I know you still don't believe me, but I love when readers email with questions. One of the most common questions I receive is "I have 30,000 X miles, 40,000 Z miles and 100,000 Y miles", what should I use to book a free flight? When it comes to getting a great seat and value for your points and miles, I say throw everything including the kitchen sink.
Most airlines allow you to book one ways using half the miles and that is how you should approach everything. In fact, take it leg by leg! I rarely have enough miles with one program for an outright round trip, but I almost always have other miles I can utilize. If you have just enough miles for a really nice one way ticket using X miles, use those for one leg. Perhaps using some or all of your Y or Z miles would allow you to try out a different seat and cabin in the other direction. Grab a one way using the alternate miles for your return leg. In general, the best way to extract value is to use your miles for premium cabins such as business class, first class and anything that usually is prohibitively expensive using cash, yet reasonable in amount of miles. If it weren't for points and miles, I don't think I would have ever flown first class, fortunately I now fly mostly first class. Sometimes using miles one way and just booking a cheap ticket with cash the other way is the best answer, it's all about value and how it relates to you.
Here's a real world example: I have 40,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles, 18,000 British Airways Miles, and 62,500 Delta Miles. 62,500 Delta Skymiles is just enough to get me from the US to Europe one way in "Upper Class" on Virgin Atlantic or "Delta One" on Delta. Once in Europe I want to see another city, so I could use my 18,000 British Airways miles to fly round trip Business Class somewhere regional. Coming home, I could use my 40,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles to grab another one way ticket in Upper Class. Putting it all together, I ended up with a round trip from the US to Europe and a round trip within Europe using three different currencies.
It's no secret that I find mileage hoarding to be moronic. With virtually every airline, if you've held miles for more than two years, they are worth less today than they were then. Many airlines are tinkering into dangerous territory with their miles, making value much harder to extract. If you find a great use for your miles, pull the trigger. As always, set goals, collect until you reach your goal (not hoarding) and then make the magic happen. This isn't life changing information, but rather a frame of reference with which to consider your future travel.
As Always, Get In Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com