Sometime you have to make some tough decisions when travel hacking.
Recently I was in NYC and needed a flight home to Florida. As usual, I had procrastinated on my travel bookings, but this time it was BAD. Because of my poor planning, I needed a flight the next day and it was Christmas time. There was no problem getting the flight. The actual dilemma was whether I should use valuable rewards miles – 12,500 to be exact – or just buy the flight separately. If I used miles for such a short and cheap flight, the value of each reward mile would be very low. But I was on a Christmas budget and the idea of paying cash felt like getting coal in my stocking.
Because it would have been a poor value to use Mileage points to book this flight, I found the cheapest last-minute one-way flight from the NYC area to Florida for a smooth $195.10 on US Airways. I decided to bite the bullet.
The big kicker
At checkout they offered pre-approval for their U.S. Airways MasterCard and 50,000 Dividend Miles (after a single purchase and payment of the annual fee) – an offer I had previously seen and was interested in. I signed up, was pre-approved, and even charged the flight to Florida on my new card that wasn’t even in my possession yet.
I packed my bags, grabbed the NJT to Newark at an ungodly early hour, and headed home for the Christmas festivities. For the cost of a flight that I would have had to purchase anyway, I essentially banked the NYC-JAX flight and the value of a round-trip international flight (50,000 Dividend Miles). This was one of those bang-bang decision that went in my favor….big time. But even if I hadn’t got the credit card bonus, retaining my 12,500 United MilagePlus for a more valuable opportunity was enough of a win for me. Now I can use those points toward the West Coast trip of a lifetime I’m planning for this summer.
Next time you are debating whether to redeem awards or purchase a flight, consider how much value you are receiving for each point and decide if you are OK with that valuation. Here’s the simple math:
Cost of the flights in currency / Number of rewards points used = Value per Point
In my case, $195.10 / 12,500 rewards points= $0.015. That’s 1.5 ¢ per point, not very good! This is poor considering i could use the same amount of rewards to fly from JAX to SEA (Seattle) at peak season for more than double the value of $0.04 per point (~$500/12,500 = $0.04).
As a general rule, anything above $0.03 per point is pretty good. But determining how much value you place on a point is a personal decision based on your travel goals and how much you spent to earn the rewards.
If you’re considering using the credit card approach for earning reward bonuses, the U.S Airways MasterCard is a great offer to take advantage of. You can signup for free without booking a flight. Even with the normal 30,000 Dividend Miles bonus offer, this card makes many of the Top 5 airline cards lists because of the flexibility with all OneWorld affiliates when redeeming points.
*Graphic – Steven