Award Program Sweet Spots - 2019

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The only currency that is guaranteed to get you a seat on the flight you want at the time you want is cash.

Cash is king, and while it's good to be the king, with a little planning, knowledge, and diversity in your rewards portfolio, you can stretch those rewards much further than cash.

Take a journey with us to identify sweet spots in some loyalty programs that can get the most from every bit of the travel rewards balance you've built. Our goal is to minimize the number of points, miles, and cash you'll pay — these sweet spots make that happen.

Treasure Map

This isn't every program and every sweet spot, but rather some of the more popular and easily accessible programs. We'll update this resource as we identify additional hidden gems; if you're looking to get the most from each point or mile this is where you want to start your search:

Destination Sweet Spots

Which points and miles are the best to get you to these destinations

Airline Sweet Spots

Destinations to extract the most value from these programs

Hotel Sweet Spots

Properties and strategies to extract maximum value from hotel rewards

  • Hilton Honors – 5 Budget Redemptions with great value
  • IHG Rewards – Great value with the free night certificate and how to stretch point value
  • World of Hyatt – Hotels scattered across the globe that provide a consistently superior value
  • Marriott + Starwood – Many new transfer options, opening up a world of options for all members

Flexible Points Sweet Spots

Best Way to Accumulate These Points & Miles

All of the programs are partners with at least one of the flexible travel rewards programs. If you're looking to build up a balance in any of these programs, here are your options:

American Express Membership Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Marriott Rewards

Award Program Sweet Spots – 2019
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Comments

  • It was a pleasure to have met you in Chicago. Thanks for this “one stop shop” for sweet spots. I’m definitely bookmarking this.

  • Hi Howie:
    A little off topic – do you know of anyone in the blog-o-sphere who has visited the Falklands. I have been considering a trip there with a couple day excursion to view the Emperor Penguins. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Bill

    • Bill, to be honest, I don’t know. My suggestion would be Insideflyer, Flyertalk, and perhaps Fodors/Frommers/TripAdvisor for some research.

    • We visited the Falklands on a cruise. Where are you expecting to see the Emporer Penguins?

    • Mara D Rice says:

      We’ve been to Falkland islands.

      • Bill Usher says:

        Mara: Would love to know about your trip to the Falklands. Was it part of a tour etc?
        Any info is most welcome.

        • Hi Bill – our trip was a part of Celebrity Cruise to Antarctica. It was an incredible trip which included an awesome day in the Falkland Islands!

    • We were there in February as part of a cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. In one word, feh. Truth be told, the weather was lousy so some of the sites we went to were virtually impossible to see or appreciate. Yes, it was quaint. yes, it was somewhat interesting to learn of the history, most of which related to the British takeover and defense. But we could have easily passed this one up. Would have rather spent the day on the ship!

    • Yes, we visited the Falklands as part of a South American cruise. It was a real treat to see the penguins up close. You are able to wander among them at the designated distance but it is pretty close. Don’t miss the chance to see them.
      There was question as to whether our ship would be granted access to the harbor as part of the ongoing spat between the Falklands and Argentina. As I understand it, this is ongoing since the Falkland war in the 1980s. Never a question of security though.

  • Wow, learn something new every day…I had no idea Alaska allowed trans-Pacific routing to Africa on Cathay. Bookmarked.

  • Ravi Grover says:

    Very valuable. I have both the SPG and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but it’s always tough to figure out where to transfer points to for a particular destination. This will be helpful for planning my next award trip, thanks!

  • AwardWallet is awesome!! I can fly business many times now with low miles!!

  • Very useful reference…thanks!

  • I’m back living in Ireland after 8+ years in the US and it’s been a pain seeing a lot of my reward miles and points sitting there (some getting close to expiration), particularly with the airlines and hotels that only operate within the US, I’m constantly looking for deals to fly back to America just to use some of them up before they expire!

  • I just joined AwardWallet yesterday, and I’m very satisfied with the platform and the wealth of information provided. I’ve been on a travel miles/points hacking information binge.

    Thank You!

  • Hi Howie – Will you do a sweet spot update any time soon ? Thanks

  • Maybe also worth looking at this topic the other way around: which credit card has the lowest annual fee and gives most awards in whatever program?

  • david shapiro says:

    Hi Howard,
    Can you please help guide me on a few programs fine print
    1. Carlson Hotels. if i have expiring points, how can i can keep them active. Transfer in or out from credit card or airlines , or buy miles direct or thru points.com ? Will all existing miles stay active?
    2. Aeroplan – same question as above.
    Many thanks for your help
    Regards
    David

  • Jenn Stapleton says:

    Love to see all the comparisons… Will help me decide where to transfer my points.

  • Hi Howie,

    I’m in the process of racking up ultimate points that can be transferred to any number of Chase partners. I was thinking that I would hoard the points and then transfer the miles based on where we can get the most bang for the buck.

    We are considering using the points for a trip from North America to Africa. Any thoughts as to the provider that should be used for that purpose?

    I’m sure it depends on the carrier, availability and travel plans, but it appears that it takes fewer miles to do it in one shot, rather than to break it up into individual segments. Would love to get some guidance.

