Even In An Age Of Mileage Devaluation, Awesome Uses Abound


As the airlines have undergone relentless consolidation they have been able to devalue their mileage programs with less worries of passengers jumping ship.  They’ve been able to get rid of excess inventory, leading to fuller planes and more expensive flights. They’ve made the cost of awards go up faster than the cost of dollar inflation and they’re going to limit the miles you get when flying on most airfares next year (though that may make miles earned from credit cards that much more valuable and useable).

While the old advice may have been to concentrate on one program so that you would be able to get to an aspirational award more quickly that is hardly the case anymore.

Although many mileage programs have been devalued, they have also improved in some ways.  While prices for domestic tickets continue to climb, there are still 25K domestic saver awards and even better yet, awards for as low as 9K round-trip via British Airways on American and now on USAirways as well.

Many programs now allow for one-way redemptions. That allows you to redeem for an aspirational award, like a one-way ticket on your own private walled-in suite on Singapore for just 57,000 miles.  And you can return with miles from another program, as low as 20K with American for example.

Of course there’s no need to have those miles parked in a Singapore account where they’re subject to devaluation and expiration, you can transfer points over from AMEX, Chase, or Starwood whenever you’re ready.

As for me, this week is the 6th consecutive week I’m flying somewhere with my miles. In that time period I’ve flown to Chicago twice (BA and United short haul awards), Kansas City (United short-haul award), NYC (United short-haul and Flying Blue), Fort Lauderdale (United award), and NYC again later this week.

Many of the tickets were booked last minute, all of them would have been ridiculously expensive without miles.
When I flew to NYC I purchased a ticket just 75 minutes before the flight. Paid flights were over $1,000. Delta only had saver award availability going to NYC and United only had saver award availability for the return later that day.

Of course Delta doesn’t allow you to book a one-way saver award (they will next year) so I hopped onto the Air France Flying Blue site to book the Delta flight. Unfortunately their site can only book flights 3 hours prior to departure so I called them up and booked over the phone while getting them to waive the $20 phone booking fee due to it not being bookable online.

I typically only bank miles I use frequently, like American, BA, and United miles. So as soon as the agent told me they he was able to book the Delta flight for me for 12.5K miles I hopped onto the AMEX MR site and transferred over the miles I needed for that flight to Flying Blue. No reason to stock Flying Blue miles when they transfer instantly when I need them.

I Uber’d around to NYC, finished up what I needed to get done, and even had time for another sublime meal at Mike’s Bistro.  He had a corn soup special that night which was just phenomenal and of course his other other-worldly standbys: duck gnocchi, short ribs, fries, and a passion fruit frozen daiquiri.  And made it back home that night carrying a goodie back from Mike’s for my wife as well.  Truly the best kosher restaurant in the US east of Oxnard, CA.

Sure, miles are “worth the most” when used for aspirational international travel, those business and first class flights that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but are easily attainable for the masses by opening a single credit card.

But as longhaul travel gets harder with a growing family I have no shame in redeeming miles domestically, whether it’s to Banff or Miami. Next month we’ll fly to LA using 25,000 United miles for each of the 4 of us rather than paying $613 for the nonstop flight. No shame whatsoever.

If you only redeem for round-trip coach travel you’ll want to put your spending on the BBarclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, no doubt.

But if you want to book one-way tickets, trips with stopovers to multiple places, business or first class trips, trips to Canada, or more crucially, last-minute tickets, real airline miles simply can’t be beat. As long as airline miles aren’t tied to the cost of a ticket this game remains fun and lucrative.  The day the airlines make miles worth a set amount each, is the day I switch all of my base spending to a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.  Hopefully the airlines realize that and won’t kill the most (only?) profitable segment they have, the zone or distance based mileage redemption program.

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32 Comments On "Even In An Age Of Mileage Devaluation, Awesome Uses Abound"

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Can you transfer points to FF programs with the Barclay Arrival card?


With AF you can not book online within 24 hours of departure. (not 3 hours)


Only AMEX MR/Chase UR/Starwood gives those options.

Not true for Delta flights at least.


Where can you fly one way on singapore with 57k miles?


I wonder what percentage of the general flyers “we” are, the people who would buy only with miles, and feel like a fool paying cash for a ticket.


Thanks Dan also what’s the best way to fly to Israel using mr points


Wow you’re doing a lot of hopping i see.

DDfer from LA

Any plans for a seminar in LA? Or Oxnard 🙂 ?


