Best Credit Cards

A Case Study: Helping Reader Maximize Miles and Points on India/USA Flights

Now and again I like to do posts that highlight using miles and points in a real world. After all, that’s why we collect them in the first place, right? One time I saw someone on Travel Hacking 101 Facebook group  compare accumulating miles to a game of checkers and redemption process to playing chess. Spot on!

Image courtesy of podpad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sure, if you have Southwest currency, the process is easy. You simply log into your account and search for flights. Southwest is perfect for regular families because there is no stress involved on whether you’ll even be able to utilize points. If the seat is available, you’ll be able to book it, albeit at a high rate when searching last-minute.

But what if you need to go somewhere where Southwest doesn’t fly? Or rather bring a family member for a visit to US? That’s the issue one of my readers faced recently, so he reached out for help. Here is the email (edited):

Hello Leana!

Do you know anyone who can help me get the award flight from India to USA? I can pay for this service  if I can get it for a good price.

I need 2 roundtrip tickets:

1) HYD (Hyderabad, India) to JFK – first week of June  and return during first week in November.

2) HYD to JFK – first week of August and return during first week in November.

2 return  tickets should be on the same flight.

I have:

US Bank FlexPerks – 120K points

Chase transferrable UR currency– 300K points

Amex – 160K MR points

American AAdvantage– 200K miles”

My email response (edited):

“I don’t think you need to pay anyone to do it. I’ll be happy to make a few suggestions. I think your best bet is to burn FlexPerks currency. If you can find a flight right under $1000, it will cost you 50K Flexperks points (taxes included). Plus, the tickets will earn miles.

It’s very simple. Just do a search through Flexperks portal and play around with dates. Then book the two tickets separately. I checked AA.com and all flights seem to involve British Airways, which adds huge fuel surcharges. Stay away. So, long story short, FlexPerks should be your first stop, followed by UR portal, followed by Amex.

If you want to try to add stopovers, using miles would be the way to go. Check this post for various requirements http://travelisfree.com/2015/03/04/cheapest-miles-to-india-the-middle-east/ In general, you are looking at price of 60K-80K miles roundtrip, plus taxes and potential fuel surcharges.

If you just want a simple roundtrip flight, FlexPerks is probably your best bet. You have more than enough points for two tickets. Just try to find a price right under $1000.”

Reader’s follow-up email:

I used FlexPerks points to get the tickets, but the starting airport is MAA instead of HYD because it was a cheaper routing. I was able to book one ticket for 40K FlexPerks points  and the second one for 50K points. An interesting discovery:  there is no 60K points’ threshold in FlexPerks program. When the ticket price is between $1,000  and $1,400 you have to  use 70K points, and for $1,400- $2,000 ticket it’s 100K points.”

The beauty of FlexPerks 

I’m a big fan of this program and was able to utilize it a few times for my parents’ tickets from Belarus to USA. It’s perfect for simple roundtrip (or open jaw) tickets that don’t include crazy routings or stopovers. The rate is tied to the price of the ticket. There is a catch, however. If it goes over the maximum redemption price by even a dollar, you are bumped into the next bracket.

So, let’s say the ticket costs exactly $400. You can book it for 20,000 FlexPerks points. If it costs $401, you’ll have to shell out 30,000 points. In that instance, you may be better off just saving the points for another flight and using currency like UR points (especially if you have CSR that unlocks 1.5 cents per point towards travel). Another great option is Merrill airfare portal, which I’ve described in detail in the second part of this post.

The airfare for my parents usually costs close to $700 roundtrip per person, that’s why FlexPerks portal is a great choice. In fact, I plan to utilize it in the next few months. If this price holds up, I’ll be able to burn my 40K points for one ticket and use Merrill bonus for the second one. Compare it to 60K miles (plus $115 tax) I would have to shell out via traditional mileage programs, and it’s easy to see why it’s a no-brainer for my particular situation.

Cards that earn FlexPerks points

If you are looking for a juicy sign-up bonus on the Visa version, right now is not the best time to sign up for it. You should wait for Olympic games because US Bank usually bumps up the offer to correspond to the number of medals US team ends up winning.

However, the sign-up bonus on US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express card may be worth considering. Here are the details of the offer:

  • Spend $2,000 in first 4 months of account opening and earn 30,000 bonus FlexPoints
  • 3X FlexPoints at restaurants
  • 2X FlexPoints at gas stations
  • 2X FlexPoints at airlines
  • 1X FlexPoints per $1 spent on all eligible net purchases
  • Annual fee is $85 (not waived)

This card pays us commission, but it’s very difficult to find on the affiliate site, ha! Of course, do check my Hot Deals  page first to see what other offers are available.

