Everyone loves the idea of points and miles unlocking free or discounted travel, but when it comes to actually cashing in, the sentiment can be vastly different. Using your points can be an extreme exercise in patience, with wildly limited availability on dates you can use, or not at all. AsiaMiles, the Cathay Pacific loyalty program is improving that.
Cathay Pacific just added a new ‘points and cash’ option which might not be incredibly compelling to optimizers in the points game, but makes the Asia Miles program more attractive overall.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Cash + Points Option
Cash + Points matters because it gives travelers a chance to save on tickets, on dates when using points alone wouldn’t be possible. That’s right, when you want to book a ticket using points, airlines set availability, which is often limited to one or two seats per flight.
But when you buy a ticket using cash and points, you can use the points to take the cash price down entirely, or just by a little, using a slider to customize the mixture to your liking. Unlike tickets booked purely with points, these are available for virtually any seat on any flight, which makes the offer easier to use, though rarely “better”.
Cash + points is rarely the best value for cashing in points, but for someone looking to save on a trip, who doesn’t have date flexibility, it’s a way to use points like a rebate, to take some of the cash cost away. Redeeming points for a business class flight means you could pay 125,000 miles for a ticket which costs $10,000 retail, whereas using cash and points will never achieve that value.
For example: a first class seat from New York to Hong Kong might cost 125,000 miles one way, but you might only be able to find one seat every couple of months. With cash and points, you could use 125,000 miles to cut roughly $1000 off the cost of a ticket, whether it’s in economy, premium, business class or first class, but that wouldn’t get you a first class seat.
When Cash + Points Makes Can Sense
If you earn more miles than you can spend, cash + points can be solid. For those who have no date flexibility and want to just save some cash, it can also be a decent option.
Even for mega points enthusiasts who balk at the idea entirely, preferring instead to save points for aspirational trips in first or business class on dates where availability permits, there are still times it can be great – that’s usually an amazing fare sale.
On the very rare occasion where there’s a super premium economy, business class or first class sale, cash and points can make sense because you still earn points back on these tickets, unlike when you purely pay in points for a redemption flight.
A flight like London to Hong Kong requires 140,000 points (see linked Asia Miles chart) round trip in business class using AsiaMiles, for a redemption flight where the airline controls the availability and you don’t use cash. That’s great value if you can make the limited dates work.
But if there’s a limited time $1200 fare in business class for cash, with more preferable dates, you can use AsiaMiles points to cover some or all of the cost, and may do better for doing so, thanks to what you’ll earn back with ‘cash + points’. Cathay AsiaMiles says the rate you get for your points with ‘points + cash’ offerings will vary, so you’ll need to run a test to see the value they’re offering for your specific flight.
When you use Cathay Pacific Asia Miles ‘cash + points‘, instead of just ‘points’, you earn Asia Miles when you fly, and elite status qualifying points too, whereas when you purely use points for a redemption, you don’t.
Choice Is Good, Even When It’s Not Great
This option isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but more choice and flexibility is always a good thing. For people who know what they want and just use miles as a little rebate on their next trip, it’s a great new option. Points enthusiasts obsessed with unlocking luxury for less will probably give this a hard pass. Both are ok.