Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

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SeattleLaw
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Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

We have a cash back card. It’s fine, nothing special. I was looking at the Amex Green and Gold, and based on our spend (lots of travel and eating out, moderate grocery spend) we would rack up enough points during the year that (even with the annual fee) it would be comparable to our cash back card if we redeemed points for flights on Amex travel.

I have 0 desire to chase points and miles or spend time trying to transfer them for frequent flyer miles. Has anyone else found this to be a good way to spend membership rewards points? Any other better options? Are the green or gold card decent long term cards?
Jags4186
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jags4186 »

Points are worth $0.01 when used to purchase flights on AMEX Travel. I’d suggest getting no fee cash back cards and avoiding AMEX Travel.

If you’re willing to use 2 or 3 cards you can drastically increase your cash back. What is your annual credit card spend and what is the breakdown by category?
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Totally agree. I used to specifically use an American Airlines card to get miles by buying savings bonds. Buy $120k in bonds, use the points to upgrade the family to Aruba.

I dumped that card and no longer pay the card company to do points. I find that getting money back on a card is always useful. I have 3 or 4 that give me 2% with no fee.
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SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

Jags4186 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:10 pm Points are worth $0.01 when used to purchase flights on AMEX Travel. I’d suggest getting no fee cash back cards and avoiding AMEX Travel.

If you’re willing to use 2 or 3 cards you can drastically increase your cash back. What is your annual credit card spend and what is the breakdown by category?
I'd rather stick to one card if possible. Typically 75-80k. 10k is probably general travel. 7k a year restaurants, and 6k groceries. The rest is general spend.
ZinCO
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by ZinCO »

I do exactly what you are thinking about, because our available travel dates are always limited and never line up with affordable point redemptions directly with airlines. However I probably wouldn't be doing it through Amex Travel if not for the Business Platinum card, which makes MR points worth 1.54 cents apiece (rather than the usual 1 cent) for flight redemptions.
Jags4186
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jags4186 »

SeattleLaw wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:38 pm
Jags4186 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:10 pm Points are worth $0.01 when used to purchase flights on AMEX Travel. I’d suggest getting no fee cash back cards and avoiding AMEX Travel.

If you’re willing to use 2 or 3 cards you can drastically increase your cash back. What is your annual credit card spend and what is the breakdown by category?
I'd rather stick to one card if possible. Typically 75-80k. 10k is probably general travel. 7k a year restaurants, and 6k groceries. The rest is general spend.
Ok:

Let’s say you spend $80k

AMEX Gold:
$7k restaurants = 28k points
$6k groceries = 24k points

$10k travel - let’s say 1/2 that is airlines and 1/2 is other travel

$5k airlines = 15k points
$5k other travel = 5k points

$57k other = 57k points

Total points earned = 129k = $1,290 in flights = 1.61% return on spend

AMEX Green:
$10k travel = 30k points
$7k dining = 21k points
$63k other = 63k points

Total points earned = 118k = $1,180 in flights = 1.475% return on spend

Vs. a 2% cashback card

$80k spend = $1,600 cash to spend on whatever you want.

Oh and no annual fee.

Of course you’d get a signup bonus from AMEX in the neighborhood of 60-80k points vs say a $200 signup bonus with a 2% cashback card. That would tip the scales in AMEX’s favor in the first year and then you’d be losing in subsequent years.
fuddbogle
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by fuddbogle »

SeattleLaw wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:38 pm
Jags4186 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:10 pm Points are worth $0.01 when used to purchase flights on AMEX Travel. I’d suggest getting no fee cash back cards and avoiding AMEX Travel.

If you’re willing to use 2 or 3 cards you can drastically increase your cash back. What is your annual credit card spend and what is the breakdown by category?
I'd rather stick to one card if possible. Typically 75-80k. 10k is probably general travel. 7k a year restaurants, and 6k groceries. The rest is general spend.
Stick with cash back since you're wanting simplification. You can get better, particularly flying Biz class, but it takes some work chasing points,understanding the transfer partners and timing.
chassis
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by chassis »

SeattleLaw wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:01 pm We have a cash back card. It’s fine, nothing special. I was looking at the Amex Green and Gold, and based on our spend (lots of travel and eating out, moderate grocery spend) we would rack up enough points during the year that (even with the annual fee) it would be comparable to our cash back card if we redeemed points for flights on Amex travel.

