Navigating the travel and miles and points world can be complex, which is why we love to answer your questions – like how to determine the most value for miles/points, searching award availability, and providing advice on stopovers.
Today’s reader question is as follows:
To me, there is a lot of mystery surrounding how to get the most for your airline points.
Things like instead of searching on United to go search on another star alliance website. How do you do that? If I wanted to look at Turkish Airlines, I think I need to set up an account.
Part of this mystery is how to find stop overs. Can I stay a few days on the same ticket? What places can I stop over? What websites or airlines do I look for this?
Let’s dive right in!
Get The Most Value For Miles & Points
It is easy to ask yourself how to get the most value for miles and points and we can provide clear metrics what is a good redemption and what isn’t, but at the end of the day, if you are redeeming miles/points for a family vacation and your out-of-pocket expenses come close to $0, then I’d say that’s a phenomenal way to use miles and points.
The best ways to redeem miles and points are:
- International First and Business Class tickets
- cost thousands of $
- can redeem miles/points at incredible rates
- Premium Economy and Economy Class tickets
- if you get a good deal
- Short-Medium Haul Distance-Based Economy Class tickets
- especially last minute
For example, if a Business Class ticket to Europe costs $6,000 round-trip and you can get the same ticket for 120,000 miles plus some taxes, then that is considered an amazing redemption and a great use of your miles.
An example of a horrible redemption would be redeeming 60,000 miles for a round-trip Economy Class ticket to Europe, if you can buy the same or a similar ticket for $500. This would be a waste of miles.
Another fantastic redemption would be a short-haul flight like Miami to New York which costs 9,000 points one-way in Economy or could cost $550+ last minute. In this case, you obviously would use miles and get a phenomenal deal.
It all comes down to how much value you can get for your miles – before redeeming them for a ticket, have a look at what cash prices are on the same route. Remember that if you have flexible and transferable points in a bank program, you could apply some of those towards the cost of the cash ticket through the bank’s travel portal.
Searching on Airline A for Airline B Flights
The best ways to redeem miles and points is often through a partner frequent flyer program – so redeeming British Airways miles for short-medium haul American Airlines flights can be a great deal, and you might end up paying significantly less miles. Or you could potentially redeem 50k points for a Business Class ticket on Delta Air Lines through their partner Virgin Atlantic, when Delta would want 350k+ of their own miles for the same flight, for example.
In more than half of cases, redeeming partner miles represents a fantastic opportunity because you can get an amazing deal. There isn’t one guide or website that shows you all of these ways/methods, but rather you get to know them here and there after you read miles and points websites and search for the best ways to book a ticket to your desired destination on your desired airline using the miles and points you have.
As far as Diane’s question on searching award availability goes, some airline websites are much better than others at showing availability and are considered the “go-to” ways to search for flights.
For example, if you want to search for award availability on:
- Star Alliance
- use Aeroplan or United
- use American Airlines or British Airways
- use Air France/KLM
If you want to find availability on a Turkish Airlines flight and use your United miles for it, you don’t need an account with Turkish Airlines – you can search for the Turkish award flight through any Star Alliance airline.
Value for Miles: Stopovers on Award Tickets
Some, not all, frequent flyer programs allow you to redeem your miles and include a free (or low-cost) stopover on your ticket en route to your final destination. These include airlines like:
- Alaska Airlines
- free stopover, even on one-way tickets
- Air Canada
- 5k miles extra for each stopover
- Air France/KLM
- stop in Amsterdam or Paris for no additional miles
- stopovers permitted on round-trip tickets
- United Airlines
- one stopover permitted in destination region
Those are just some examples, but other stopover policies exist. Again, this is something you would gradually learn through reading blogs and researching how to best redeem your miles. In the examples above, you would use those airlines’ frequent flyer programs to book your ticket (and can fly on any of their partner airlines).
In response to Diane:
- Can I stay a few days on the same ticket?
- yes, that’s what a stopover is, en route to your destination
- the airline who’s miles you are using determines the rules on how long your stopover can be
- What places can I stop over?
- the airline you are booking through determines this
- for example, Alaska Airlines allows you to stop over in the hub city of a partner airline
It isn’t possible to go over the details of every single frequent flyer program and their policies on numerous topics in just one post – which is why several guides on each frequent flyer program do exist on the web.
All in All
The best ways to learn more in the miles and points field is to start by learning how the program of the airline you fly with the most works – what redemptions do they allow, what are their policies, etc. – then you can move on and expand your horizons about other programs. Start small – don’t try to learn everything all at once and don’t jump from topic to topic and instead gain more in-depth knowledge about how a particular redemption works, for example, or why some points are more powerful than others. Take it all step-by-step and that will allow you to build your skills in our field.