While we’ve seen regular credit card transfer bonuses and increased sign-up bonuses in 2023, this year has also had widespread award devaluations. Within the last couple of months, Etihad Airways slashed all partner sweet spots, Virgin Atlantic spiked award rates on some premium-cabin ANA awards and Alaska Airlines increased Japan Airlines awards by up to 100%, to name a few.
So, after so many devaluations, eight TPG staffers weigh in with their favorite award redemptions that are still around.
Here are some of our favorite, reliable uses of points and miles.
Flying Blue promos and upgrades
Every month, Air France-KLM Flying Blue releases Promo Rewards. Brian Kelly, The Points Guy founder, booked four business-class awards from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for 41,250 miles each. And as he points out, there are routine transfer bonuses to Flying Blue.
The current one-way economy-class Promo Rewards start at 11,250 miles on routes like Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Prague Airport (PRG). When you factor in the current 25% Flying Blue transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards (transfer bonus ends May 22) and Chase Ultimate Rewards (transfer bonus ends May 15), you can transfer just 9,000 points to book these awards — that’s a bargain for a transatlantic flight.
Flying Blue also recently added free stopovers to its award tickets. I booked a one-way KLM business-class ticket from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) via Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) for 95,000 miles. Thanks to the stopover, which requires calling Flying Blue to book, I’ll spend a couple of days in Amsterdam to get over jet lag before continuing to India — or, put differently, the Flying Blue stopover lets you visit two cities for the price of one.
Using airline miles for domestic flights
Scott Mayerowitz, our executive editor, has gone back to the basics of using domestic airline programs to book simple domestic economy tickets for his family. After all, most domestic awards allow you to change or cancel flights without any fees.
While he acknowledges this isn’t always the best way to stretch airline miles, he puts a high price on flexibility these days. It’s even a great way to book some backup flight options.
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Clint Henderson, our managing editor for news, also has been using his airline miles for domestic flights. On a recent trip to Alabama, Clint had the choice of booking an economy-class ticket for $500 or 42,000 Delta Air Lines SkyMiles. Instead, he booked first class for 49,000 SkyMiles.
Using miles to upgrade
Scott booked five one-way economy-class tickets from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) via Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) on Hawaiian Airlines for $424.41 each. He then applied 50,000 HawaiianMiles to each ticket to confirm lie-flat business-class upgrades to Honolulu and first class for the short hop to Maui. Better yet, Scott transferred his American Express Membership Rewards points to HawaiianMiles during a 20% transfer bonus promotion in September.
It’s highly unlikely he would have ever found five award tickets (or even one) in a premium cabin on another airline (he tried).
And Scott isn’t alone. Clint observes that buying economy or premium economy on Air France or KLM can be a great value, while using 30,000 Flying Blue miles can be a great way to upgrade to business class with no taxes or fees.
Short flights can be a superb way to redeem travel rewards, too.
As senior writer Ben Smithson suggests, you can still use 4,750 British Airways Avios plus 17.50 British pounds (around $22) for British Airways short-haul flights up to 600 miles in distance (i.e., flights from London to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, etc.). As Ben says, “It’s still one of the best redemption deals in the industry.”
In addition, before booking your next United Airlines domestic flight, check award availability on Avianca LifeMiles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. If award space is available, these programs tend to charge fewer miles than United MileagePlus — and they also partner with a number of transferable credit card currencies.
Transatlantic Iberia business class
Iberia has some appealing award rates for its business-class routes to Europe.
Director of content Nick Ewen booked a round-trip Iberia business-class flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS) via Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) for 103,000 Iberia Plus Avios plus around $400 in taxes and fees. Had he ended his travels in Madrid, the flight would’ve been just 85,000 Avios for the round trip.
Brian is also a big fan of Iberia’s low award rates to Europe. In March, he used around 42,000 Avios plus $40 per person to book six one-way business-class Iberia awards from JFK to Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) in Porto, Portugal, via Madrid.
Off-peak East Coast flights to Madrid (between 3,001 and 4,000 miles) cost just 34,000 Iberia Plus Avios and around $120.
Dodging resort fees at Hyatt properties
Zach Griff, one of our senior reporters, points out that the World of Hyatt program continues to provide lots of value. Even though Hyatt increased award prices at over 200 hotels earlier this year, you don’t pay resort or destination fees on most Hyatt award stays. At some properties, this can save you $50 (or more) per night.
High-end Oneworld redemptions
Senior credit cards editor Matt Moffitt is a big fan of Qantas’ lie-flat seat, delicious food and comfy pajamas. When saver award space is available, you can book Qantas business class from the U.S. to Australia for 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles or 80,000 American AAdvantage miles. You can add domestic connections on each side with award space for no extra miles.
Matt also likes the fantastic dine-on-demand food options and professional customer service offered in Qatar’s private Qsuite. You can book the Qsuite to Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha, Qatar, for 70,000 British Airways Avios or 70,000 AAdvantage miles when business saver space is available.
Moreover, when you book a connecting flight in business class to a Gulf country, the short-haul flight is marketed as first class, so you can enjoy the ultra-exclusive Al Safwa first-class lounge during your connection in Doha.
There’s one final luxury Oneworld redemption that Brian recommends: For 80,000 AAdvantage miles, you can book Japan Airlines first class from the U.S. to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND).
With increases in award pricing and sweet spots going to the chopping block, it’s easy to feel discouraged. That’s why we recommend routinely redeeming the points and miles you earn, since travel rewards are depreciating assets.
While some might try and save enough points for a long-haul premium-cabin flight, a short-haul skip can also prove to be a solid way to save on airfare.
Either way, you can use this article for inspiration as you begin to map out your next trip.