Japan Airlines Business Class Cabin

Sometimes your plans (and reservations) are meant to be broken.

Like a career professional, there are stages of development in the points and miles world. Step one, earning points. Step two, earning enough to use points. Step three, using said points. But step four is the one generally only reserved for the finest of blog purveyors and travel geeks. In case you’re wondering- that’s when you know how to find hidden sweet spots, getting incredible value for miles through sometimes obscure opportunities. We’ve created a cheat sheet to help you skip a couple steps : )

a pool with a building and a mountain in the backgroundUse Creative Geography

Is Israel part of Europe? According to at least one airline mileage program it is. It’s “Flying Blue”, by the way. That means rather than getting charged the extortionate prices to Middle East/North Africa/Africa you’re instead just charged prices to Europe. This is rampant with many airlines and their charts for using miles. The more you look at regional definitions, the more creative arbitrage you may find. Take a look at this beautiful example of Southeast Asia, for example.

a reception desk in a roomGo Far From Airline “Home Base”

Every airline, with the exception of Delta, offers charts. These charts tell you how many miles you’ll need for flights from different regions in each cabin. As logic would have it- a frequent flyer program based in the U.S. will have a lot of U.S. customers. Therefore, there’s unlikely to be any genius ways to use points within the U.S, since everyone wants to use them. With fewer people attempting to use the airline’s miles elsewhere in the world, a great place to start is looking at the airline in question’s charts for further away regions. Like United in Australia. Brilliant when you find yourself elsewhere in the world.

a glass of wine on a table in a planeLook For “Hard” To Earn Miles

If you like a martini or a good glass of wine, you’re probably not a fan of “watered down”. The easier it is to earn miles with an airline, the more miles an airline will require for the “good stuff”, like business and first class flights. Programs that offer widely available credit cards, transfers from other credit cards and constant promotions probably are NOT going to offer the best rates on flights using miles. Here’s an example of a hard to reach program, chock full of incredible rates.

a bed with a tray of rose petalsGo For The Double Flip

If it’s obvious, it’s probably pricey- in miles. Kinda like… a Louis Vuitton belt or something. Using points in very direct ways, like using Delta points for a Delta flight is pretty obvious. It’s the blind, like using partners- or the double blind (two transfers) that make the magic happen. For example, turning Starwood Points into Japan Airlines MileageBank Points so that you can use them on Emirates. That’s some crazy stuff and because of that- the rates are truly phenomenal!

a bed in an airplanePlan Maximum Luxury

Backpacking is cool and all- but we like our beds on planes. Look for regions where using miles on an airline or one of their partners will lead to an outrageous experience. For the same mileage price needed for British Airways First Class, you could instead fly Etihad First Class Apartments. The sweet spot you’re finding here is a majorly upgraded experience without spending more points. When you can trade a bed for an apartment, you’re definitely winning. Enjoy.


Featured image courtesy of Japan Airlines (JAL).


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *