Redeeming Points and Miles

We visited the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta in 2018 thanks to points and miles.

Now for the fun part – you’ve been diligent about earning miles through your everyday spend, but now redeeming points and miles for your next trip is on your checklist. For a fun read before diving into our tutorial below, check out how I booked my honeymoon with points and miles.

Using Transferable Points

Transferable points (most commonly Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Points) can be redeemed two ways – either by transferring them to the programs’ travel partners or by redeeming them through their travel portals. Chase Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed on their travel portal for a value of 1.25 – 1.5 cents. You can redeem Membership Rewards on the Amex Travel portal for values ranging from .5 to 1 cent.

Depending on the card type, you can also transfer points to a number of transfer partners:

Chase Ultimate RewardsAmerican Express Membership RewardsCapital One Venture MilesCiti ThankYou Points
Aer Lingus AerClubAeromexicoAeromexicoAir France/KLM
Air France/KLM Flying BlueAir Canada AeroplanAir Canada AeroplanAvianca
British Airways AviosAir France/KLM Flying BlueAir France/KLM Flying BlueCathay Pacific
EmiratesAlitaliaAlitaliaEtihad Guest
Iberia PlusAll Nippon AirwaysAviancaEVA
JetBlue TrueBlueAsia MilesCathay PacificGaruda Indonesia
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerBritish Airways AviosEtihadJet Airways
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsCathay PacificEVAJetBlue True Blue
United Airlines Mileage PlanDelta SkymilesFinnairMalaysia AIrlines
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubEl Al Israel AirlinesHainanQantas
IHG Rewards ClubEmiratesQantasSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Marriott BonvoyEtihad AirlinesQatarThai Airways
World of HyattHawaiian AIrlinesEmirates Turkish Airlines
Iberia PlusSingapore Airlines KrisFlyerVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Choice Hotels
Hilton Honors
Marriott Bonvoy

How to Use Airline Miles 

On the surface, airline miles are pretty straight forward – certain airlines require a certain number of points to fly from Point A to Point B.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We’re going to try to simplify it. For the sake of this exercise, we’re going to primarily focus on domestic airlines in the United States. While it’s most common to redeem airline miles on it’s specific airline, airlines also allow you to redeem their miles with their partner airlines. 

Different airlines have different award charts.

We’ll use United Airlines as an example here. United has two types of awards: saver awards and everyday awards. Saver awards are cheaper, but also harder to find. Everyday awards are much more pricey, but much more common.

Example United Award Chart

 Saver Award (o/w)
Economy/Business Class
Everyday Award (o/w)
Economy/Business Class
Domestic USA (<700 miles)10,000/25,00032,500/50,000
Domestic USA12,500/25,00032,500,50,000
Mainland USA to Hawaii22,500/40,00045,000/90,000
Mainland USA to Europe30,000/60,00070,000/155,000
Mainland USA to South Asia 40,000/75,00090,000/180,000
Mainland USA to Australia/New Zealand40,000/80,000100,000/200,000

(Please note this is an incomplete award chart. Other destinations and exceptions exist)

This is a very general outline to ease you into it. United has some quirks. Here are just some of them for an example:

  • When booking premium transcontinental service between New York/Newark and Los Angeles, New York/Newark and San Francisco, and Boston and San Francisco, it’ll cost an additional 10,000 miles.
  • To travel to Alaska from the mainland USA, it’ll cost 5,000 additional miles for a Saver award or 10,000 additional miles for an Everyday award.

For the full award chart, click here.

United is just one example of airline redemption, but hopefully this gives you an elementary view of how to redeem points with airlines that have award charts.

Domestic airlines that have fixed award charts: American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines

Some airlines don’t publish exact award charts.

Nothing says airlines are required to have award charts. In 2015, Delta took down their award chart without notice, and it’s been a guessing game ever since. If you are thinking about redeeming Delta miles for a specific flight, play around with a bunch of dates to give you the general average of the number of miles you will need.

