plug in your dates and hit search. This will bring up an error screen saying BA doesn’t fly that route...well obviously, when’s the last time you saw a BA jet hop from LAX to PHX? To fix this, select “include partners” option to get the AA flights included. The rest of the process is fairly straightforward- selecting flights, paying the fee just as you would when booking with AA.
Now for the numbers on MR ponts vs AA miles:
1) According to the Executive Club site, their shortest flights require 9,000 Avios each way (flights less than 650 miles). Note that you can also use their “Avios Calculator” to price your trip in Avios. With the current 40% bonus, this means it requires 5,400 MR points each way. The fees are likewise small, only $5 each way. So, you can get to PHX and back for a total of 10,800 MR points and $10. Not bad.
2) To compare, a Milesaver ticket through AA would have required 12,500 miles each way- 25,000 total and a similar fee. On top of that, as discussed below I value my AA miles more highly than my MR point and as such am much more reluctant to part with them.
In short, using a valuation of 1 cent per MR point (an average of the value these can be redeemed for) and 2 cents per AA mile (a low non-scientific frequent flyer consensus), option 1 “cost” me about $118, while option two would have “cost” $510.
For comparison, the cash value of these tickets on AA.com was $185 + tax and fees at the time I searched.
So, I’m off to Phoenix for $10 and some points I previously didn’t have a pressing use for. Hotel and airport lounge reviews to follow!