Yesterday, my brother g chatted me from Europe with an urgent request: I need to change my flight home. Can you do it?
Yes, I said, but it is going to cost you an arm and a leg.
True, but not the full story.
I called American Airlines to ask about the cost of changing flights. $723, she said: $275 for the change fee and $428 for the difference in fare. That’s a lot of money for an extra four days in Germany, I told my brother. He agreed.
That’s not where the story ends, however.
I went on the British Airways website and booked my brother a one-way ticket from Berlin to JFK for $99 and 20,000 British Avios points. I got these points by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to BA during a 35% promo bonus. So, fewer than 15,000 AmEx points became 20,000 Avios. I received 100,000 AmEx points for signing up for the Platinum Card.
Imagine that: three-plus round-trip tickets to Europe in coach for one credit card sign-up. Availability one week out for under $100 in fees. Ree-dic-uuuu-lous.
You need miles and points. You need them so that you can travel to amazing places for virtually nothing. But, you also need them so that when you find yourself in a pinch, you can get out of it with points.
Last-minute flights are particularly egregious, in terms of price. You cannot escape that fact. You can, however, be prepared for the inevitable last minute trip by having enough miles to get wherever and enough points to stay there.
Here’s my points and miles strategy:
- You want to make sure that you have accounts with all of the major loyalty programs, including the domestic carriers (AA, United, US, and Delta) as well as international carriers (BA, Lufthansa, etc).
- You want to have a strategy for earning points on every single purchase you make.
- I like three credit cards for this: 1) Starwood Preferred AmEx (this gets you SPG points, which transfer to US, AA, and Delta at a 1-1 ratio as well as a number of foreign carriers). 2) Chase Sapphire Preferred (transfers to United, Hyatt, and others). 3) American Express Platinum (in addition to being a baller card with tons of benefits, AmEx rewards points transfer to British Airways Avios, which are probably my favorite points).
- Nearly every single dollar you spend should be on a credit card. You can pay your roommate’s your share of the rent using a credit card through Amazon Payments. Cable, internet, cell phone, etc, all can be paid through credit. Electricity and water get tricky, and I find it too much work to go through pre-paid cards to cut checks to the company.
- Keep your points in the most flexible currency possible. The beauty of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and AmEx Membership Rewards points is that they can be transferred to a number of partners. With straight United points, you are limited in usage. With points, you can search award availability before transferring points to the carrier that has the best itinerary for you.
- Sign-up for new cards, whenever possible, and whenever you can get the best sign-up bonuses.
- Use your points when you want/need to use them! And, keep a “rainy-day fund” for unexpected trips.
That’s it! Don’t let yourself be stuck in a last-minute situation that forces you to pay out the wazoo to go somewhere!