I have 0 desire to chase points and miles or spend time trying to transfer them for frequent flyer miles. Has anyone else found this to be a good way to spend membership rewards points? Any other better options? Are the green or gold card decent long term cards?
We have purchased flights with credit card points many times. It’s a good program for us.
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SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

chassis wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 6:18 am
SeattleLaw wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:01 pm We have a cash back card. It’s fine, nothing special. I was looking at the Amex Green and Gold, and based on our spend (lots of travel and eating out, moderate grocery spend) we would rack up enough points during the year that (even with the annual fee) it would be comparable to our cash back card if we redeemed points for flights on Amex travel.

I have 0 desire to chase points and miles or spend time trying to transfer them for frequent flyer miles. Has anyone else found this to be a good way to spend membership rewards points? Any other better options? Are the green or gold card decent long term cards?
We have purchased flights with credit card points many times. It’s a good program for us.
Which CC program? I know chase has some good redemptions, but you have to use their version of Expedia to book it. If I’m going to use a travel portal, I’d rather do Amex in case something goes wrong.
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SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

Jags4186 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:07 am
Total points earned = 118k = $1,180 in flights = 1.475% return on spend

Vs. a 2% cashback card

$80k spend = $1,600 cash to spend on whatever you want.

Oh and no annual fee.

Of course you’d get a signup bonus from AMEX in the neighborhood of 60-80k points vs say a $200 signup bonus with a 2% cashback card. That would tip the scales in AMEX’s favor in the first year and then you’d be losing in subsequent years.
It’s interesting to see the math, thanks! I wonder if the benefits of the charge cards, like return protection and some of the travel protections, would make up for the difference?

Is there any value in these point cards outside of a signup bonus? I know people who have had them for years and don’t churn cards, so I’d assume there’s some value? I used to have a platinum card, and the travel benefits were great, but I got rid of it when the lounges became overrun, and the “credits” became like a coupon book. Never could find any value.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jags4186 »

SeattleLaw wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 8:08 am
Jags4186 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:07 am
Total points earned = 118k = $1,180 in flights = 1.475% return on spend

Vs. a 2% cashback card

$80k spend = $1,600 cash to spend on whatever you want.

Oh and no annual fee.

Of course you’d get a signup bonus from AMEX in the neighborhood of 60-80k points vs say a $200 signup bonus with a 2% cashback card. That would tip the scales in AMEX’s favor in the first year and then you’d be losing in subsequent years.
It’s interesting to see the math, thanks! I wonder if the benefits of the charge cards, like return protection and some of the travel protections, would make up for the difference?

Is there any value in these point cards outside of a signup bonus? I know people who have had them for years and don’t churn cards, so I’d assume there’s some value? I used to have a platinum card, and the travel benefits were great, but I got rid of it when the lounges became overrun, and the “credits” became like a coupon book. Never could find any value.
Those benefits are not unique to AMEX and can be had with many issuers. In the past 20 years I can tell you I used credit extended warranty services maybe 3 times to success on relatively low value items, attempted return protection once and was denied, and successfully used the CDW damage waiver once with great effort and agita. WRT to the rental car damage waiver, if I were to rent a car in that particular locale again I would have paid the $50 for the rental car agency insurance and not had to worry about anything.

There is plenty of value in points. There's a multi-billion dollar travel industry online teaching people how to leverage points for maximum value. You said you don't want to do that, so I don't think it is a good option for you if you're seeking higher rewards return. As shown above in my math, there is value. It's just generally not as good a value compared to cashback if you're not willing to put in any effort. Lots of people make suboptimal financial decisions whether it's out of ignorance, lack of time, or contentment with the status quo.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by pizzy »

Jags4186 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:07 am
SeattleLaw wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:38 pm
Jags4186 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:10 pm Points are worth $0.01 when used to purchase flights on AMEX Travel. I’d suggest getting no fee cash back cards and avoiding AMEX Travel.

