Hey, isn’t there a blog that goes by similar name?
I’ve written quite a few times how important it is not to put all your miles in one “basket,” and focus on accumulating flexible points instead of currency tied to one specific program. Because I constantly collect bonuses, I usually transfer my points to a specific airline when the annual fee comes due.
Afterwards I have a secret (well, not anymore) envy for those with a huge stash of Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. There is definitely something to be said for having points that can be used on multiple alliances. Let me show you an example.
Few weeks ago my friend called me and asked if I could help her book an airline ticket from Florida to Michigan. She is very IT illiterate (even more than me) and barely uses internet. Yes, those people do exist. I’ve booked tickets for her before, but this one was different. She had to leave in 5 days, so all one-way flights were $245 or more.
That pesky close-in ticketing fee
Naturally, I wanted to help and use my miles if at all possible. The problem was: I had very few options. Currently, I have zero flexible rewards points. I found availability through AAdvantage (on US Airways metal), but would have to pay a close-in $75 booking fee. Not ideal.
There was a possible option of transferring Citi Thank You points to Air France program. It lets you redeem for one-way Delta flights, and I did find availability for the day we needed. However, the transfer would take at least 2 days, possibly 5, so it was no-go. That’s where Membership Rewards program truly shines, because transfer to Air France is instant.
I even found availability on United that could have been booked with Aeroplan (Air Canada program, MR partner). Alas, no points for that. So, my options were to either use my Citi Thank You program and get a 25% bonus for airfare redemption due to Citi Thank You Premier Visa, or just let her pay a full price.
Avios to the rescue!
And then I remembered that my mother-in-law has a stash of Avios. She just got it from signing up for Chase British Airways Visa.
Interrupting this post for a #QuickSalesPitch The hashtag sign is meant to make it less shameless. If you have been thinking about getting this card, now is a good time to do it because the annual fee is temporarily waived, normally $95. It’s been almost a year since they have waived an annual fee for this offer.
Chase will now let you receive sign-up bonus again for the same card, as long as it’s been 24 months. Be aware, occasionally this offer is increased to 100K miles, but minimum spend to get it is $20K. This card pays me commission and you can read more on it in my Bonuses page.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to my dilemma. I’ve used up most of my Avios, and at the moment have only 500 points left. I asked my mother-in-law if she would let me “borrow” 12,000 Avios for my friend’s flight, because she doesn’t have a lot of money. The best thing about Avios program is the lack of close-in ticketing fee for AA or US Airways flights, BA partners.
The segments price out separately. So, basically, I would get the same American flight for 500 less miles and no $75 add-on fee. TPA-PHL route costs 7,500 Avios and PHL-GRR (Grand Rapids, MI) costs 4,500 Avios, a total of 12,000 Avios, compared to 12,500 through AAdvantage. Of course, I would get a 10% rebate of 1,250 AAdvantage miles since I have a co-branded AA Visa. However, the difference is most certainly not worth $75.
My mother-in-law agreed, since she has no immediate plans for this stash. We pretty much view all of our miles and points as common property, so if a family member needs a redemption, it’s never a problem. I had to add my friend to the profile, since my mother-in-law has a household account that includes my sister and father-in-law.
It allows you to pull miles for several family members residing in the same household, a great advantage of Avios program. However, if you want to use the miles for people outside of that household account, you will need to add them to “Family and Friends” box.
There was another issue: the flights were available when you searched for them separately, but the connection was a deal-breaker. This is a common problem on BA.com, with their IT system not being able to piece several flights together. It meant I had to call, which meant I had to add myself as a third party nominee. No problem, took 2 minutes to do it.
When I got connected to an agent , I explained the issue and asked her to waive $25 booking fee. She agreed. She must have said “lovely” twenty times, typical Brit. A side note: You have to use a credit card that is issued in the name of the person on the account, so I had to get my mother-in-law’s Visa. The flight was booked and I happily delivered the news to my friend.
Things have worked out quite well here, but only because my mother-in-law was generous enough to let me use her miles. Otherwise, I would have had to redeem AAdvantage or Citi Thank You points, with both options being less than ideal.
If I had Membership Rewards, I could have had access to United (through Aeroplan), American (through British Airways Avios) and Delta (through Air France Flying Blue). All those programs transfer instantly and don’t charge a close-in ticketing fee.
In fact, in this particular case, Membership Rewards option would have been superior to Ultimate Rewards program. Why? Because you can only redeem Ultimate Rewards on Delta roundtrip routes through Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air (UR partners). Southwest is not a good option for last-minute flights, since they are usually prohibitively expensive. And United charges a close-in ticketing fee, unlike Aeroplan program, its partner.
That’s why I strongly recommend American Express EveryDay Preferred (#BlitzSalesPitch: It also pays me commission) if you are a middle-class family who flies at least once a year for vacation. BTW they have added 1 free year of Amazon Prime benefit on top of the sign-up bonus.
Having those flexible points could come in handy if you have family in another state, because it would allow you to visit them on a budget. If you only get a few sign-up bonuses per year and prefer to collect flexible points, this card offers a very strong value proposition. And you won’t need to go begging your relatives for miles and points!
Readers, do you have flexible points envy?
P.S. Southwest 50K offer may or may not be gone today. There are some working links via Refer-a-Friend, so I will update my Bonuses page with the latest info.
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.