Category Archives: Point Redemption

The Magic of the Stopover

Let’s say you are planning a frequent flyer award ticket to Europe.  What would you say if I told you that for the same amount of miles, you could get the first leg of a trip to Hawaii?  You’d say impossible, right?  Well, depending on where you live, you can do just that using the magic of the stopover.

A stopover is defined as a layover that is more than 4 hours for domestic trips or 24 hours for international trips.  American Airlines allows for one stopover at your North American gateway airport for trips between the US and Europe.  Gateway airports for American are Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, JFK and Los Angeles.  If you live near one of these cities (or can travel to them cheaply), you are in luck.  The cost of an award ticket between ANYWHERE in the US and Europe costs the same number of frequent flyer miles (20,000 miles one-way in the fall/winter, and 30,000 miles in the spring/summer).

Let’s say that you were planning a frequent flyer trip to Europe.  You would schedule your outgoing flights as a one-way ticket (between your home and Europe).  You would then schedule your return flights as a one-way.  But instead of scheduling it between Europe and your home airport, you would schedule flights that go from Europe to a gateway city and then on to Hawaii.  Your trip to Hawaii does not need to take place immediately after your trip to Europe.  It just needs to happen within 1 year of the issue date of the trip.  You can schedule the tickets and then change the date of the Hawaiian trip when you decide you want to do.  And if the routing is the same, you will not have to pay a fee to change the tickets.

I have to admit when I first heard about this, I thought it was one of the coolest things I had learned since starting this frequent flyer award travel journey.

I wish I had known about this option before I booked our last Hawaiian vacation because you could do the same strategy for a Hawaiian vacation.  I would have booked a one-way to Hawaii (departing from an American Airlines hub).  And then I would have booked a one-way from Hawaii to a US gateway city and on to Europe.  That would have given me the outgoing trip to Europe for only 2,500 more miles per ticket!

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at with any questions.

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How to Redeem American Airline AAdvantage Miles

When redeeming American Airlines frequent flyer miles, you have 3 redemption options:

  • All American Airlines award
  • All Partner award
  • OneWorld award

The easiest to understand, and the one I would assume most people use, is the All American Airlines award ticket.  This ticket would be one where you only fly on American Airlines flights.  You can book them directly on American’s web site.  Today I’ll walk through those basics.  Later in the week, I’ll talk about Partner awards, stopovers, use of one way tickets to mimic open jaws (which are no longer allowed on American Airlines), and OneWorld awards.

The easiest way to search for American Airlines award availability is on American Airline’s web site.  Let’s say you wanted to travel from Boston to Los Angeles in September and you don’t have specific dates you want to travel.

Open the American Aireline’s web site.  Check the box for Redeem AAdvantage Miles, enter in BOS for Depart From, LAX for Arrive In, September dates in the Depart Date and Return Date fields, and click Find Flights.

Select the date you want to travel from Boston to LA on by clicking on the box.  Notice that the dates that use the least amount of miles are the light green color.

Select the date you want to travel from LA to Boston on by clicking on the box, then click the Continue button at the bottom of the screen.  Note: If you weren’t already logged into your American AAdvantage account by now, there would be boxes asking you to log in.  I was already logged in, so it didn’t display those fields.

Select the flights you want to take from Boston to LA by clicking on the group of flights.  After you selected the outgoing flights you like, then click on the Return section on the left hand side of the screen.

Select the returns flights you want to take by clicking on the grouping of flights.

Scroll to the bottom of the page.  You will see a log in section.  Enter your AAdvantage number and password and click the Log In button.

The next page is the confirmation and payment page.  Confirm the information is correct and enter your information for payment and enjoy your trip!  (The total cost of this trip would have been 25,000 miles and $10 in taxes.)

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at with any questions.

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How to Keep Your Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring

When do miles expire for the major US airlines?

  • American Airlines – 18 months after last activity
  • British Airways – 3 years after last activity (including BA because of the big sign-up bonus they just had)
  • Delta – never
  • Continental – never, but accounts can be closed or miles forfeited after 18 months of inactivity
  • United – 18 months after last activity (Continental will be absorbed into United’s program with the merger)
  • US Airways – 18 months after last activity

With the high sign-up bonuses lately, you might be worried that the miles will expire before you can use the miles.  Fear not.  There are easy ways to keep the points active even without flying.

  • Use a co-branded credit card.  The activity from the credit card posts miles to your frequent flyer account giving you activity on the account.
  • Sign up for the shopping program on the airline’s site – You can keep your miles alive for as little as downloading 1 song from iTunes.
  • Sign up for one the dining program on the airline’s site – You sign up one of your credit cards for the program.  When you eat at one of the participating restaurants, you earn miles.
  • If you absolutely have to, you could buy miles.  But considering how easy it is to keep them alive with shopping and dining, I don’t know why you would need to.