If you’re willing to use 2 or 3 cards you can drastically increase your cash back. What is your annual credit card spend and what is the breakdown by category?
I'd rather stick to one card if possible. Typically 75-80k. 10k is probably general travel. 7k a year restaurants, and 6k groceries. The rest is general spend.
Ok:

Let’s say you spend $80k

AMEX Gold:
$7k restaurants = 28k points
$6k groceries = 24k points

$10k travel - let’s say 1/2 that is airlines and 1/2 is other travel

$5k airlines = 15k points
$5k other travel = 5k points

$57k other = 57k points

Total points earned = 129k = $1,290 in flights = 1.61% return on spend

AMEX Green:
$10k travel = 30k points
$7k dining = 21k points
$63k other = 63k points

Total points earned = 118k = $1,180 in flights = 1.475% return on spend

Vs. a 2% cashback card

$80k spend = $1,600 cash to spend on whatever you want.

Oh and no annual fee.

Of course you’d get a signup bonus from AMEX in the neighborhood of 60-80k points vs say a $200 signup bonus with a 2% cashback card. That would tip the scales in AMEX’s favor in the first year and then you’d be losing in subsequent years.
In other words, focusing on category spend never moves the needle.

That $80k could land you $8,000 in cash.travel with very little work. But again, the spread between $1600 and $8000 might not be worth the work to many people.
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Topic Author
SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

Jags4186 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 9:00 am There is plenty of value in points. There's a multi-billion dollar travel industry online teaching people how to leverage points for maximum value. You said you don't want to do that, so I don't think it is a good option for you if you're seeking higher rewards return. As shown above in my math, there is value. It's just generally not as good a value compared to cashback if you're not willing to put in any effort. Lots of people make suboptimal financial decisions whether it's out of ignorance, lack of time, or contentment with the status quo.
I'm sure you are correct, but it just seems too complicated unless you are chasing sign up bonuses and banking a lot of points. The fact that there are services out there you pay to help you use your rewards points, indicates to me it isn't as easy as just transferring them to an airline program and buying a flight with miles.

Any time I've tried to use FF miles, the amount you need for a single ticket are astronomical, and forget trying to buy one for your spouse. Assuming I rack up 120k points in a year based on regular spend, that's maybe a single round trip economy ticket to Europe, which I could pay $750 cash for. Or, I could maybe get a one way business class ticket, but then I end up spending $700 for the one-way economy ticket back.

I wouldn't mind spending an hour finding a good flight, but I fear the work needed to get free flights on points through transfer partners is a lot more than that. (or at least a flight that isn't on a weird schedule with multiple stops and odd timing).
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jags4186 »

SeattleLaw wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 9:41 am
Jags4186 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 9:00 am There is plenty of value in points. There's a multi-billion dollar travel industry online teaching people how to leverage points for maximum value. You said you don't want to do that, so I don't think it is a good option for you if you're seeking higher rewards return. As shown above in my math, there is value. It's just generally not as good a value compared to cashback if you're not willing to put in any effort. Lots of people make suboptimal financial decisions whether it's out of ignorance, lack of time, or contentment with the status quo.
I'm sure you are correct, but it just seems too complicated unless you are chasing sign up bonuses and banking a lot of points. The fact that there are services out there you pay to help you use your rewards points, indicates to me it isn't as easy as just transferring them to an airline program and buying a flight with miles.

Any time I've tried to use FF miles, the amount you need for a single ticket are astronomical, and forget trying to buy one for your spouse. Assuming I rack up 120k points in a year based on regular spend, that's maybe a single round trip economy ticket to Europe, which I could pay $750 cash for. Or, I could maybe get a one way business class ticket, but then I end up spending $700 for the one-way economy ticket back.

