Earlier this year I published a series about how to maximize each type of transferrable point when redeeming on domestic awards. By doing so, all the major types of miles were covered.

Series Index

Let’s talk about the highlights of what we’ve learned. Below I’ll include basic details of valuable ways to redeem your miles on an award within the United States. Transfer partners listed after each loyalty program are not necessarily 1:1. I recommend reading the appopriate post in the series if you have any further questions.

British Airways Avios: Transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Starpoints

British Airways Avios award prices are determined by the distance of each segment flown and which cabin you fly in. The strength in their chart for awards that touch the United States lies in short distance, direct economy redemptions.

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Redemptions from the west coast to Hawaii are also cheap comparatively. You can redeem BA Avios on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights within the US and will not be charged fuel surcharges.

Flying Blue: Transfer partner of all four point types

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-5-46-25-pmYou can fly Delta economy between the mainland United States and Hawaii roundtrip for 30k Flying Blue miles and no fuel surcharges.

Korean SKYPASS: Transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and Starpoints

You can fly Delta between the from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands in economy for 25,000 Korean miles or in Delta One for 45,000 Korean miles and no fuel surcharges.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards: Transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards

Rapid Reward prices are based on the cash price of the ticket. Most Southwest flights have less Wanna Get Away fares (the cheapest) left within one to three weeks of departure, and the other types of fares require more points per dollar. So really the key to scoring cheap Rapid Rewards is booking when flights are cheap, either during a fare sale or ahead of time.

United MileagePlus: Transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards

United has market standard prices for domestic awards, although 10,000 miles for a one way economy flight of 700 miles or less could be useful considering American charges 12,500 for any non-direct domestic flights and those that fly more than 500 miles (in economy).

Singapore Krisflyer: Transfer partner of all four point types

You can redeem Singapore Krisflyer miles between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. You can also fly within the United States on United Business Class for 20k Krisflyer miles one way (United charges 25k one way).

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Delta SkyMiles: Transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints

Delta doesn’t publish their award charts online anymore, so the only way to really know the price of a Delta award is to look it up on delta.com. They run domestic award sales pretty consistently that with competitive pricing on specific routes.

Etihad Guest: Transfer partner of Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints

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The Points Guy claims that you can book First Class on American Airlines A321T for transcontinental service (three cabin First Class), and that an agent quoted him only 25,000 miles and $92.45 to book the ticket, which is just half of what American Airlines’ charges for it.

Iberia Avios: Transfer partner of Membership Rewards

The price of an Iberia Avios award depends on the total distance flown and cabin– they are not priced per segment like British Airways Avios awards are. So if you’re taking a short trip but it requires a connection, an Iberia award will be cheaper. Some of the award prices are outright cheaper than British Airways Avios, especially on short flights. The drawback is that you can only book roundtrip awards.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Transfer partner of all four point types

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For 45k Virgin Atlantic miles you can fly Delta One roundtrip within the United States, which is 5k miles less than what Delta normally charges for it. A one way and roundtrip cost the same amount of miles, so only book roundtrips.

Qantas Club: Transfer partner of ThankYou Points

Qantas award prices are based on distance/cabin. You can fly American Airlines flights under 600 miles for only 8,000 Qantas miles. For perspective, American Airlines charges 7,500 American Airlines miles for direct flights of 500 miles or less, and United charges 10,000 United miles for flights of 700 miles or less.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Transfer partner of Starpoints

The two biggest strengths in using Alaska miles domestically:

  1. Alaska Airlines domestic awards can have one stopover per one way as long as all segments are flown on Alaska Airlines planes. This is a very valuable and unique feature not offered by other programs.
  2. Alaska is considered to be in the same region as the other contiguous 48 U.S. states, which is usually not the case. So you can book a flight from anywhere on the mainland United States to Alaska for 12,500 each way in economy or 25,000 in two cabin First Class.

American Airlines AAdvantage: Transfer partner of Starpoints

For direct flights only on American Airlines planes that fly a distance less than or equal to 500 miles within the continental 48 U.S. states and Canada, the following prices apply:

  • 7,500 miles each way in economy
  • 15,000 miles each way in First Class on a two-cabin aircraft (almost all aircraft) and in Business Class on three-cabin aircraft

And every two months, American Airlines publishes a list of new destinations in the United States and Canada eligible for discounted awards if you are an AAdvantage card holder.

Asiana Flying Club: Transfer partner of Starpoints

You can fly United for only 22,500 miles each way in (two-cabin) First Class between the contiguous 48 U.S. states and Alaska, which is better than Alaska Airline’s own price.

You can also fly United for only 27,500 Asiana miles each way in (two-cabin) First Class between the United States and Hawaii.

Virgin Australia Velocity: Transfer partner of Starpoints

Virgin Australia is partners with Virgin America and Delta, and the award prices for redeeming on those airlines is distance/cabin based. The cheap awards on Virgin Australia’s partner chart are short, direct, economy flights.

Virgin America Elevate: Transfer partner of ThankYou Points and Starpoints

20k Virgin America Elevate Points is a roundtrip in economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines. 3k Virgin America Elevate Points is a one way economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines. 

If redeeming on a Virgin America flight, the required amount of points is tied to the revenue cost of the ticket, so redeem Elevate miles on short domestic flights or airfare sales.

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Redeeming Transferrable Points at Their Fixed Value Instead of Transferring to An Airline Partner

Don’t forget to check the cost of redeeming your Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or Starpoints for their fixed value through each point type’s travel portal (on cash flights). While the flights you see on an aggregator like Kayak should theoretically be the same ones you see in, for example, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you can’t necessarily count on it.

In many cases this won’t be a good deal, but it sometimes can be.

Here are the major transferrable point currencies fixed values:

  • Ultimate Rewards earned by the Sapphire Reserve = 1.5 cents each
  • Ultimate Rewards earned by the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or x = 1.25 cents each
  • ThankYou Points earned by Citi Prestige = 1.33 cents each
  • ThankYou Points earned by the Citi Premier = 1.25 cents each
  • Starpoints = 1.25 cents each
  • Membership Rewards earned by most Amex cards = 1 cent each
  • Membership Rewards earned by the Enhanced Business Platinum Card  = 2 cents each after the 50% rebate (so you have to have enough to cover the cost as if each Membership Reward were worth 1 cent)

Bottom Line

Most of the outsized value in this hobby is found redeeming rewards for international premium cabin travel. That being said, realistically, sometimes we just need to fly a few states away for a wedding or to see a niece born. In these instances it’s even more necessary to scrutinize the value of redeeming rewards versus paying in cash, because the gap is often narrow.

Did I miss any good domestic redemptions? Let us know in the comments if so.

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