Last week I published a post on my reasons for swapping Peru trip for an Alaska Cruise. In it I’ve mentioned that I decided to burn Alaska miles for a suboptimal redemption where I would get less than 1 CPM (cent per mile) in value. Getting 1 cent per mile is something I shoot for normally, but our current circumstances make conserving cash a priority.
Anyway, I have been checking the awards daily and was delighted to see that our flight from Seattle to Fort Myers has gone down from 17,500 miles to 12,500 miles per person. Perfect! Nancy and I have mentioned many times that babysitting your reservations is a must in this hobby. Of course, you don’t want to be obsessive about it. Still, when there is free cancellation available, why not spend a few minutes rebooking, right? A minor victory: I would now achieve my goal of 1 CPM after all.
However, I now had a dilemma on my hands. Since 12,500 miles is technically a “saver” redemption, I knew that these awards would also be accessible via AAdvantage program at the exact same rate. So, I figured it might be beneficial to write down my thinking process on how I choose which currency to save and which currency to use. Obviously, this isn’t an exact science and I will say upfront that it doesn’t pay to obsess over this decision too much. None of us know what the future holds, and your least valuable miles may end up giving you spectacular value someday.
But here are the factors I normally consider:
1) Ease of cancellation
AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage plans are equal in this regard. You can cancel and redeposit award tickets at no cost.
It’s a tie.
2) Which miles are the most useful for domestic flights in relation to where we live
I would say they are also equal, and Alaska program may actually become more valuable to us in a near future. That’s due to award chart changes that will be implemented starting in March. Of course, I’m banking on being able to redeem Alaska miles towards AA flights, and it’s hard to say whether AA program will release many award seats to partners. Still, if you offered me the same amount of AA or Alaska miles, I would normally have a hard time choosing.
It’s a tie.
3) Which miles are harder to earn (for us)
At this point in time, AA miles, no question about it. Citi has pretty much blacklisted me and my husband, and I’ve been denied several times when applying for Barclaycard Aviator product. On the other hand, Bank of America is still happy to hand us Alaska co-branded credit cards (for now). Then again, it all could change next month. We used to have no issues applying for Citi cards, alas…
Currency I should conserve: AA miles.
4) The size of our Alaska stash vs. AAdvantage stash
At the moment, I only have 35k AAdvantage miles, though I also have 50k miles tied up in a speculative redemption. It will likely get canceled, but I don’t know that for sure. On the other hand, I have 140k Alaska miles and my husband has 52k miles. So, by default, AA miles would be more precious.
Currency I should conserve: AA miles.
5) Our future plans
I’ve mentioned that I fully intend to rebook our canceled trip to Peru. Even better, I’ve decided that I might as well add Easter island into the mix, and take the kids with us. You should have seen my husband’s face when I told him that we will add Easter island since it’s relatively close to Peru. He started laughing and then pulled up a map.
Well, sure, it’s a trek, but you can only fly to Easter island from Santiago, and we would only be 3.5 hours away from Santiago when visiting Cuzco in Peru. They even have a direct flight from Cuzco to Santiago on certain days. How cool is that?
This is my tentative plan:
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I might even return home by the way of Tahiti if Easter Island-Papeete route returns. No, I’m not crazy. Why do you ask?
So, this is where Alaska miles win, by a mile (pun intended). At the moment, Alaska program partners with LATAM, which gives access to flights from Lima to Cuzco and from Cuzco to Santiago, not to mention a flight to Easter island. In fact, since CUZ-SCL route is under 1,400 miles, it will run at only 7,500 miles one-way starting in March. Another sweet spot is a business-class redemption from Miami to Santiago which will soon cost 50k miles person (up from the current rate of 45k miles).
Alaska also partners with AAdvantage, so there is a possibility of redeeming miles on Miami-Santiago and Miami-Lima flights. When it comes to AAdvantage program, those are the only routes where I can burn miles. They don’t partner with LATAM, so I have limited options with AA.
Of course, Alaska-LATAM partnership may dissolve in a near future, but I can only make decisions based on the knowledge I have at the moment.
Currency I should conserve: Alaska miles.
What I ended up doing
As you’ve probably guessed, I ended up burning AA miles. The biggest and most important factor when it comes to this sort of decisions are my tentative travel plans in the next couple of years. Of course, my circumstances could change, but as of right now I fully intend to take my family to South America with the help of miles in the next year or two. And Alaska stash is what will hopefully help me with this goal by preserving cash that I can use for other trip expenses.
Readers, share your own thought process!
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.