I wouldn't mind spending an hour finding a good flight, but I fear the work needed to get free flights on points through transfer partners is a lot more than that. (or at least a flight that isn't on a weird schedule with multiple stops and odd timing).
Again, it’s about the effort. If you just want to put $80k spend on an AMEX Green card you can’t do any of the aspirational things you see. If you want to put forth effort, you could earn over 1,000,000 points with $80k spend. As someone who is spending $80k/yr on credit cards I assume you are a big enough earner that the juice may not be worth the squeeze. For example if you could bill 10 additional hours as an attorney and make $5k extra this year, that’s probably a better return on time for you.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by deltaneutral83 »

Miles with an airline that aren't tied to revenue in redemptions (the big 3) are not going to be appealing unless you're a gamer and hawk quick deals, as the redemption (as noted by OP) are bad for domestic travel most of the time. International biz class is where there is much more consistent value. OP seems to do this, so that should fit though.

Given OP's spend and needs, the Plat/Gold combo would provide multiples of the annual fees that are required. Have to know base airport(s) to further drill down though. Gold has credits that effectively bring AF down to $10 and the 4x at grocery/dining more than makes up the difference, that is a nor brainer. Plat is a no brainer if you fly Delta and have centurion lounges to airports you go through. AF for 3 other family members is also only $175 additional/year. There are some homerun referrals to the Amex suite through early June FYI, you have to go through someone's link.

OP, you don't have to have 14 spreadsheets on credit cards to get a lot of value, you can just dip your toes in the water and get tremendous value but of course it will require more than zero effort.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

deltaneutral83 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 10:23 am OP, you don't have to have 14 spreadsheets on credit cards to get a lot of value, you can just dip your toes in the water and get tremendous value but of course it will require more than zero effort.
Thanks! What would be the best way to dip my toes in?

Out of curiosity I looked at some BA flights and they have good redemptions, but then you get to the fees and woah! An economy flight to Europe would be about 80k points and $650 in fees! The cash price is $800. Looking at the transfer partners, there's nothing I'm really too keen on.

My firm has a corporate card program, so I'd qualify for $75 off green, $100 off gold, and $150 off platinum, which brings down the annual fee a good amount. I'd get a plat (which I used to have) except the lounges have become circuses.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by ResearchMed »

SeattleLaw wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 6:05 pm
deltaneutral83 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 10:23 am OP, you don't have to have 14 spreadsheets on credit cards to get a lot of value, you can just dip your toes in the water and get tremendous value but of course it will require more than zero effort.
Thanks! What would be the best way to dip my toes in?

Out of curiosity I looked at some BA flights and they have good redemptions, but then you get to the fees and woah! An economy flight to Europe would be about 80k points and $650 in fees! The cash price is $800. Looking at the transfer partners, there's nothing I'm really too keen on.

My firm has a corporate card program, so I'd qualify for $75 off green, $100 off gold, and $150 off platinum, which brings down the annual fee a good amount. I'd get a plat (which I used to have) except the lounges have become circuses.

It's been a couple of years (pre-Covid) and things may have changed, but getting points with BA did have outrageous fees. For J (business) or F class, the fees were even higher, but at least the flight was *much* nicer. Still, if one could get similar flight(s) on other carriers/programs, that was the thing to do.

So do look at other carriers and awards programs.
And don't forget to consider using points that transfer to a partner airline. We've found that the best use in many cases, for our AA points.

Unfortunately, to get a good sense of some of these twists and turns... it does take some time. It can be quite confusing at first. Well, perhaps not "confusing", but difficult to figure out what a "good/better" use of the points is.
So for starters, it might make sense to consider the points you need to use (and any fees!) and what the cash price would have been, and then you can determine whether this current option is at least "good".

About those "fees"? For wonderful F flights to Asia, the case fee was - wait for it - $5.60 each.
[I'm pretty sure I remember that number correctly. In any event, it was a trivial amount.]
So it can really make sense to learn a bit about which flight/program to use.

