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When Putting Your Miles in One Basket Makes the Most Sense

I’ve written a post awhile back on how I’ve  booked a super cheap airfare to Africa for my husband’s relatives  In it I’ve said that they will be able to earn AAdvantage miles on those tickets since Etihad partners with American.

Well, upon further investigation, I’ve decided that it will be more advantageous for them to credit miles to another (foreign) program. Why? It all started with the post on The Points Guy dealing with this specific fare

In it, it mentioned different partner airlines where you can earn miles from Etihad flights. First, as much as I can, I try to avoid speculatively crediting miles to a foreign carrier. I’ve been burned  in the past when going that route. Someday I’ll tell you my Czech Airlines story. I still cry about it (not really).

However, there are times when it could make sense. This particular family hardly ever flies. Since AAdvantage does not let you pull miles, they would have odd amounts scattered between 6 accounts. Take a look at the map of their trip:

map of africa trip

Map provided courtesy of gcmap.com

So, one-way distance is 10,766 miles. Unfortunately, AA only lets you collect miles on Abu Dhabi-Johannesburg route when flying Etihad. So, that means  that there would be 6 accounts with 7,798 miles in each one. Since AA one-way redemption starts at 12,500 miles within Continental US (including Alaska), that amount won’t be close to enough for an award. Sure, they could always redeem for hotels, but is there a better alternative?

I started looking at foreign frequent flyer programs that let you earn miles on Etihad flights AND allow you to pull miles into a family account. My goal was to find  one that allows one-way redemptions. Here are 3 programs that caught my eye:

1) ANA Mileage club

Star Alliance partner. It lets you earn 50% of mileage on that route. That means 10,766 miles total. However, only roundtrip redemptions are permitted at this time. Miles can be redeemed on United flights, with new award chart being introduced in April.

Potentially, you’ll be able to fly to Mexico and tack on one-way from Alaska for 25,000 miles roundtrip. The process of setting up a family account seems cumbersome and they charge 1,000 miles per account to do it.

2) Virgin Australia Velocity

It lets you earn 0.5 points per mile on this particular Etihad fare, which translates into 10,766 points. Up to 5 family members are allowed to pull their miles together. The redemption seems a bit expensive and is based on distance, but one-ways are allowed. For example, flights that are between 1,201-2,400 miles cost 16,900 points one-way (very steep). The miles can be used on Delta flights.

3) Asiana Club

Star Alliance partner, miles are redeemable on United. You get 50% of your flown mileage for that route. Up to 5 family members are allowed in a family account The process seems cumbersome, since you need to fax some forms with proof of family relationship. However, there are many advantages to this program. I found this post on MileValue blog, describing some particulars.

One-ways are allowed and it costs 12,500 miles to fly to Alaska (compared to 17,500 miles on United) and 35,000 roundtrip to Hawaii (compared to 45,000 on the same flights on United).

Bingo! This program is the one. If 5 family members pull their miles into one account, they will have enough for 4 one-way flights within lower 48 States or Alaska. My husband’s uncle mentioned that he wanted to take his wife to Oregon, and this amount would be enough for 2 roundtrip tickets. United availability is currently the best out of all the legacy carriers, so it appears, we have found ourselves a winner.

What does this mean to you?

United flights

If you rarely take flights with traditional US carriers, you may want to investigate other options. For example, here is Asiana’s chart for earning miles on United flights:

asiana

You can easily find flight code when you purchase your ticket, and as long as you don’t have O, I, X fares, you should get at least 100% miles on your flown distance. Every program is different, so you’ll need to investigate it to make sure it’s the right fit.

It can definitely makes sense for some families. For example, let’s say 5 of you take a flight on United and get 5,000 miles each. If you choose to credit it to Asiana, you would have access to 25,000 miles, enough for 2 one-way flights to Alaska.

American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska flights

If you are an occasional AA flyer who travels with family, you might be better off collecting Avios. It’s a fantastic program since some routes cost only 4,500 miles. Here is mileage accrual information for AA flight credited to Avios program:

avios on AA

You can also accrue Avios for US Airways and Alaska flights, as well as some other airlines. Here is a page with more details

Delta flights

This is more of an honorable mention, but collecting Korean SkyPass miles instead of Delta miles could make sense in certain circumstances. Korean allows you to pull miles in one family account, and up to five members are allowed to participate.

The process looks very cumbersome and only roundtrip redemptions are permitted. Also, you are not allowed to redeem on Delta flights, but Alaska flights do qualify.

Only certain economy fares accrue 100%  of flown mileage:

korean skypass

Here is a possible way to leverage this. Let’s say five people in the family earn 5,000 miles each and pull it into one account. Potentially, you can redeem 25,000 Korean SkyPass miles for one roundtrip economy ticket on Alaska Air flights from West coast to Hawaii. You can use Avios program for the rest of the family. That route also runs 25,000 miles.

If you think it’s a bit twisted to fly Delta, credit miles to Korean program, only to redeem them on Alaska Airlines to fly to Hawaii, well, you are correct! Welcome to the crazy yet enchanting world of miles and points. If you rarely fly with Delta, this might be a better place to “park” your miles. Just  a side note: You can once again transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Korean program.

Of course, there are some very real risks. The program can change overnight. That’s why I recommend you have an immediate (or near future) plan for your miles because you may end up losing them (cough, Czech Airlines, cough). This is a good strategy for Southwest fans who have a large family and rarely fly legacy carriers.

Going back to the original plan

I went ahead and called my uncle-in-law to tell him about my findings. During the conversation, he asked me which credit card I would recommend for him. My advice was to sign up for US Airways Barclaycard. It no longer pays me or gives me personal referral, but is still my top pick.

Well, both him and his wife got approved for one. So, I told him my advice was to just go ahead and credit the miles from Etihad flight to AAdvantage. Why? Because, US Airways Dividend miles will merge with AA miles this year. That way, he will be able to add to his existing stash. He will already have 50,000 miles in each of the accounts.

Another reason? This card still comes with two $99 companion certificates. The way it works is the cardholder purchases a flight for $250 or more on US Airways, and he/she can bring up to two people for $99 each. They have six in the family, and they need to purchase an airfare from Tampa to New York, since that’s where the flight to Africa originates from.

These flights will earn miles as well: AAdvantage miles! Once all is said and done, the kids will have close to 10,000 miles each. It shouldn’t be too hard to get it up to 12,500 level through various promos. I’ll make sure of it. 🙂

Bottom line

I’ve said before that you should think outside the box when it comes to selecting the best program for your award tickets. The same goes for earning miles as well. Try to look beyond US carriers, especially when you are an occasional flyer and have  a big family.

Readers, what do you think of this strategy?

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Author: Leana

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.

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