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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.
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
- Australia/New Zealand
- Europe (Business/First Class)
- Europe (Economy Class)
- New York to London – One of the more popular routes in the world
- South Africa
Airline Sweet Spots
Destinations to extract the most value from these programs
- Air Canada Aeroplan – Europe, Stopovers and Open Jaws
- Air France Flying Blue – Including Hawaii, Israel, and Northern Africa
- Alaska Airlines – Including awards to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia
- Alaska Airlines #2 – It really is our favorite mileage currency.
- American Airlines AAdvantage – Economy, Business and First Class options
- Avianca LifeMiles – Business/First to Europe, Transcon Busines and a ton more
- ANA Mileage Club – Too many to list including Around-the-World in business for 125k miles
- British Airways Avios – Shorter business class awards and a steal of a deal to Ireland
- Delta Air Lines – Yes, even Delta has sweet spots!
- Delta Air Lines Video Sweet Spot Presentation – By Richard Kerr, Founder of Award Travel 101
- JetBlue TrueBlue – Not all JetBlue redemptions are created equal, even though their prices are tied to the cash cost of a ticket
- Korean Air SKYPASS – Awards with a stopover, and trips to almost anywhere with SkyTeam
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – Flights with partner United at better rates than MileagePlus
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards – Identifying how to squeak out the right value from Rapid Rewards
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles – Hawaii to New Zealand & Mainland US to Europe are our favorites
- United Airlines MileagePlus – Maximizing miles on Star Alliance partners
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – Leveraging partners in less than obvious locations
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 – Many new transfer options, opening up a world of options for all members
Flexible Points Sweet Spots
- American Express Membership Rewards
- United States (Lower 48 States)
- United States (Hawaii)
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
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
- American Express® Business Gold Card
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Chase Freedom Flex℠
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
- Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Citi ThankYou Reward
- Citi Premier® Card
- Citi Prestige® Card
- Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
- Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
- AT&T Access Card from Citi
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy® Premier Plus Business Credit Card
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
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?
An interesting redemption I found today for Lufthansa miles is 20k one way from Hawaii to East Asia.
Howie – thanks for the link to this blog, from another of your blogs. I would have missed it!
This is great content but why is there not a section for South America and Asia. Seems like a pretty big missed opportunity
We can’t have everything covered all the time. It is in our list to do. I’d suggest you look at some of the individual airline sweet spots.
This is a great reference for all the best uses of airline miles and hotel points and all the great credit cards to have.
It’s always good to get a refresher on these things.
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.
As others have said, tremendous job by all concerned! Great compilation – thanks!
Wow this is a great resource – thank you for sharing!
Wealth of information for self-study. Thank you.
Thanks for the useful information.
I hope I’ll make good use of some of these sweet spots.
Thank you so much! So helpful!!
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.
I am a new member & already the info here has helped enormously , wish I joined years ago.
Thus is a great list as reference. Thank you
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?
Agreed, but it’s a tall order with the complexity of the valuation.
What a terrific amount of info in one place! I’m definitely bookmarking this! Thx!
Again a big THANK YOU going out! Well done!
Fantastic. Thank you very much. I got the award ticket that I was looking for.
Great info. Thanks for this update.
As has been said before, great tips!
This is a great comprehensive guide. Thank you!
Makes me want more and more SPG points!
Lovely compilation, thanks for the info
Mind blowing resource! Thanks Howie!
Amazing and informative article! I will put so much info into use! Thank you!
A helpful guide. 22,500 AA points to go to Europe is a bargain.
20k AS with a free stopover is an even bigger bargain
Awesome post! Definitely helps me to figure which programs to use for where.
Thanks for the info
I like this consolidation. Very helpful!
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 said popular destinations! Well, looking at the airlines that serve Beirut (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut%E2%80%93Rafic_Hariri_International_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations) you pretty much have your pick as far as airlines go with quality products — the ME3 and Lufthansa would be what I’d look at. Perhaps 155k JAL with EK or QR or 150k SQ with LH?
Thanks – I will check it out!
Great resource!! Thank you!
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).
There are limited options (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa%27a%27%C4%81_International_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations) Air France and Air Tahiti Nui are going to be the two options from California non-stop. Flying Blue would be where I would focus for economy class.
Got it, thanks. How many miles for Business Class and which airline of the two is preferable? I have easy access to Flying Blue miles thru several cards. Not sure about Air Tahiti Nui. Maybe a partner’s miles. Appreciate your recommendations.
The challenge is finding award availability. Between the two I’d pick Air France — but if you’re flying business your best bet is JAL at 65k miles (transferred from SPG) — the next best is Alaska at 120k R/T.
nice to be reminded of all of these optons
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….
This is a great list
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!
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?
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.
Off the top of my head, some of the best value would likely be with United (with their partners) or Korean (with theirs). Our Award booking folks will likely be able to help you more with a specific booking — https://awardwallet.com/awardBooking/add
Love to see all the comparisons… Will help me decide where to transfer my points.
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
For Club Carlson, yes, all of that will keep your account active — as well Aeroplan.
Club Carlson: https://www.clubcarlson.com/customerservice/earn/q8
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?
Hi Howie – Will you do a sweet spot update any time soon ? Thanks
We’re going to keep adding to it as we get through additional programs. Some are in the queue right now.
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.
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!
Very useful reference…thanks!
AwardWallet is awesome!! I can fly business many times now with low miles!!
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!
Wow, learn something new every day…I had no idea Alaska allowed trans-Pacific routing to Africa on Cathay. Bookmarked.
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.
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?
We’ve been to Falkland islands.
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.
It was a pleasure to have met you in Chicago. Thanks for this “one stop shop” for sweet spots. I’m definitely bookmarking this.
Glad you could make it — hope to see you next year and hope you get some value from these sweet spots 🙂