airplane, aircraft, flight-5654532.jpg

Fly Smart: Factors to Consider When Booking Flights with Points


As a savvy traveler, you know that redeeming points for flights can save you a lot of money.

But with so many airlines, credit card issuers, and loyalty programs to choose from, it can be hard to navigate the rewards landscape. In this post, we’ll explore five key factors to consider before booking your flights on points.

Points Transfer Time Varies

One of the biggest advantages of using credit card points is the flexibility to transfer them to various airline and hotel partners.

However, it’s important to note that transfer times can vary widely between programs. Some transfers may be instantaneous, while others can take up to a few days. This can be a critical factor when trying to book a last-minute award ticket, as availability can disappear quickly.

Before you transfer your points, make sure to check the transfer time and availability of award tickets.

Some programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, offer real-time transfers to select partners.

This can be a game-changer if you need to book a flight quickly.

Award Availability Changes Rapidly

If you’ve ever tried to book an award flight, you know how frustrating it can be to find availability.

Award tickets are often limited, and popular routes and dates can sell out quickly. This is especially true during peak travel periods, such as holidays and school breaks.

Given how quickly award availability changes on a day-to-day basis, it’s important to be flexible with your travel dates and destinations to maximize your chances of finding award availability.

It’s also a good idea to book your flights as far in advance as possible. Many airlines release award inventory 330 days in advance, so set a reminder to start your search early.

Award Rates And Taxes Vary By Transfer Partners

Not all transfer partners are created equal. Each airline and hotel loyalty program has its own award chart, which sets the redemption rates for flights and hotel stays.

Some programs, such as United and Delta, have dynamic award pricing, meaning the redemption rate can vary based on demand.

In addition to award rates, you’ll also need to consider taxes and fees.

Some programs, such as British Airways, add fuel surcharges to award tickets, while others, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards, do not. These fees can add up quickly, so make sure to factor them into your decision-making process.

Hidden Clauses Make Award Booking More Challenging

When redeeming points for flights, it’s important to read the fine print. Some programs have hidden clauses that can affect your redemption experience.

For example, Avianca’s LifeMiles program charges a redemption fee on top of taxes and fees, which can make the total cost of an award ticket more expensive than what you calculated.

Other programs, such as ANA, require you to search for and book round-trip award flights only, even if you only need a one-way ticket.

Make sure to review the program terms and conditions before transferring your points or booking an award ticket.

Look for any hidden fees or restrictions that could impact your redemption experience.

Award Seat Availability Varies Between Airlines’ Own Frequent Flyer Programs And Their Partners

Another key factor to note is that airlines often release more award inventory to their own program members than to their partners.

This means that if you have points with an airline’s partner program, you may have a harder time finding award availability than if you had points with the airline’s own program.

For example, even though Air Canada and United are a part of Star Alliance, only some United flight options can be bookable using Air Canada miles. To explore more options, you will need to head over to the United website.

Final Thoughts

While redeeming points for flights can be a great way to save money and travel more frequently, it’s important to understand the key factors to consider before booking your flights on points.

Make the most of your points and enjoy a comfortable and cost-effective flight experience.

If you enjoyed this post, you would enjoy The Hub ‘N Wifi Newsletter — a Friday newsletter, aimed at making you a 1% smarter traveler.

Scroll to Top