One of my main focuses is on free travel. How do I get to travel for free and where can I find the best travel deals? One of the main reasons I look for the best travel deals is because flying from Anchorage to the lower 48 can cost me an extra $200+ per ticket. I have to be more strategic on how I plan my trips and how many miles I spend on free travel. When I lived in Washington, I could easily fly anywhere, on many different airlines for less money or miles. Living in Alaska I still have great travel options, but the cost of flying is more. So this brings me to redeeming free airline miles to help save on the cost of traveling. Delta and Alaska Airlines have been the two main airlines I have used to travel from Alaska. Since Delta and Alaska Airlines are partners I can travel directly from Anchorage to Seattle on Alaska Airlines, using my Delta SkyMiles. Or I can fly Delta, but Delta doesn’t offer direct flights to Seattle.
I just found this website and on March 20th, they reported that Delta may be considering drastic changes to their SkyMiles program. If these changes are in fact true, then I need to find other airlines to fly on. I am all for diversification, but I also don’t want to have so many different accounts that I risk losing my points or miles to expiration dates. Delta has been great because they have no expiration of their SkyMiles, which leads me to think this is one of the main reasons why they are changing their program.
When I register for a credit card bonus, I make sure I can meet the minimum requirements. So it makes no sense to register for 3 cards all at once with a minimum spend requirement of $10,000 within 3-4 months, if I know I cannot meet that spending obligation. Its an obligation if you want to get the free bonus points or miles. That is the reason we all sign up for these cards in the first place, isn’t it? I tend to space out the credit card signups so that I know I can meet each card’s requirements before moving on to the next. Just this past month I registered for the 75k AMEX bonus point offer and the 50k Chase Sapphire bonus offer, all because I know I can meet each minimum spend requirement. My wife and I are planning a trip to Israel towards the end of this year and our first payment of $1,500 each is due within a few weeks. That $3,000 automatically get us to the spending requirement which will net us another 50,000 bonus points that will be used for more free travel. By having big purchases coming up, I will be more aggressive and register for more cards at once. I am currently in the process of making a list of ways you can easily meet your credit card spending requirements and hope to have that out in a few days.
I am in a little predicament. I haven’t register for every single rewards program, airline’s program or hotel rewards, but do believe I need to diversify my current portfolio. With the possible change to Delta’s SkyMiles program I will need another option for traveling. Right now US Airways is offering a 50% bonus on hotel point transfers. The offer ends on March 31st, 2012. Most of my rewards are either already in my Delta account or they are sitting in my American Express Membership Rewards account. I usually build up my AMEX rewards account so that I can take advantage of any promos they offer, such as the 50% bonus transfer to British Airways or their 2:1 transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) bonus (usually a 3:1 transfer and not worth it). I can either leave my rewards points in my AMEX account and wait for the next promotion or I can transfer some of my points to SPG which also has a list of ‘partners’ that I can easily use. US Airways is an airline partner of SPG (you can see all their partners here), and they are offering a 5k bonus for every 20k miles you transfer, up to 79,999 miles.
First I needed to find out if a transfer is worth it for my current situation. Looking up flights and find out what they cost is the first step. I search both US Airways and Delta for tickets from Anchorage (ANC) to New York (JFK). (My wife and I have been wanting to visit New York for the past year and think its time to figure out a free way to get there!) I found that First Class was almost cheaper on US Airways than an economy seat! So I had to compare both Delta and US Airways at the First Class level.
This is what I found on Delta:
And this was the same date and class on US Airways:
Since all of my rewards points are in American Express, I would have to go through a few transfers just to get the points to my US Airways account.. but is it worth it? If I were to fly First Class this would be an amazing deal from Anchorage to New York, that’s a pretty long flight for 50,000 miles.
This is how it would work from transferring out of my American Express rewards to SPG to US Airways (three transfers):
- First I would need to go to the American Express rewards portal or click here. I had to figure out how many points to miles I would need. To get 2 First Class tickets I would need no less than 100,000 Dividend Miles (US Airways).
On the Starwood Preferred Guest list of airline partners they say you will receive 5k bonus miles for every 20k miles you transfer, up to 79,999. If I transferred 80k miles I would only get 15k bonus miles, the last 20k won’t receive the bonus since they ‘conveniently’ stop at 79,999, 1 mile short of the next 20k. I figured to take full advantage of this offer and to be sure I had enough miles, I would need to transfer 160,000 AMEX points to SPG.
- Once my miles are credited to my SPG account I would then go here to transfer those rewards points to my US Airways account.
Once my points are deposited into my SPG account I will then take advantage of US Airways’ promotion for transferring hotel points to miles. Currently I can get a 50% bonus on my SPG points if I transfer them to US Airways before March 31st. Here is US Airways promo for exchanging points for miles.
My 160,000 American Express rewards points turns into 80,000 SPG rewards points and by transferring the SPG rewards to US Airways I receive a 15,000 mile bonus AND a 50% bonus on points transferred; which turns out to be another 40,000 miles for a total of 135,000 Dividend Miles. I lose 25,000 rewards points/miles with this transfer but gain 2 cheap First Class tickets for a cost of 100,000 Dividend Miles.
I checked the price of this same flight and each ticket would cost me $1,837 x 2 = $3,647! This gives me a value of 3.6 cents per mile versus Delta’s same offer which has a value of 2.3 cents per mile. (This does not take into account the fees charged for the rewards tickets).
Now I just have to figure out when my wife and I can fly back to the East Coast and take advantage of this offer. Never flown First Class on US Airways, so I have no idea what to expect. Remember, this is free travel on first class all because of the free airline miles I earn every year! I wanted to show an example of how I can travel for free with just about any rewards program out there. Even though US Airways is not a partner of American Express’s Membership rewards program, there are still ways of moving points to gain miles in another program.