Best time to use your airline points and miles

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Best time to use your airline points and miles

Francis Meredith of Raleigh, NC, who used a branded American Airlines credit card for everything from groceries to medical expenses during the pandemic, got points for nowhere to spend. That meant she had a lot to cash in on when her family of four decided it was time for a winter break to Miami. Although the seats cost 50,000 points, Dr. Meredith, an internist, was excited to save money by using her rewards balance. “It was easy. There were a lot of seats,” she said.

As travelers return to the skies, many like Dr. Meredith have deposited more than usual into airline and credit card rewards programs. And they’re starting to spend them. United Airlines’ Mileage Plus program has had several record-breaking days over the past few weeks as customers flock to redeem miles, said Michael Covey, managing director of the United program. “Demand is affecting books in ways we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Several factors make now the time to redeem points.

Flights booked with Points on major US carriers are fully refundable. This means that if you need to cancel a trip, all your points and any associated fees will be refunded without penalty. Tickets purchased for cash, in contrast, typically provide a credit for a future flight rather than a refund and may charge a fee, so your money is tied up with the airline. Refundable tickets can be purchased, but they are more expensive.

The difference, between ending up with a credit or refund, can be huge for expensive trips like a family vacation abroad. Some travelers are “still uncomfortable with international travel” while conditions remain in flux due to the pandemic, so using Points to book a flight to a foreign country can provide more peace of mind, said Jamie Laronis. Said, who writes about loyalty programs on his own. Travel website, Forward Cabin. He also now sees some concern about flights near Eastern Europe due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Many travelers are sitting on higher balances than ever before, both because they’re not redeeming their points and because they’ve been adding to the pile with credit card purchases tied to airline loyalty accounts over the past two years. According to a study by ValuePenguin and OnPoint Loyalty, the five largest airline loyalty programs — Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles, American Airlines’ AAdvantage, United Airlines’ MileagePlus, Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards and JetBlue’s TrueBlue — with liabilities of $27.5 billion ended in 2020. Up $2.9 billion from 2019. Customers earned almost half the points in 2020 compared to the previous year, and redeemed only 10 percent of their available points, compared to 30 percent last year.

The most important reason to use Points now is because they may have less purchasing power in the coming years, Mr. Laronis said. Airline and hotel points are like companies-owned currencies, and those companies can value their currencies however they like by changing the cost of redemption. Helen Baker, an airline analyst at investment bank Cowen, said airlines have devalued several times over the years and she expects this practice to continue.

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This is already evident in both the airline and hotel sectors. Alaska Airlines recently raised the cost for booking some of its first class tickets. Hyatt Hotels recently increased the number of points required for stays at certain hotels when it implemented a new peak and off-peak pricing program.

Companies know that “people are sitting on huge piles of miles and they have a high demand for travel,” said Mr. Laronis of the Forward Cabin website. “There is no downside to them in increasing the cost of the prize travel.” This is especially true for airplane seats in premier cabins, he said. Some leisure travelers, who were satisfied with economy class seats, are now buying seats in the front of the plane where passengers are slightly more spread out. “They consider it safe with respect to COVID,” Mr Laronis said.

Still, airlines are mindful of those with fewer miles. “We have less than 10,000 miles of seats available than ever before,” said United’s Mr. Covey.

Airlines are encouraging customers to use their point of view. Rewards tickets booked on Delta Airlines till the end of this year will count towards enhancing the customer’s loyalty program status. Previously, only cash-paid flights were counted in program status. United Airlines recently joined a list of airlines that allow customers to combine “Money Plus Miles” to purchase tickets, so “members can redeem miles early and not wait until until they have a big sum,” said Mr. Covey. United also had flash sales of tickets purchased with Points to London and Australia in February, and now allows members to use Points to buy food and beverages on flights.

The journey itself is now less difficult as more countries have phased out COVID testing for vaccinated travelers. London, one of the most popular destinations for American travelers, dropped its testing requirement on February 11. Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and other countries are opening for tourists.

Alison Carpentier, director of guest loyalty at Alaska Airlines, which is part of the Oneworld alliance of 14 global airlines including Cathay Pacific and Qantas, said the availability of tickets purchased with Points has been good as international travel starts back. ,

Airlines want to fill as many seats as possible, so many now make almost all of their seats available for purchase with points, rather than just a subset. The prices set by most airlines fluctuate, so it pays to check back periodically before flight to see if the number of points required has been reduced.

Business class seats on international routes are now higher than usual as demand has been low during the pandemic. Corporate travel is still low and companies that allow employees traveling abroad to buy business class seats so they can come to their meetings refreshed (to some extent) are not buying as many tickets.

There may be some discoveries in redeeming points to get the most value. For example, at the time of this writing, a business class flight on Delta from New York to Paris costs 320,000 SkyMiles points on a randomly chosen day in March, but a similar flight on Air France costs 320,000 SkyMiles points. That’s $213 with only 75,000 miles and Air France flying. Blue loyalty program. American Express, Citi, Chase and Capital One have partnerships with Air France, so their customers with Membership Rewards points can transfer them to Air France, making the cost only a fraction of a Delta ticket.

Point a new website. Me, which made its debut in February, aims to help travelers look at all of their redemption options, according to company founder Adam Morwitz. Travelers can enter dates and cities for their potential travel and the site will compare how many points they need from different airline and credit card programs, factoring in partnerships that allow points to be transferred from one program to another, such as New York to Paris landscape above. The site also offers concierge service for those who need some hand-holding through the points maze.

Airlines are still adding back routes and flights, so finding the one you want may not be easy, said Tiffany Layne, a travel consultant and owner of LaVone Travel & Lifestyle in New York City, but she said it’s best to book in advance. Will give you the most options as possible.

Mr Laronis agreed: “There’s rarely a downside to booking with points, even very far away. You have complete control if your plans change.”

#time #airline #points #miles

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