Don’t let frequent flyer miles burn a hole in your pocket because they always lose value over time. The longer they sit there, the more expensive the awards become.
In the past year, we have seen three major airlines adjust their award charts downward, with United Airlines’ moves being the most drastic. United nearly doubled the cost of some of their Star Alliance partner awards. For example, if you booked a trip on Lufthansa from the U.S. to the Middle East in first class in 2013, it would have cost 150,000 miles. Today, it costs 280,000 miles– almost double! And then there’s the bad Mileage Plus news we reported last month.
If the thought of endlessly searching for award tickets gives you hives, there are numerous award booking services that will do it for you. We recently discovered Award Advocate, which is one of the most affordable booking services. You simply give them the range of dates you want to travel, your destination of interest, and any other necessary parameters. Then, they do all the searching of tickets available for you. Once you approve the itinerary, they book it and handle all of the details for you. Domestic award trips cost $75 and international trips are $100. This is a bargain especially if you value your time.
When Award Advocate called to let us know about their service, we asked them to provide five useful mileage redemption tips. Here’s what they came up with:
-Australia: This can be a difficult business class award ticket to find, but Delta gives flyers some breathing room through its partnership with Virgin Australia. Often, there is great availability from LAX to SYD in business class using Delta points and very low taxes. You can obtain Delta points with various credit cards as well as transfer them from AMEX Membership Rewards.
-Fiji/South Pacific: Getting to the South Pacific can be tricky since many airline websites do not show partner availability. Fiji Airways is a partner with American Airlines, which has decent availability for getting to that region. The best way to research award tickets is not via American’s website, but through Alaska’s! AlaskaAir.com shows Fiji Airways award availability with just a few clicks. Once you find the space on Alaska’s site, simply call American to book your ticket using your AAdvantage miles.
-Free changes in some situations: If you are booking an international trip and the long haul segments are available in business class and the short haul ones are not, don’t worry. Go ahead and book it with points. Both American and United will almost always allow you to upgrade to business class if the award seat space becomes available on those flights before you travel.
-Discounted awards: During American Airlines’ off season (October 15 and May 15), you can go to Europe for 20,000 miles each way versus 25,000. Take advantage of these bargains, and there are many itineraries where you can save points by thinking outside of the box and saving miles by breaking bigger trips up into smaller parts.
Using a mileage redemption service like Award Advocate can help take the stress out of finding the award space, save you miles, and most important for busy business travelers– save you time. Have you used an award booking service before? Would you? Please leave your comments below.
BUY DELTA MQMs. Every year at about this time, Delta trots out an opportunity to buy your way into Medallion status for the coming year.
Over time, we’ve seen the value of this offer decline dramatically– at one time Delta actually donated the proceeds of these end-of-year sales to charity, but now they just go into Delta coffers. In any case, buying MQMs could still make sense for you if you are in the “close but no cigar” range of attaining or maintaining Medallion status– and you don’t have time or inclination to make a “mileage run.”
What’s new this year is that the dollars you spend buying MQMs count as Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), and will be posted to your 2014 MQD balance and will also apply toward your 2015 status. The (steep) prices for miles vary based on your current Medallion status, so hold your nose and go check the prices here. This is a limited time offer– it expires December 31. Details. Will you take advantage of this expensive offer? Or not? Leave your comments about it below!
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!
Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.
Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!