Completely agree about getting value from domestic awards: 22k ANA miles for 2 r/t’s which are selling for $800+ each. Love ANA as we’re in COS. As long as we are willing to start in DEN, we can get 2 R/T’s tickets on one itinerary. Same on United would cost 50K total (even with saver award, standard would be 100k). Now that’s a Saver Award! 🙂


in other news it seems like the cali college edu email for best buy imac deal is not working anymore… any other ideas?!?!


Dan: first of all, I was at the Miami DDS last week – was great, thanks very much. Based on your statement above re Barclays card, if I’m buying RT tix MIA-TLV around Sukos time when award availability is limited, is that when Barclays card would be best option? Thanks


If I book a flight using miles, can I put the taxes/fees on the Barclay card and get reimbursed for it. Making my trip totally free?!


Dan: i read a lot of your posts and learned a lot from them. i can’t find (i searched)where you discuss booking national flights with miles. For international you gave some tips on how to find saver but i am trying to fly national in august and need some tips please how to get UA saver. thanks


1. I recently encountered a $13 while booking award travel with BA. Do you know if that indeed a legitimate tax increase?
2. What happens with Barclay’s Arrival points if you decide to cancel Arrival MC? Do you lose all unused points, or can transfer them to another Barclays card?

Thanks, Barak


I have all kinds of airline miles and hotel point. But I am low on Starwood points. Can I transfer any to Starwood.


I do not think you can transfer instantly SPG points to FlyingBlue?
Can you confirm? Any tips on how to speed the process if I need to wait a few weeks?
Only way to transfer immediately is thru Amex RP, correct?


Go to next page. Sometimes the first page on ba is mispriced

Something nice to say

Dan – nothing more to say than just a truly beautifully written post yet again !!


Dan, thanks a lot for this post as well as others! I’m just starting this “miles game”. Could you please explain how to book BA award tickets using US miles (I live near Philly). I have about $60,000 US Airways miles and would like to fly to europe at the end of July. I also have United points (about 60,000), Chase Freedom (50,000), Chase Inc (60,000) and SPG points (30,000). Of course I would prefer to fly on these points together with my husband and 2kids (2.5yrs & 4.5yrs) if possible, but I can pay for some tickets if not enough points for all of us. Which points would you suggest to combine & how, and also how to book award tickets? Thank you in advance!


P.S.: if there is a link with the info that I need, please post it for me, and I will read everything. Thanks again!


OMG! I was at Mike’s Bistro last Monday night (June 16) with my daughters and two of their friends. Were we there at the same time and I just didn’t spot you?
Didn’t have the corn soup but had the short ribs and the duck breast…mouth watering just thinking about it!! Got the tip from Dani Klein, a food blogger I follow on twitter. BTW: Mike is moving to midtown…54th…in a few months.
Susan is on her way to Cleveland with Rivka and Nate…I know you’ll be a big help to them.
Love following you…saved so much $$…and now my kids (Rachel and Ellie) have a spreadsheet just to keep track of all their points!!
Thanks! Keep up the great work!!


@Eli: Yes



We help fill seats that would otherwise go unsold. That’s valuable as well.

Class of service?


@DDfer from LA:
There was one half a year ago in LA 😀

Yup, ANA is just awesome.

What doesnt work about it?

Absolutely. As long as you don’t mind coach.

Sure can!

Come to a seminar?

1. Route?
2. Just cash em out on a refundable itinerary. Or get them to waive the annual fee and keep it.

Not really.

Correct. Though it shouldn’t take more than a week or 2.

@Something nice to say:

You can transfer Chase/AMEX/SPG points to BA to book you on USAir.

I was there on the 12th. I’ve been raving about Mike’s for quite some time now. Hopefully they get even better with the move!


Btw FYI. I booked a domestic one way flight on united with my miles n More account last week. And it was 12,500 miles and NOT 12,000 as u have written in the past.


Do Amex or chase transfer to Singapore instantly?


@bruce: no


No coincidence that your flight to LA will cost $613. Just saying.


@Dan: best buy is just not emailing the codes


Hi Dan,
you said “Next month we’ll fly to LA using 25,000 United miles for each of the 4 of us rather than paying $613 for the nonstop flight”….
How you go about booking United Flights With Points?


Hi Dan I know you don’t like capital one cc’s because of three pulls but as we lose more and more options for accumulating points(Amex lifetime bonus, chase business getting tough) do you think that the three pulls will be worth it? Also who can we email at capital one to try and persuade them to pull from only one credit report agency

Thanks dan

With the me the new devaluation and other Credit Cards emerging, can you do an update of you MVPs (most valuable plastics)?? Would be awesome! See you in Brooklyn tonight


are you sure that you can fly from SIN-NYC for 20k american?