Master Thread: Off Peak Awards

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Off peak awards allow us to stretch our miles further by booking discounted awards to select regions during certain pre-determined dates. Off peak awards are offered by several airlines, and this post will put all the off peak awards I know of in one place.

While off peak awards are often less desirable dates, there are some off peak dates that are actually my favorite times to visit a country. For instance, March is a fantastic month in Argentina, and you can book an award to Buenos Aires or Bariloche every March for 10,000 fewer American Airlines miles than if you travel in July, a worse time to visit in my opinion.

Bariloche, Lake District of Patagonia, in March

American and US Airways have set off peak awards every year to select regions. Air France Flying Blue and Lufthansa Miles & More have discounted awards that are kind of like off peak awards. United and Delta occasionally have award sales that are like off peak awards, but are not as regular as American and US Airways’ off peak awards.

  • What are the off peak awards offered by American, US Airways, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Air France?
  • What dates are they offered?
  • Do you have to fly the airline offering the deal or can you fly a partner?

American Airlines

American Airlines is the king of off peak awards. It offers economy off peak awards to most regions of the world, and to many regions you can fly any of American Airlines’ partners and still get the discount.

Plus if you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, you always get a 10% rebate on American Airlines awards on the first 100,000 miles you redeem each year.

With that rebate, the effective price of a trip to Europe in early May is 18,000 miles one way, and I’d rather go to Sevilla, Spain in early May than in July, anyway, because I don’t want to melt. American’s off peak dates are often extremely generous, encompassing more than half the year and many prime dates to some locations.

Below is a chart that shows the one way off peak price for an economy award in thousands of American Airlines miles. Pay attention to the last column, “Own Metal?”. “Y” means you have to fly American Airlines planes to get the discount. “N” means you can fly any partner.

For instance, you can fly TAM to Rio de Janeiro during March for only 20,000 miles on way.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.21.03 PM

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is offering 50,000 bonus miles and two lounge passes after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

US Airways

US Airways has the cheapest off peak award to Europe. On all US Airways off peak awards, you have to fly all flights on US Airways planes.

US Airways does offer off peak awards in First Class to the Caribbean, but it recently ditched Business Class off peak awards to Europe. Like all US Airways awards, off peak awards need to be booked roundtrip. But you can combine one way off peak with one way at another level for half the price of each roundtrip award.

Like with the American Airlines off peak awards, people with The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® get a discount. Cardholders always get 5,000 miles off of every award that flies all US Airways planes, which is a requirement for off peak awards.

Because of the discount, the 40,000 bonus miles on The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® are enough for two roundtrips to the Caribbean or you can book one roundtrip to Europe for 30,000 miles.

This chart shows the roundtrip price of US Airways off peak awards in thousands of US Airways miles.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.21.17 PM

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in the second quarter of 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart (including its off peak awards) at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value.

United

United doesn’t offer off peak awards to set regions on set dates. But the last two years we have seen a sale on United awards to Europe during the winter. (2013 and 2012)

Both sales were announced in November for travel the following mid-January to mid-March. They required flying United planes in economy.

The discounted offered was 20%, making the total price 48,000 miles roundtrip.

I’ll be on the lookout for a similar sale in the next week or two if history holds.

Delta

Delta doesn’t offer off peak awards to set regions on set dates either. But Delta just had an award sale that ended today that offered discounts on awards within the Western Hemisphere for travel from December through February.

The trend here is obvious. Airlines have more empty seats and more award space during the North American winter, and they often offer discounts on those seats.

Air France Flying Blue

Air France doesn’t offer off peak awards, but it offers discounted Promo Awards from select cities worldwide to anywhere in Europe or Israel.

Every month, a new list of discounted origination cities is published. Right now you can book from New York, Houston, or Washington DC to Europe for 25,000 miles roundtrip for travel in January or February.

Flying Blue Promo Awards offer discounts on economy, Premium Economy, and Business Class. The best discounted Business Class awards are 62,500 miles roundtrip to Europe.

The discounted dates are always a few months out, so by Spring, Summer should be bookable at discounted prices.

Promo Awards specify the airlines you can fly to get the discount. Air France, KLM, and Air Europa are all often listed.

Flying Blue Promo Awards do include fuel surcharges. Full post on Promo Awards here.

Lufthansa Miles & More Mileage Bargains

Mileage Bargains are more akin to Promo Awards. Rotating cities, you book a few months in advance, and you pay fuel surcharges.

Mileage Bargains cost 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 55,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class. In the Spring, there should be some offers for the Summer.

Mileage Bargains are only available on Lufthansa Group airlines.

Here is a full post on Mileage Bargains.

Bottom Line

American Airlines is the king of off peak awards. Its offerings cover much of the world for much of the year, and you can often fly partners for the same price.

American has committed to not touching its chart during its integration with US Airways, and it has enshrined off peak awards as “MileSAAver Level 1” awards on its new chart released this year, so I think it will be the king for a long time.

Plus the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers cardholders a 10% rebate on awards, so off peak awards are that much cheaper, like 18,000 miles to Paris or Patagonia. That’s in addition to the 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months on the card.

What are your favorite off peak awards? Did I miss any?



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11 COMMENTS

  1. Do you know when the 5000 mile discount on UsAir awards will go away when you use your UsAir MasterCard? Will it be by the end of this year or by the second quarter of 2015?

  2. Not that it would change the #s all that much, but wouldn’t you get a 10% refund in the AA miles since you have the AA citi card? Or, are you strictly looking at miles/$s out of pocket right now?

    • I actually have the Citi Executive card, which does not have that benefit, not the Platinum Select which does have that benefit at the moment. But yes everyone with the Platinum Select should consider that rebate.

  3. Nice post. I just learned something: we just got back from a European trip in Business on AA, spending 200,000 total for 2. Unfortunately I didn’t know about the 100,000 limit on the 10% refund and booked all with my wife’s account. I could have done one way on mine and we could have got double the refund as we both have the AA cards. I even booked the award as two one-ways. I won’t make that mistake again thanks to your post.

  4. Scott: you will love Cali is a great city and you will have a lot of fun please go to the Delirio show is the best salsa show that exited. by the way I have some miles on my frontier credit card I don’t know how to use them any advice?

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