I'm not sure which programs you have access to.
We use American (AA) and Amex.
Amex points always tranfer to a partner airline, given that Amex doesn't run an airline.
But with those AA points, we've *always* transferred the points to fly with a partner airline. The "AA Partner Airline" points chart has been much "less expensive" (fewer points) than the same A to B trip using AA points on AA flights. (That has always seemed crazy, but that's what it had been. I haven't checked very recently. but am about to try to plan another trip.)

One last thing: We *would* pay for Business class on long haul flights, so it makes sense for us to compare the "value" of the points to the cash price of Business class tickets. But if someone would only have paid for economy, then perhaps it's not a good "value" to use more points for Business class.

RM
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by rainfallwinterberry »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:36 pm Totally agree. I used to specifically use an American Airlines card to get miles by buying savings bonds. Buy $120k in bonds, use the points to upgrade the family to Aruba.

I dumped that card and no longer pay the card company to do points. I find that getting money back on a card is always useful. I have 3 or 4 that give me 2% with no fee.
How do you buy bonds with a credit card? This would be the holy grail of manufactured spending -- getting points for cash-equivalent spending.

For some context for the uninitiated, the credit card churning community consists of people that constantly apply for new credit cards to get their sign-up bonuses. Usually it's in the form of spend $x,000 in 3 months to get $y cashback/$z points, and usually it takes a bit of work to hit multiple of these a year.

The idea behind manufactured spending is to "spend" on the credit card whilst actually buying cash-equivalent products -- the classic route is buying visa gift cards, then buying money orders with those gift cards, which you then deposit right back into your back account, thus spending money without actually spending it.

If you could actually buy savings bonds this would instantly blow every other manufactured spending scheme out of the water.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by Jags4186 »

rainfallwinterberry wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 7:03 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed May 24, 2023 8:36 pm Totally agree. I used to specifically use an American Airlines card to get miles by buying savings bonds. Buy $120k in bonds, use the points to upgrade the family to Aruba.

I dumped that card and no longer pay the card company to do points. I find that getting money back on a card is always useful. I have 3 or 4 that give me 2% with no fee.
How do you buy bonds with a credit card? This would be the holy grail of manufactured spending -- getting points for cash-equivalent spending.

For some context for the uninitiated, the credit card churning community consists of people that constantly apply for new credit cards to get their sign-up bonuses. Usually it's in the form of spend $x,000 in 3 months to get $y cashback/$z points, and usually it takes a bit of work to hit multiple of these a year.

The idea behind manufactured spending is to "spend" on the credit card whilst actually buying cash-equivalent products -- the classic route is buying visa gift cards, then buying money orders with those gift cards, which you then deposit right back into your back account, thus spending money without actually spending it.

If you could actually buy savings bonds this would instantly blow every other manufactured spending scheme out of the water.
Yea you could like 20 years ago. Not anymore.
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SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

We’re planning a move to a United hub city, and tend to travel to Europe when we go international. There are a few BA flights to Heathrow as well as Lufthansa to Frankfurt and a seasonal Air France flight. Everything else is United and requires a connection in Newark to get to Europe.

We always prefer to fly as direct as possible. Does anyone know if it’s even worth having an Amex Membership Rewards card if you live in a United hub? Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by ZinCO »

SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am We’re planning a move to a United hub city, and tend to travel to Europe when we go international. There are a few BA flights to Heathrow as well as Lufthansa to Frankfurt and a seasonal Air France flight. Everything else is United and requires a connection in Newark to get to Europe.

We always prefer to fly as direct as possible. Does anyone know if it’s even worth having an Amex Membership Rewards card if you live in a United hub? Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
I live in a United Hub with direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo. I collect both MR and UR, and the MR are mostly used to transfer to Avianca Lifemiles (for Star Alliance flights) or to buy flights through Amex directly (which was your original question when you started this thread).