Who should consider this offer:

1) Those who plan on booking an airline ticket that normally costs $600 or a bit less. Obviously, anything over $600 will require 40,000 points. If you plan to use this card till next annual fee hits, you should be able to get to 40,000 points’ level. This will give you an opportunity to get two tickets that cost $400 or less.

2) Folks who usually pay cash for tickets and who spend a lot on restaurants, airlines and gas.

3) People who are diligent about maximizing Amex Sync offers. Since it’s an American Express product, you should be able to take advantage of various deals through Twitter or Facebook.

When using miles is a better option

While revenue prices on airline tickets have been going down as of late, that’s not the case for all routes. So, if you are one of the unlucky ones who absolutely has to fly to an expensive destination, miles can come in handy.

For example, while bringing my parents to Orlando is best done via FlexPerks program, if I wanted them to fly to Hawaii, redeeming traditional miles would be the way to go since tickets can cost as much as $1,500 per person. Two more examples: one-way redemptions and last-minute travel. Those can sometimes cost an arm and a leg (via cash).

There are many tools to find out which program will be the right fit. I really like Award Maximizer on TravelCodex. It’s a very simple, user-friendly tool that shouldn’t be too intimidating for beginners.

Some bloggers have dedicated pages on their sites like Cheapest Miles To… on Travelisfree, which I highly recommend. Obviously, programs and mileage requirements change, but it’s still a good primer on what options are out there. For those who are looking to dip their toes into “stopover” world, Travelisfree has a page on it  as well (though it is a bit outdated).

Of course, you can always email me at milesforfamily@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to give some free advice. I won’t personally book tickets for you, but I’ll point you in the right direction (or try to).

Bottom line

While there is no question that accumulating miles and points is easier than redeeming them, the latter isn’t a rocket science. Once you familiarize yourself with various options, your knowledge will pay “dividends” going forward. No need to pay anyone for something you can do yourself. Yes, you can do it!

If you’ve found this content beneficial, please look at  Support the Site page for ways you can help keep the blog running. Also, subscribe to receive free updates through email and recommend the site to your family and friends. You can follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and download  free e-book 

 

 

 

 

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.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedIn

6 thoughts on “A Case Study: Helping Reader Maximize Miles and Points on India/USA Flights

  1. Great post! I had no idea about the US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express card. I like how your blog talks about the non-fluff cards that the other sites ignore. I took a page from your book and got approved for a Best Western Mastercard on my latest AOR. I’ll get enough points for 4 free nights without much effort. I wouldn’t have thought about it if it wasn’t for your blog. Thanks for not regurgitating the sound bites that many miles and points bloggers do.

    • @Lisa M Thank you so much! I’m sure I regurgitate plenty. Honestly, it’s tough to find topics that haven’t already been covered. I do my best, but I still have to rely on the same news items. It’s a tough gig sometimes, but it challenges me intellectually. Plus, it’s still fun! But yeah, I do my best not to get involved in “fluff” discussions. Cough, Leggins United debacle, cough. 🙂 But then again, I rant about silly stuff too.
      Hope things work out with your Best Western card. It’s a niche offer that can be good in certain circumstance. You may also want to look into Choice credit card and possibly Club Carlson. Stay tuned for my tomorrow’s post.

  2. I’ve held off on these threshold single ticket type points for simplicity’s sake. I already overthink this stuff as it is. I suppose I’ll get to those cards eventually.

    • @Cheapblackdad I hear you on overthinking! Guilty. 🙂 Actually, to me, the beauty of FlexPerks program IS its simplicity. Sure, you need to be aware of various thresholds, but if revenue ticket is available, you can book it. No dealing with miles and having to settle for 5 AM flight with multiple connections.
      It helps me to diversify and like I said, it’s a great option for my parents. As long as the flight is less than $800 (and it usually is), I can burn 40K points. Can’t beat that! Of course, I accumulated the points via Olympic offer back in August.

  3. Pingback: A Miracle: I Got Approved for US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card! - Miles For Family

  4. Pingback: Simultaneously Using Flexperks and Merrill Lynch Travel Portals for My Parents' Visit to USA - Miles For Family

Leave a Reply