So go collect all the miles you can.  You will be able to keep them from expiring.

Now there is some news on the credit card front.

There is an American Express credit card offer which has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after $500 in 3 months.  There is no annual fee the first or second year.  You are not eligible for this offer if you already have another American Express charge card such as the blue, green or one of the other color cards.  But if you have the Starwood Hotel, Delta, or Hilton cards, you are eligible as those are credit cards, not charge cards.  Amex Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel frequent flyer programs.  They can also be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

Also Chase has a new offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  It comes with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus and no annual fee.  The offer officially is live on Monday.  There are links available now, but they don’t show the offer page which would say the sign-up bonus and spending requirements.  I’m not comfortable posting the links until I see the offer page.  I’ll post the link when I see that, but I wanted to let you know the deal was coming now in case you’re trying to decide what credit cards to apply for.  Sapphire points can be redeemed for travel as well as merchandise or gift cards.

(HT: Frugal Travel Guy)

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Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles Continued

Yesterday’s post about redeeming frequent flyer miles was very popular so I thought I’d spend more time on tips for redeeming miles.  And if anyone has specific questions, please let me know and I’ll address them directly in the comments section or in another post.

The first thing you want to do when you’re thinking of redeeming your frequent flyer points is understand the program you are redeeming with.  There are a lot of great options that I don’t think most people know about.  For example with American Airlines (One World Alliance), you can redeem miles based on the total number of miles you are traveling in the trip.  Why is that a great option?  It allows you to visit many locations.  For example, you could string together an around the world trip in economy for approximately 120,000 – 140,000 miles or in business for 150,000 – 190,000.  That may seem like a lot of miles, but if you use some of the credit card strategies discussed earlier, it is easier than you think.  You can read all about redeeming AAdvantage miles in the Flyertalk Oneworld Awards Using American Airline Miles thread.

Flyertalk is a great resource for learning about how to use your frequent flyer miles.  Here is the link to the list of all of the frequent flyer program threads.  The people on Flyertalk are great.  They will give you pointers on how you can use your miles, especially if you tell them you are a newbie.  If you don’t want to figure everything out on your own and you are trying to book a complicated trip, you may want to consider a service offered by Points Pro ($150 for first ticketed traveler, $100 for others) or Book Your Award ($250 for first 2 travelers, $100 for others).

I couldn’t possibly talk about the best options for each program in this one post.  But if you have questions, I will write about your question in a future post.

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Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles

The 2 most common reasons that I hear from people as to why they don’t want to play the credit card sign-up bonus game is 1) they don’t want to ruin their credit 2) they think that it’s impossible to redeem the miles for flights.  I’ve already talked about understanding your credit score.  So today’s I’ll talk about redeeming miles.

I redeemed miles for trips to Hawaii over February school break, Alaska and Wyoming over the summer and many others.  You can use your miles to travel to places you’d love to go.  You just need to do a little planning. 

Most frequent flyer programs allow you to book trips 331 days in advance.  You can use services like Expert Flyer or the KVS Tool to help you find flights (and even send you a message when a flight you want becomes available).  Or you can use the web site of the airline you’re redeeming miles on.  If you’re flying to a popular destination at a popular time, you want to try to book the trip 331 days in advance.  Many airlines allow you to book one-way tickets and some allow you to put a hold on tickets.  If you know you’re traveling at an in demand time, you should think about redeeming your outgoing flights and return flights separately.  If you wait until the entire round-trip is available (331 days before your return flight), your outgoing flights may not be available.  If it’s a really popular destination, find out EXACTLY what time the airline opens up the schedule.  I’m talking down to the minute.  When I was booking a trip to Hawaii over a school vacation, I found out when each leg of my trip was becoming available.  I was on the computer at that exact time, and I put holds on each of the legs.  When I had all of the legs held for the outgoing trip, I released the holds, and then immediately booked the flights.  You won’t need to be that extreme for all flight redemption.  But if you know it’s going to be a hard one to book, you may want to consider it.

Consider flying out of alternate airports.  Tickets that book up really fast are those between smaller airports and hubs.  So be flexible and look at airports that are not too far for you to drive to.  Same advice on your destination airport.  For example, if want to travel to Rhode Island, you should search Providence, Boston, Hartford, LaGuardia, Manchester, NH, and possibly Albany, NY.

Consider flying on partner airlines.  Most airlines partner with other airlines.  Depending on where you’re going, you may be able to find availability on one of the partner airlines.

Talking of partner airlines – Don’t let anyone tell you that a partner airline doesn’t have the same flights available to them than if you were booking with frequent flyer miles from that airline.  When I was booking American Airline tickets using British Airways miles, the first customer service representative told me that they didn’t have access to all of the American Airlines tickets.  That simply isn’t true.  It’s not worth arguing with the customer service representative.  Just call back to get a different customer service representative.

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