Today's post will be more on the advanced side of the points and miles game. There’s a lot more to learn before skipping to this step but I wanted to show you my booking process now, so when I post our adventures, you will have a better understanding of how we were able fly in luxury without breaking the bank. Below I'll show you my thought process and post screenshots of the steps I'm taking.
The first step before checking for flights is understanding your personal threshold of how much money you're willing to spend and how many points/miles you're willing to use! When you have that understood, you're ready book your next adventure!
PRICING and ROUTES
When we decide on a location for our next adventure, there is one website we will always check first…GOOGLE FLIGHTS! Google Flights is the most simple and informative way to check flights because they give you the ability to check the dates for the best prices, check specific airlines, alliances, different classes and all in different currencies!
In the following example, I’ll use a flight from JFK(New York) to LHR(London) to show the price calendar and the different airlines that show immediately:
Calendar with price differences
When it's a shorter trip, like for an off day or a weekend, we don’t use the calendar much because we're locked into that designated time. If it's a vacation, we will use the calendar to see the best days in the window of time we selected. If we leave two days earlier or stay two days later, we usually have that leeway to be flexible.
Airlines can be chosen by price, duration, etc
After we decide on the best prices (depending if we use points or miles, the price might not make a difference), we check for the best routing options. We’ve flown out of our way before to use points/miles when we felt it was worth it but usually, we take one of the shortest trips available.
The next step, I check airlines that are in the same airline alliance as the one my wife or I hold the highest status. It just so happens that right now my wife and I both hold AA Platinum (she’ll be Platinum Pro in 2 months) which is a One World alliance. The advantage of using partner alliances go from lounge access to extra checked bags. If we're planning to fly business or first class, the alliance doesn't matter because you'll get all the same benefits as the highest elite statuses.
In this example, you’ll see how Google Flights allows you to choose between three alliance partners or as many airlines as you would like to choose:
One World alliance options
Now, with this feature, we can decide if the routes give us good options to use our alliance airlines. If we can use a One World alliance partner, this will be the end of our Google Flights search. If we can’t use a partner airline, the search for other alliances that we have miles saved up with will begin!
TRAVEL CARDS TRANSFER PARTNERS
After checking for alliance partners and airlines that we have miles saved up with fails, our last option is transfer partners. When you own a transferrable points card, each points system has transfer airline partners. This is the true power of having a points card and should be the main reason you get one. This is when the fun starts, and yes, a little more work too.
Below you’ll see the Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners with an image of the options on Google Flights:
Google Flights options
This process takes the most work. After knowing where you want to transfer points, you have to understand the time it takes for the points to arrive, make sure the reward redemption is available and that the cents per point (cpp) value is too your liking. ***I’ll show this process step by step in another post.***
CASH VS POINTS/MILES
This is the final step to my airline booking process. You’ve gotten all the information in front of you now. You know where you’re going and all the possibilities to get there. Now, the price threshold you’ve set for yourself versus the points/miles threshold you’ve set will help you decide your final decision.
The value of your points is calculated with cpp’s but the true value is decided by the person that has them. If I personally want to get the top cpp value every time, that’s how I choose to use my points and miles. If you see them as an added bonus and only care to not spend your cash, even if you get less cpp’s than me, our goals were both achieved which makes the value the same. YMMV is the most used term when discussing points and miles because everyone’s situation and goals are different.
This post was simply to give you a little more insight of what goes into choosing flights when you have the option to use points, miles or cash. This is our formula of saving thousands when flying to various countries.
Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!
I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your own homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page and channel are for entertainment purposes only.
If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help.