For example, when searching for a random flight between Atlanta and Chicago in April, you find there are award redemptions for 20,000 miles and also award redemptions for 32,000 miles.

Generally, redeeming Delta miles to fly on partner airlines is more expensive. If you’re on a Virgin Atlantic plane instead of a Delta plane, it’s going to cost you more. However, when searching for a random flight between Atlanta and Seoul, you find it’s just 70,000 miles to fly on Korean Airways instead of 115,000 on Delta – both nonstop flights.

Until we get one on our own site, here’s a nice write-up from Awardwallet about Delta Skymiles. 

Other airlines that don’t have a published award chart: Alaska Airlines (range, doesn’t publish exact chart)

Other airlines have fixed value for redemptions.

Some airlines have fixed redemption values, like Southwest Airlines.

What does this mean? If the flight is more expensive in dollars, it will be more expensive in points.

There’s nothing bad about this, but you’re not going to get a ton of “value” for your miles because the number of miles is relative to the cost of the flight. Southwest has three different fare classes: Wanna Get Away, Anytime, and Business Select. When redeeming for a Wanna Get Away fare, each point is worth 1.6 cents – Anytime is 1.1 cents and Business Select is .9 cents.

Other domestic airlines that have fixed value awards: JetBlue

Understanding Complex Airline Alliances

You probably know that airlines have alliances (a network of partner airlines), but you may still be trying to figure out how this affects you when redeeming points and miles. There are three airline alliances that are important to understand: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam. Member airlines are below (domestic carriers in bold):

Star AllianceOneWorld AllianceSkyTeam
AegeanAmerican AirlinesAeroflot
Air CanadaBritish AirwaysAerolineas Argentinas
Air ChinaCathay PacificAeroMexico
Air IndiaFinnairAir Europa
Air New ZealandIberiaAir France
All Nippon AirwaysJapan AirlinesAlitalia
Asiana AirlinesLATAMChina Airlines
AustrianMalaysia AirlinesChina Eastern
AviancaQantasChina Southern
Brussels AirlinesQatar AirwaysCzech Airlines
Copa AirlinesRoyal JordanianDelta
Croatia AirlinesS7 AirlinesGaruda Indonesia
Egypt AirSri Lankan AirlinesKenya Airways
EthopianRoyal Air Maroc (2020)KLM
Eva AirKorean Air
LOT MEA
LufthansaSaudia
SASTarom
Shenzhen AirlinesVietnam Airlines
Singapore AirlinesXiamen Air
South African Airways
Swiss
TAP
Thai Airways
Turkish Airlines
United Airlines

Airline alliances allow you do several different things. Generally, they allow you to earn miles for your preferred airline when flying on the airline’s partners. For example, if you book a Korean Air flight, you can still earn Delta Skymiles. Elite status on an airline in an alliance usually spills over into benefits on other alliance airlines.

You are also able to redeem miles on a partner airlines. Again, let’s use United Airlines for this example. The chart below is the same as above, but we’ve added in partner award redemptions:

Example United Award Chart w/ Partners

 Saver Award (o/w)
Economy/Business Class
Everyday Award (o/w)
Economy/Business Class
Star/Partner First/Business Class (Saver Only)
Domestic USA (<700 miles)10,000/25,00032,500/50,000
Domestic USA12,500/25,00032,500,50,000
Mainland USA to Hawaii22,500/40,00045,000/90,000
Mainland USA to Europe30,000/60,00070,000/155,00070,000 / Add 40,000 for First when both business and first are offered
Mainland USA to South Asia 40,000/75,00090,000/180,00090,000 / Add 50,000 for First when both business and first are offered
Mainland USA to Australia/New Zealand40,000/80,000100,000/200,00090,000 / Add 40,000 for First when both business and first are offered

Using partners will also allow you to use United Miles on flights outside of the United States. When flying in and out of the United States, there is almost always a United option. But what about if you want to redeem United miles on a flight from Europe to Japan? There isn’t a United plane that flies that route, but you could fly on Thai Airways using your United miles.