Don't forget that flying through Frankfurt (and to a lesser extent, Munich) on either United or Lufthansa basically opens up all of Europe to you via United code-shares.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by THY4373 »

deltaneutral83 wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 10:23 am Miles with an airline that aren't tied to revenue in redemptions (the big 3) are not going to be appealing unless you're a gamer and hawk quick deals, as the redemption (as noted by OP) are bad for domestic travel most of the time.
Everybody's experience is different. Certainly in the immediate pre-Covid times I rarely found good redemptions for points in domestic economy but post-Covid I have been getting 2-3.7 cents of value pretty easily. Maybe it is just the routes my son and I fly.
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by THY4373 »

SeattleLaw wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 6:05 pm Out of curiosity I looked at some BA flights and they have good redemptions, but then you get to the fees and woah! An economy flight to Europe would be about 80k points and $650 in fees! The cash price is $800. Looking at the transfer partners, there's nothing I'm really too keen on.
BA has introduced reward flight savers on all classes other than first. Basically you pay more in points but pay less in cash. I don't know whether that changes the economics on economy fare as I haven't looked. Also some Oneworld partners do not pass along all he surcharges so oftentimes booking a BA flight using another carrier's points can be a better deal.
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SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

ZinCO wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 3:28 pm
SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am We’re planning a move to a United hub city, and tend to travel to Europe when we go international. There are a few BA flights to Heathrow as well as Lufthansa to Frankfurt and a seasonal Air France flight. Everything else is United and requires a connection in Newark to get to Europe.

We always prefer to fly as direct as possible. Does anyone know if it’s even worth having an Amex Membership Rewards card if you live in a United hub? Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
I live in a United Hub with direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo. I collect both MR and UR, and the MR are mostly used to transfer to Avianca Lifemiles (for Star Alliance flights) or to buy flights through Amex directly (which was your original question when you started this thread).

Don't forget that flying through Frankfurt (and to a lesser extent, Munich) on either United or Lufthansa basically opens up all of Europe to you via United code-shares.
Thanks! What's your luck been with the LifeMiles for United/Lufthansa flights? Any direct flights to Europe would be BA/Lufthansa. Knocked BA out due to fees, and I've had mixed luck on Lufthansa tickets in the past from another destination (i.e. hard to find a premium economy/business seat), so I'd be worried there are fewer rewards seats available.
ZinCO
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by ZinCO »

SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 4:46 pm
ZinCO wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 3:28 pm
SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am We’re planning a move to a United hub city, and tend to travel to Europe when we go international. There are a few BA flights to Heathrow as well as Lufthansa to Frankfurt and a seasonal Air France flight. Everything else is United and requires a connection in Newark to get to Europe.

We always prefer to fly as direct as possible. Does anyone know if it’s even worth having an Amex Membership Rewards card if you live in a United hub? Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
I live in a United Hub with direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo. I collect both MR and UR, and the MR are mostly used to transfer to Avianca Lifemiles (for Star Alliance flights) or to buy flights through Amex directly (which was your original question when you started this thread).

Don't forget that flying through Frankfurt (and to a lesser extent, Munich) on either United or Lufthansa basically opens up all of Europe to you via United code-shares.
Thanks! What's your luck been with the LifeMiles for United/Lufthansa flights? Any direct flights to Europe would be BA/Lufthansa. Knocked BA out due to fees, and I've had mixed luck on Lufthansa tickets in the past from another destination (i.e. hard to find a premium economy/business seat), so I'd be worried there are fewer rewards seats available.
Hit and miss due to the general lack of United saver fares. Lufthansa has worked out OK in the past.

I'm curious though what United hub you are moving to that does NOT have direct UA flights to Europe? I'm not aware of any.
Topic Author
SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

ZinCO wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 5:02 pm
SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 4:46 pm
ZinCO wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 3:28 pm
SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am We’re planning a move to a United hub city, and tend to travel to Europe when we go international. There are a few BA flights to Heathrow as well as Lufthansa to Frankfurt and a seasonal Air France flight. Everything else is United and requires a connection in Newark to get to Europe.

We always prefer to fly as direct as possible. Does anyone know if it’s even worth having an Amex Membership Rewards card if you live in a United hub? Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
I live in a United Hub with direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo. I collect both MR and UR, and the MR are mostly used to transfer to Avianca Lifemiles (for Star Alliance flights) or to buy flights through Amex directly (which was your original question when you started this thread).