  • I am not sure I understand how to do this? I have a ton of points on United. How do I book a flight via Singapore airlines with my United points? Do I have to sign up for the Singapore airlines mileage program first, and transfer points? Or can I book with United points directly on Singapore without transferring? If I try to book using points on United, then it is the original United rate. But If I am not logged in to the Singapore portal, then it won’t let me see mileage flights… confused! Thanks in advance!

    • So you want to use your United miles to book a flight operated by Singapore Airlines? Sorry, just not sure what exactly you’re looking to do here. What airline’s plane do you want to fly on and from/to where?

      • I don’t know! I guess I want to understand how it works! Above it says under “Airline Sweet Spots” that “Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – Flights with partner United at better rates than MileagePlus”.

        So my question is: Do I book this through the United website, logged into my mileage plus acct? Or do I book it under the Singapore website logged in as a member of that (it that Kris Flier?)? If so, I will need to create a Singapore account. Once I do that, do I transfer United points to Kris Flier, or do I book and say I have United points to spend?

        I also have an American Express Platinum Card and a Chase Ink Card that have lots of points on them, in addition to the 250,000 miles on United. I am trying to figure out the best way to book a mileage flight that uses the least amount of points… I am new to this (I usually just book direct with United) and so am still a little confused!

        Thanks! ~Jen

        • Jen, this sweet spot is: Redeeming miles in the Singapore Krisflyer program for flights on United. You book by calling Singapore Air (https://awardwallet.com/blog/redeem-singapore-airlines-krisflyer-miles/).

          You cannot transfer United miles to Singapore, nor can you transfer Singapore miles to United miles — however, you can use Singapore miles to book United-operated flights?

          The currencies aren’t interchangeable, but the currencies can be used to book flights on one another’s aircraft.

          The big caveat to all of this is that when you use United miles to book United flights you have more options available than if you use Singapore miles to book United flights. This is simply because airlines allow members in their own program to have access to more seats then their partners.

          If you see a “Saver” seat available on United.com, you should be able to book that seat with Singapore miles. So you’d search United.com, find the flights and then call up Singapore and feed them the information on the flights.

          Make sense? Sorta?

  • Air Flyer says:

    This is a great list

  • I love using BA Avios for the short hops and also US west coast to Hawaii! only if they allow more generous redemption space though….

  • nice to be reminded of all of these optons

  • Thanks, very helpful! I may have missed it, but what miles do you recommend as best for California to French Polynesia? Once one has these miles, which airline should be used to book? And, recommended ways to accumulate these miles (or transferable points).

  • Great resource!! Thank you!

  • Hi Howie,

    I’d like to find out what’s the best way/sweet spot to fly to Beirut from LAX in First or in Suites.

  • I like this consolidation. Very helpful!

  • Thanks for the info

  • Awesome post! Definitely helps me to figure which programs to use for where.

  • A helpful guide. 22,500 AA points to go to Europe is a bargain.

  • Amazing and informative article! I will put so much info into use! Thank you!

  • Mind blowing resource! Thanks Howie!

  • Lovely compilation, thanks for the info

  • Makes me want more and more SPG points!

  • This is a great comprehensive guide. Thank you!

  • As has been said before, great tips!

  • Great info. Thanks for this update.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    Fantastic. Thank you very much. I got the award ticket that I was looking for.

  • Again a big THANK YOU going out! Well done!

  • What a terrific amount of info in one place! I’m definitely bookmarking this! Thx!

  • I love the sweet spots very much. Now I do not have to go to the loyalty programs websites to compare the dollar values of my choices. I wish there is a points calculator convert to dollar value so that I know how much money values of my points of different programs. Any other suggestions?

  • Thus is a great list as reference. Thank you

  • I am a new member & already the info here has helped enormously , wish I joined years ago.

  • Nice list, would love to see more details though.

    • Each list item links to a sweet spot post. These posts go into detail on award sweet spots and will link to additional resources showing how to book for each program.

  • Thank you so much! So helpful!!

  • Great list.

  • Thanks for the useful information.
    I hope I’ll make good use of some of these sweet spots.

  • Wealth of information for self-study. Thank you.

  • Wow this is a great resource – thank you for sharing!

  • As others have said, tremendous job by all concerned! Great compilation – thanks!

  • interesting post, full of information and tips. its helpful for me to understand a bit more about how to maximise my rewards etc. Seems a bit complicated, but helpful overall.
    Thanks for sharing and putting this together.

  • It’s always good to get a refresher on these things.

  • This is a great reference for all the best uses of airline miles and hotel points and all the great credit cards to have.

  • great compendeum!

  • This is great content but why is there not a section for South America and Asia. Seems like a pretty big missed opportunity

  • Howie – thanks for the link to this blog, from another of your blogs. I would have missed it!

  • An interesting redemption I found today for Lufthansa miles is 20k one way from Hawaii to East Asia.

  • Hey Howie, checking back in here since it’s been 7 months since my last comment. Any plans to publish South America and Asia soon?

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