Booking Award Flights With Points/Miles

Pam

Okay, so you’ve earned some points/miles and now you are ready to book a flight. How do you do that? This is one of the things that confuses most beginners. Let’s go over the steps we usually use for booking award flights with points/miles.

 

Airline Site

If you’ve earned miles from a particular airline-branded card, then just go to that site and search for award availability. For instance, say I earned United miles from opening the United Quest card. The easiest way to book a flight with those miles is to go to the United site.  I want to go to San Diego from Denver (my home airport) so this is what my screen looks like.

Screenshot of United booking search

 

You can see here that I’ve checked the “book with miles” square and put in the dates I want to go. I’ll click the “Find flights” section next and see what comes up.

Screenshot of United Award availability

What I really like here is that I can see that if I am flexible in my dates, I can save more on my redemption. If I go a day later, I can spend only 9.7K miles to get there. I will definitely change my departure to the 21st! Now for the return:

 

screenshot of United award redemptions

 

Again, I can see that I could fly for cheaper on the 25th but I want to stay for 5 days so I choose to come home on the 27th.   11.5K is still a great redemption! You could always look at the 30-day calendar (under the week calendar) and see what other days are available that month if you have more flexibility!

 

Screenshot of flight details

Here are my results. Notice that my departure flight leaves at 7:00 am! Ouch! If I don’t want that flight, I can take a later one for 15.3K – these are the decisions you have to make – is it worth saving 4K in miles to travel earlier? Anyway, I can potentially travel to San Diego for 21,200 miles + 11.20 in taxes and fees. At this price, I can take almost 3 other flights with the welcome bonus I earned on that one credit card.

 

Google Flights

I love to use Google Flights when I have a combination of points and miles and I’m not sure what flight will get me where I want to go and on which airline. Let’s say I want to go from LAX to NYC. Let’s see my options:

Screenshot of flight options

This shows me some examples and gives me some ideas. I like the nonstop options. I could use United miles to fly there or transfer Ultimate Rewards from Chase to United if I have them. Using Alaska miles or JetBlue miles for their flights is also a possibility. Since Alaska recently joined the One World airline alliance, I could use any American Airlines points I might have to book with Alaska.

Looking further down, I found Delta flights so I could use Delta SkyMiles or transfer American Express Membership Rewards into Delta for booking. Google Flights gets my brain working with thinking about different options. I then go to the airline sites and see what is available as I did above.

Note that Southwest Airlines flights will not show up on Google flights. You need to look at their site separately to see your options there.

 

AwardHacker

AwardHacker is especially great when looking for international travel as there are so many more airlines to fly with. Let’s say I want to fly from Denver to Greece as did on a Greece trip I took in the past. Here’s how I do that search. I plug in all my info, dates aren’t needed, and this is what I find:

Screenshot on AwardHacker site

This shows me some of the different airlines that fly that route and also what type of points I can use including transferable points!  I love this feature. In this example, I can fly several foreign airlines like Asiana, Lufthansa, ANA, Singapore, Avianca, and EVA. It also lists United which I used in the past. The best thing is it tells you how to book these after we pick one. Let’s pick Avianca as I have Life MIles.

 

Screenshot from AwardHacker

 

It tells us where to look for award ticket availability. Avianca is part of the Star Alliance so it tells us to look at other flights through that alliance. I would look on Avianca for availability and then transfer miles to Avianca if needed.

 

Screenshot AwardHacker

 

This gives us 4 options to transfer to Avianca LifeMiles. I would make the transfer and then book through the online site or the phone option. Remember to look at the Avianca site to make sure flights are available. Once points are transferred, they are stuck there. Transferring points to a hotel or airline site is a one-way transfer!

What I like about AwardHacker is that it is a free site. What I don’t like is that it is a little more confusing. I tried to do Singapore KrisMiles with this example and couldn’t find availability. It sometimes takes changing airlines, dates, etc. so don’t get discouraged.

Remember that it gives options but you have to check and see if the options are correct or work for you. Sometimes AwardHacker says you should find it for a cheaper fare than you actually can find it for! Don’t be discouraged-treat it like a puzzle you need to solve!

 

Bottom Line

Booking award flights with points/miles sometimes takes a little time. Be patient with the process and yourself. Realize that flexibility is key in booking award travel.

We hope you find it easier with our tips on how we do it. I actually like this part of the process and feel a huge satisfaction when I have found the flight that will work for us. Let us know if you have questions or need help with this part of the process!

 

 

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