Don’t worry too much about knowing the complexities of airline alliances right now. The point is this: If you have specific place you would like to go, do some research and see what you can find. It’s a confusing concept, but it can really make your domestic miles go much further when traveling around the World!

How to Use Hotel Points 

Hotel points are our favorite way to use points. We frequently transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards into Hyatt points because we think the redemption is great, but we’ll quickly outline all of the major chains.

Hilton and Marriott bookings can also be a good value. They both have a fifth night free benefit – the fifth night is free after redeeming points for the first four. Terms vary, so be sure to look into it, but definitely something to make the value of your points go further.

All of the four major chains allow for points and cash redemptions. The rates vary, but this allows you to pay for rooms with a combination of cash and points. This is helpful when you don’t have quite enough points for a free night.

Marriott

Marriott is one of the largest hotel chains in the world. There are more than 6,700 properties in 130 countries ranging from from JW Marriott and St. Regis to Courtyard by Marriott and Springhill Suites.

Marriott’s award chart is pretty easy to understand. It consists of eight categories with three variables on point totals:

Marriott Award Chart

 Standard RateOff-PeakPeak
Category 17,500 points/night5,000 points/night10,000 points/night
Category 212,500 points/night10,000 points/night15,000 points/night
Category 317,500 points/night15,000 points/night20,000 points/night
Category 425,000 points/night20,000 points/night30,000 points/night
Category 535,000 points/night30,000 points/night40,000 points/night
Category 650,000 points/night40,000 points/night60,000 points/night
Category 760,000 points/night50,000 points/night70,000 points/night
Category 885,000 points/night70,000 points/night100,000 points/night

Hilton

I redeemed 36,000 points for a weekend night stay at the Doubletree in downtown Victoria, BC.

Hilton has more than 5,500 different hotels worldwide. Hampton Inn is the most prolific brand, but Hilton has a plethora of other brands including Conrad, Doubletree, and Embassy Suites, just to name a few.

Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, but there are ten categories ranging from 5,000 points per night to 95,000 points per night.

Categories 5-10 are variable based on the time of year.

Hyatt

Hyatt is the smallest hotel company listed here, but it’s our personal favorite. Across all of its brands, it has less than 2,000 properties around the world. Many business travelers don’t like this because Hyatt’s aren’t “everywhere” like Hilton or Marriott, but for the everyday person, we love Hyatt because of the value you can get when redeeming points and miles.

They have a very simple award chart (with “cheap” rates). It’s also incredibly easy (and instantaneous) to transfer points to Hyatt from Chase.

Hyatt Award Chart

 Points Required
Category 15,000 points/night
Category 28,000 points/night
Category 312,000 points/night
Category 415,000 points/night
Category 520,000 points/night
Category 625,000 points/night
Category 730,000 points/night
Category 840,000 points/night

IHG

IHG, which stands for Intercontinental Hotels Group, is best known for their Intercontinental brand of hotels, however brands such as Kimpton, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, and Crown Plaza are also under the IHG umbrella.

Award redemptions range from 10,000 points to 70,000 points. IHG is a transfer partner with Chase so it’s easy to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards into the IHG program.

Another cool thing about IHG is their Pointsbreaks promotion. Every three months, IHG releases its Pointsbreaks properties for the quarter. These are a combination of hotels available for 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points per night. Don’t be shocked when the Intercontinental in San Francisco isn’t on there – most hotels are in places you would never stay, but every now and then, there are some great values.

Go have fun!

That’s a wrap for our beginners guide! Just remember, the points and miles game is supposed to be fun. Over time, you will learn more and become more comfortable using points and miles. If you have a question, we are more than willing to help you!

And remember to check out the other parts of the Everyday Points and Miles Beginner’s Guide:

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