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Top 4 things I check when I book via travel portal or transfer to travel partners

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Many have asked me on my thought process how I decide to book my flights using cash or points. I tell them that I have my ways, and my way may not be the best way, but it all boils down to what works best for you. Someone else will have a better way. Someone else will try to outdo you. At the end of the day, you decide what’s best.

The scenario

So here’ s an example. My son asked me to help him book a roundtrip ticket to Hawaii this summer. He knew very well that we have the points, but he also knew that we need to make sure we review all our options. I figured I’d share the steps that I took in deciding which options to check.

1. Google Flights

First, I like checking the cost of the flights by checking Google Flights. I checked around the dates that he provided. I found a $400 roundtrip flight that would work with his schedule. I found two nonstop flights with American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. If I go this route, he’d have to pay for this flight out of pocket using one of his credit cards. At this stage, I do not know how many points are required to book this flight. Google Flights will not tell you that.

2. Check the credit card’s travel portal

Since I have points with Chase, Capital One, American Express, Citi, I could also check using their travel portal. I’ve mostly relied on Chase Travel Portal using my points with our Chase Sapphire Reserve. I found the exact same flight posted on Google Flights, and Chase was asking $403 for the fare, or 26,855 points with Chase Ultimate Rewards. I opted not to buy the tickets this. I know the value of my points with Chase. To use over 26,000 points for a $400 fare, I’ve found better redemptions using those 26K.

3. AwardHacker

The Awardhacker website, while it may be outdated, it shows the least amount of points needed and which airline to book them with. It will not tell you that the flights are available. It will basically tell you… if the flights were available, you could book them for this amount of points.

You enter the airports you will be flying to/from, and choose the points currency you have access to (i.e American Express, Chase, Citi, Capital One). So you would need to pick and choose the points you could use. From experience, I’ve used our points with Chase and American Express to book our flights to Hawaii, and the least amount of points needed to do so was 26,000 per person on a round trip booking from Los Angeles. Keep that 26,000 points in mind. It will play a role in the decision making process.

4. Check travel partner airlines

Turkish Airlines

Why Turkish Airlines? I learned over the past year that you could book flights to Hawaii for 7.5K each way or 15K round trip. I’ve toyed with the idea of finding 15,000 points round trip with Turkish, and the flights would be on United Airlines. If successful, I’d have to transfer points from my Citi or Capital One account to Turkish Miles & Smiles. That’s key. Those of you with Chase or American Express Membership Rewards will not be able to transfer to Turkish. Another credit card that transfers to Turkish Airlines is Bilt Rewards, but I do not carry that card.

What stopped me? Once the points are moved to my Turkish account, while I could book my son a ticket to Hawaii or anywhere, however I would also need to fly with him at the same time. Scratch that idea. With this particular trip, I don’t have plans to travel with him. Or should I? Hmmmmm…..

British Airways

Why British Airways? Again, we’ve done this many times. Go back to the AwardHacker bullet point. Remember the 26,000 points? We could transfer points from Chase or American Express to British Airways, and if we find availability, the flights would cost us 26,000 points + $11.20 in fees. Currently, in April 2022, there’s a 40% transfer bonus from American Express. Meaning, we could book his ticket to Hawaii for less. We could transfer 19,000 American Express Membership Rewards, earn 40% bonus, that gets him to the required 26,000 British Airways Avios points. All he needed were 26,000 points to book his Hawaii ticket. I was about to do that….then I checked some more.

Southwest Airlines

The thought did cross my mind that maybe I should go with my son to Hawaii again, and I’ll make him my companion with my Southwest Companion Pass. I pay with points and he only pays the $11 fee. But, should I though? LOL. Watch me!

Ok, so I checked Southwest Airlines on a Monday, and for the dates in question, the rates were between $250-$640 for a round trip ticket to Hawaii. I checked using points, and they were going to cost around 22,000 points round trip. So going back to the 26,000 points that awardhacker mentioned, in my mind, anything under 26K is a great deal…and 22K happens to be under 26K.

Did I go for it?

No. Why? I was tossing between using points with Chase transferred to Southwest at 22,000 or do I go with transferring 19,000 points from American Express to British Airways and get a 40% bonus? Well, I left it at that and didn’t do anything.

Keep checking and just maybe….

The next day, I checked Southwest again. Well, lo and behold. Southwest dropped the rates by another 30% off. One way from LA to Honolulu was 11,119 points, and it dropped to 7,783. So for a roundtrip, instead of using over 22,000 points, we were able to get it at 15,566 points roundtrip + $11.20 in fees. I found him the flights that he wanted, the one that will work with his schedule. Daddy also had the points in his Southwest Airlines account and so there was no need for me to transfer points from Chase to Southwest, and if ever needed, the transfer would’ve been instant.

My process at-a-glance

So my research included the following

  • Google Flights – around $400 round trip
  • Chase Portal – similar amount $403 or 26,588 points
  • Awardhacker – use as little as 26,000 points with British Airways
  • Turkish Airlines – use 7.5K each way or 15K round trip – but (a) no availability, and (b) I’d have to travel with him
  • British Airways – take advantage of American Express 40% transfer bonus to British Airways = 19,000 points to get to the required 26,000 points (not bad), and there was availability
  • Southwest Airlines– on Monday, the # of points needed were over 22K, The following day, the rates dropped by 30% = 15,566! That’s what we booked.

I told him I booked his ticket to Hawaii. He was expecting that we used 22,000 points with Southwest. He asked me, “I thought it was 22K, how did you pay 15K points?” I said,  I’m Daddy Travels.

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