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Typically, the best way to redeem your miles is for business class, international flights, or last minute expensive flights. Usually, a domestic redemption will not give you the best value especially if planned in advance, although to many “free is free”, so it is worth it. Well… for those that like to ski out west (the mountains are SO MUCH better than what we have on the east coast), there is a seasonal non-stop flight on American Airlines from JFK to Vail (EGE Airport code). As you can imagine, this flight is not cheap and for the dates I was looking to go costs $607.20. For me personally, that is insanely expensive for a domestic flight and I would never pay that price tag.
Fortunately though, there was award availability on American which means you can use the following points and miles (here is a post on comparing the two loyalty programs and determining which one to use):
- You can use American Airline AAdvantage miles for a roundtrip flight – which typically requires 25,000 miles roundtrip, however, through the months of January, February, and March this route is on sale if you are a Citi AAdvantage cardholder and you can ultimately get it for as low as 15,750 miles + $25 phone fee. This would give a 3.6 cents per mile valuation (and that takes into consideration the $11.20 in taxes and $25 phone fee).
- You can use your British Airways Avios points which only requires 20,000 points roundtrip. This would give a 3 cents per point valuation (and takes into consideration the $11.20 in taxes). And through the end of January there is a promotion with American Express Membership Rewards where you get a 40% bonus on all points transferred to your British Airways Avios account. So you can instead use 15,000 Membership Rewards points to get a free flight! And since I need two award tickets, I really can transfer just 29,000 Membership Reward points for the 40,000 points. This gives a 4.1 cents per point valuation (and again takes into account taxes paid, but since it is not a US-based carrier there are no fees to transfer your points from the Membership Rewards program).
I personally wanted to use British Airways Avios points over American Airline AAdvantage miles due to the flexibility of canceling an award ticket. If you need to cancel an American Airlines award ticket it is $150 for the first passenger and $25 for the second to get your miles redeposited (unless you have Executive Platinum status). With British Airways, if you need to cancel, you can typically cancel online and have the miles redeposited to your account at no cost and you only lose the taxes paid which in this case would be $11.20 per passenger. You can learn more about this un-written rule here.
While I already had a hefty British Airways Avios point balance, I went ahead and transferred the required points from my American Express Membership Rewards account. I was going to make the transfer anyways due to the bonus offer and this way I know that I only 14,500 points per ticket (29,000 points total) to redeem a free flight on what would have otherwise been over $600! For me, this is an awesome use of my points, especially since I typically do not splurge on business class tickets where you can get a better value.