Update: this offer has changed. Also, Asia miles has changed its award chart and you no longer get discounts on roundtrip award tickets.
No, the card doesn’t actually earn Avios points, but hang on. So, last Friday I saw a post on DoC that mentioned new offer on Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card Two most relevant details: you get 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 within the first 90 days; annual fee of $95 is NOT waived.
Any time I see an offer of 50,000 miles on a credit card (any credit card), I pay attention. It doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m going to apply, but I will investigate it in order to see if I can make it work with my upcoming plans. I’m on the fence right now, but will probably try to get it at some point.
My biggest issue is the fact that I would have to put $2,500 on the card, potentially foregoing other lucrative offers. I much prefer cards like Avianca Vuela Visa Signature (see more details here) that give you miles after just one purchase. Still, Cathay Pacific offer can be a great deal under the right circumstances. Since I try to tailor my content to regular people who mostly travel within US and Caribbean, I wanted to see if there is value to be had.
The ideal candidate for this card
Cathay Pacific miles are redeemable on OneWorld alliance and Alaska Airlines. Here is the full list:
Interestingly, Cathay partners with Lufthansa, even though the latter belongs to Star Alliance. This could come in handy on flights within Europe where fuel surcharges are not astronomical.
Majority of my readers will be interested in using this currency on American Airlines and Alaska Air. Of course, the biggest issue with AA awards is lack of sAAver availability, and that’s the only kind accessible via Cathay Pacific Asia Miles program. Alaska Airlines award availability is a bit better, so you may have an easier time redeeming your miles. In short, this is a card you should probably investigate if you live near Alaska Air or American hub, or if you regularly fly there from your home airport.
At the beginning of the post I’ve mentioned British Airways Avios currency (read about Chase British Airways credit card here). Asia Miles program works in a similar way. As long as there is low-level availability via AA.com or Alaskaair.com, you should be able to book those flights.
Award chart is also distance-based, though it’s not priced per segment, but rather cumulative mileage total. A comment from my reader DW: “I’ve read conflicting reports on how Cathay calculates the distance for 2 or more legs. The last article I read, I forget the blog, wrote that they use distance A -> C even though you are flying A->B->C. Going to confirm this when I get the time in a few days. If so, this would have huge value for me flying out of PDX.”
This person may be on to something. I just plugged in JFK-GIG combination in the calculator on Asia Miles website, and it prices at 45k miles roundtrip. If they added up the segments individually, JFK-MIA/MIA-GIG, it should have been bumped to the next tier. I’ll try to do more research on this one.
The price for non-stop flights will usually be a bit higher compared to Avios program, but not always. Synchrony bank is supposedly easy when it comes to approvals, so this is a good option for folks who are running out of cards to apply for.
The award chart and sweet spots
It appears that you should be able to book Alaska Air award flights online, which is a huge plus
The way it’s described here is a bit confusing. In practice, one-way flight that is 600 miles or less will cost you 10,000 miles. If you fly roundtrip, the distance can be double that amount. Let me show you an example. Let’s say you want to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles. You can go to AA.com and check if there are any sAAver flights available:
Looks like you have a choice of AA-operated flight or one on Alaska Air (if you are OK with an alternate airport). Both flights should be bookable via Asia Miles at a cost of 10,000 miles one-way or 15,000 miles roundtrip. You can check award rates via this handy calculator
The award rate on AA-operated flights is identical.
For comparison, you will pay 7,500 Avios one-way on those flights as well. If you fly roundtrip, redeeming via Asia Miles program will cost the same exact amount in miles. So, the biggest value is in the routes that are 600 miles or less one-way, AND if you take a roundtrip flight.
Some other examples of 15,000 mile roundtrip pricing: New York-Toronto on American Airlines, Miami-Nassau on American, Anchorage-Fairbanks on Alaska Air. If you fly those routes often, you may want to look into this card, especially if you are short on Avios points, AAdvantage/Alaska miles.
If you want to go to Hawaii, there are some OK deals to be had if you happen to live on the west coast. Here is an example of roundtrip pricing between LAX-Maui:
Once again, you will do better if you redeem miles on a roundtrip flight, one-way pricing is 20,000 miles. Finding sAAver availability to Hawaii on AA is problematic, but not impossible. Also, keep in mind, those same exact flights will cost you 12,500 Avios, and you don’t need to book a roundtrip ticket.
What about super long routes? Let’s take an example of Miami-Rio de Janeiro flight. It runs at 60,000 miles roundtrip via AAdvantage and 50,000 Avios via BA Avios program. According to GCMAP, the distance between MIA and GIG airports is 4,163 miles.
That means the flight would fall under Zone C and cost 25,000 Asia miles one-way, and 45,000 miles roundtrip. It’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not bad either, considering the fact that most programs charge 50k to 60k for this type of flight. In fact, you could even add a short flight to Miami, as long as it doesn’t exceed 837 miles one-way.
Update: I’ve decided to investigate it further and found an online brochure that contains Asia Miles redemption rules. You can access it here
Interestingly, when you redeem miles on just one Cathay partner (as in ONLY American or Alaska Airlines), you don’t have to add up all the segments individually. The rules, however, are different for multi-carrier award. This is significant, and here is why. Let’s say you want to fly from New York to Rio de Janeiro and have to connect in Miami. When you add up the mileage for individual segments, it bumps you into Zone D, which requires 60k miles roundtrip.
However, if you check Asia Miles calculator, it shows a price of 45k miles. That’s because the distance between JFK and GIG airports (straight line) is 4,787 miles, which falls into Zone C. And you can even add a stopover in Miami at no cost.
One credit card will pay for two one-way flights in this case, which isn’t bad, even when factoring in $95 annual fee. Keep in mind, SPG, American Express Membership Rewards & Citi Thank You points all transfer to Cathay 1:1. So, there is always an option to top up your account if you are short on miles. My reader Audrey just reminded me that through September 6th, Citi is offering a 20% bonus on transfers to Cathay via Thank You program.
As you can see from above examples, there are times when Asia Miles will be equal to or better than Avios program.
While not something most normal families will care about, there is a lot of potential value to be had in that area. See details on Travelisfree The post mostly focuses on international redemptions, but the same rules should apply within US as well. You are allowed two free stopovers on roundtrip ticket and one stopover on one-way ticket. I haven’t tested it in practice because at the moment I have zero Asia Miles, but those are the rules (as far as I know).
Who should skip this card (for now)
To me, this deal falls under “grizzled hobbyists” category, basically, people like myself. As I’ve said before, there are other good deals to be had, which should probably be prioritized at the moment. Few obvious ones that come to mind: Wells Fargo Propel World (see details) and Terps Visa.
Both require some hoops to jump through, but the rewards are most definitely worth it. Also, if you are new to miles and points hobby, you may want to start with Chase cards. Otherwise, if you live near AA or Alaska hub and have some flexibility in your schedule, you should definitely consider this offer.
Readers, share your thoughts!
Leana is the 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.