Don't forget that flying through Frankfurt (and to a lesser extent, Munich) on either United or Lufthansa basically opens up all of Europe to you via United code-shares.
Thanks! What's your luck been with the LifeMiles for United/Lufthansa flights? Any direct flights to Europe would be BA/Lufthansa. Knocked BA out due to fees, and I've had mixed luck on Lufthansa tickets in the past from another destination (i.e. hard to find a premium economy/business seat), so I'd be worried there are fewer rewards seats available.
Hit and miss due to the general lack of United saver fares. Lufthansa has worked out OK in the past.

I'm curious though what United hub you are moving to that does NOT have direct UA flights to Europe? I'm not aware of any.
Denver. I think they may have a direct to Heathrow, but otherwise it's BA and Lufthansa.
ZinCO
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by ZinCO »

SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 5:13 pm
ZinCO wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 5:02 pm
Hit and miss due to the general lack of United saver fares. Lufthansa has worked out OK in the past.

I'm curious though what United hub you are moving to that does NOT have direct UA flights to Europe? I'm not aware of any.
Denver. I think they may have a direct to Heathrow, but otherwise it's BA and Lufthansa.
Since I'm also talking about Denver, I can assure you United flies to London (x2), Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo Narita direct. Also served by BA (London) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich) as you mentioned.
DurangoWino
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by DurangoWino »

My son recently used his Chase Sapphire points to fly with his wife on Singapore Airlines from Houston to Manchester. He said that their business class was far better than United. Also SA charged much less in points than United did. They took a train to London the day they landed to sightsee then flew to Lyon the following day.

He seems to do very well building up points using his Sapphire and Amex Gold cards.
fuddbogle
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by fuddbogle »

SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am
Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
Search for one ways. Flying out of London is where you get outrageous fees.

We booked one way on points Chicago to Heathrow in premium economy on a A380 and the fees were roughly $200 each. Then bought cash flights to Italy. Then flew back via United with fees about $100 each.

With BA if you get routed through or out of London, the value is lost. It happens a lot.

Flying into Madrid is a good option with BA if that works.
Topic Author
SeattleLaw
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by SeattleLaw »

fuddbogle wrote: Sat May 27, 2023 7:19 am
SeattleLaw wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 11:09 am
Amex transfers to BA, but as noted above, the fees and taxes are insane and you may as well just buy the ticket for cash.
Search for one ways. Flying out of London is where you get outrageous fees.
Good call! I don't mind premium economy - or really economy for that matter, heading back west, but the overnight flights over to Europe are killer in economy. It's 9+ hours and I can't sleep sitting bolt upright. I'll check out BA flights in premium/biz on the way over and then maybe a united/Lufthansa on the way back.
boglegirl
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by boglegirl »

fuddbogle wrote: Sat May 27, 2023 7:19 am ...
Search for one ways. Flying out of London is where you get outrageous fees.

We booked one way on points Chicago to Heathrow in premium economy on a A380 and the fees were roughly $200 each. Then bought cash flights to Italy. Then flew back via United with fees about $100 each.

With BA if you get routed through or out of London, the value is lost. It happens a lot.

Flying into Madrid is a good option with BA if that works.
You'd be on their partner Iberia if flying US to Madrid - and yes, the fees are much lower than flying BA to London!
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JaneyLH
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Re: Membership Rewards - buying flights with points?

Post by JaneyLH »

For relatively little hassle, I maintain the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. It refunds the first $300/year I spend on travel-related items. It provides free trip insurance for both my husband and myself, which I've used several times when stuck overnight in intermediate airports due to weather. It allows me to transfer points easily to my frequent flyer programs, or I can use them like cash with a discount through Chase's travel service. We are often able to gain access to airport lounges through the free Priority Pass membership benefit.

I took out an Amex Platinum card for a 100,000 mile bonus, but cancelled it just after the one year anniversary because the trip insurance was lousy, lounge access was lousy, and travel-related rebates extremely lousy.

I have a girlfriend who maintains the Amex Platinum card because she believes she gets better service and more respect when she uses the card. :confused
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