Some might say airlines did it to themselves. Now that cash fare deals popping up every day, airlines are hiding award charts with information on how many points you need to book a given flight, and even when you can find that info – award space to actually book is tight, and almost never when you want it. Credit card points can help you book what you want when you want it.
While airline miles are great and can provide exciting opportunities to book awards, many travelers these days find they’re better off earning credit card points. Why? Because these points can be transferred to airline partners just as if you started off with miles in the first place, but also hold the ability to book any ticket by using your points as cash. This is where they really shine for the average traveler.
Let’s take a look at a couple of reasons why credit card points are king.
Award Space Can Be Tough To Find
While there are some of us who love hunting for award space — guilty, that’s not the norm. Between raising kids, work, etc., taking the time to find award space AND letting award availability dictate your travel schedule probably doesn’t sound like much fun.
With airline miles, you’re locked into finding award space to travel and if you aren’t flexible with your travel dates, your only option might be booking standard level awards instead of saver level awards or worse – nothing at all leaving you with the option of paying cash or not traveling. At that point, you’re almost flushing the miles down the toilet.
Travel is supposed to be fun, right? This doesn’t sound like much fun.
Book Cash Fares With Credit Card Points
However, with credit card points attached to a bank, you can book cash fares with points. Since airlines are more than happy to have you pay cash for any seat you want, you won’t run into the same restricted availability as you will with award seats.
Chase Travel Portal
For the average traveler, this is huge! In fact, it’s one of the reasons we called the Chase Sapphire Reserve the best card for fare deal fanatics. Rather than finding award space, you can just cash in your Ultimate Rewards points for a cash ticket via the Chase travel portal.
Even better, each Ultimate Rewards point is worth 1.5 cents when you have the Sapphire Reserve. Even if you could find economy award space, you’ll often use fewer points in the portal than if you transferred them to an airline partner.
This is mostly the case for good economy fares, but you’ll even find times when it’s better to use the travel portal for premium cabin fares. In fact, I did just this on New Year’s Eve when I booked a round-trip first class Cathay Pacific ticket for 58,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
You can also use American Express Membership Rewards points to book cash tickets via Amex Travel. Just make sure you keep a couple things to keep in mind.
First, if you want to get more than 1 cent per point, you must have either The Business Platinum from American Express (Learn More) or the American Express Business Gold (Learn More) which provide a 35% and 25% points rebate, respectively. With the rebate, you’ll get about 1.53 cents per point with the Amex Business Platinum and 1.33 cents per point with the Amex Business Gold.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you’re only eligible for the rebate on economy flights on your pre-selected carrier which is limited to most U.S. airlines. However, you’ll receive the rebate for any premium cabin booking when you pay with points.
Citi Travel Center
Finally, the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier allow you to get 1.25 cents per point in the Citi Travel Center. Unfortunately, this benefit will be dropped from the Citi Prestige as of September 1, 2019.
Erase Your Flight Cost With Capital One Miles
Clearly, the Chase travel portal is the easiest of the three options above and a favorite of ours but there is one more option that is even easier to use.
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (Learn More) or the Capital One Spark Miles for Business (Learn More), you don’t even need to use a travel portal. All you have to do is use your card to buy your ticket and use the purchase eraser feature.
If that’s a new concept for you, you can apply points to any travel purchase that you make with either of these cards. So, buy the flight, wait for the purchase to post to your account, then erase it. Simple as that.
While booking business and first class awards is fun for some, we totally get that might not be your goal. More important than how you choose to travel is that you enjoy the experience.
We’ve seen a ton of cash fare deals the last few years and with so many deals, it’s easier than ever to book them with points. Rather than deal with some airline award chart nonsense — looking at you Delta — credit card points are just the ticket.
For those interested in booking awards — especially beginners, we’ll discuss why credit card points are better than airline miles in a future post.