Etihad Airways is the second biggest carrier in the United Arab Emirates that flies an incredible product renowned around the world. Etihad miles have gotten easier and easier to come by as Etihad Guest is now a transfer partner of three out of the four big transferrable point currencies.
- SPG Points transfer 1:1 to Etihad
- Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Etihad
- ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Etihad
What you’ve seen us write about in the past is redeeming Etihad miles on partner awards, like American Airlines and Brussels, as those charts are where the sweetspots are. Etihad has expensive mileage prices for flying their own planes unfortunately.
But One Mile at at Time recently pointed out a previously under-publicized strategy when redeeming Etihad miles–the “Miles + Cash Option” that allows you to buy Etihad mile for about .9 cents each–which brings down the overall cost of redeeming Etihad miles on their own flights.
Etihad actually allows you to buy miles in the final stages of booking an award if you don’t have enough to pay for the entire award. You must have at least 75% of the total mileage cost to book the award, but you can buy the other 25% of the miles needed to top you off for .9 cents each.
Using Etihad’s Miles + Cash Option
In order to show you the process of buying Etihad miles via Miles + Cash, I’d have to have Etihad miles in my account, which I don’t. Once you click on an available award flight, you are taken to a booking page. There should be a section on the booking page titled “Miles + Cash Option” with a sliding scale. On one end of the scale is the amount of miles the award costs outright and the other end has the maximum amount of cash you can spend to make up for the missing miles. The farther you move the counter from left to right, you’ll see the mileage price of the award get smaller (down to a minimum of 75% of the full award price) and the supplemental cost in cash grow.
One Mile at a Time gave an example of an award from New York to Abu Dhabi that costs 117,556 Etihad miles + $179.30 in taxes/fees one way. By moving the moving the counter on the Miles + Cash sliding scale all the way to the right, you’re given the minimum number of miles you must have to redeem on the award (88,170, 75% of 117,556) and the price of the maximum number of miles you can buy, which in this case is $443.70 worth. So you would pay 88,170 miles + $443.70 instead of 117,556 + $179.30. That is like paying $264.47 in order to save 29,386 Etihad miles–i.e. buying Etihad miles for .9 cents each.
Like I said, I can’t check since I don’t have any miles in my Etihad Guest account, but Lucky worked out another example with the Miles + Cash sliding scale to exemplify that the price per mile is pretty much always around .9 cents.
Here’s another example. Take this London to Abu Dhabi First Class award in an A380 Apartment:
If you paid the minimum amount of miles required and the rest in cash, it would cost 67,224 Etihad miles (75% of the actual award price) + about $587 instead of 89,631 Etihad miles + $385 in taxes/fees. That would be like buying 22,407 Etihad miles at the price of .9 cents each for $202, plus the $385 in taxes/fees. Not too shabby for seven and a half hours of pure luxury. Read Scott’s trip report when he flew between Abu Dhabi and New York in an Etihad First Class Apartment on an A380.
You don’t have to split payment 75/25. If you had 80% of the miles needed, you could buy 20% of the miles needed, or if you had 85% of the miles needed, you could buy 15% of the miles needed, etc.
But if you value your transferrable points as highly as we do (which you probably should as they are quite versatile), then you should always only pay 75% of your Etihad award in miles and buy the other 25% of the miles needed in cash for .9 cents each. We value SPG Points at 2.5 cents, Membership Rewards at 2 cents, and ThankYou points at 1.9 cents each–all much more than .9 cents.
The Miles + Cash Option is only available when booking online as far as I know, so you can’t utilize it when trying to book a partner award with Etihad miles (since the only Etihad awards you can book online are those flying Etihad planes).
Of course, don’t forget to consider the cost of redeeming another one of Etihad partner’s miles (like American Airlines or ANA) on an award flying Etihad before jumping on the Miles + Cash Option.
Stacking with Transfer Bonuses
Transfer bonuses to the Etihad Guest program are common.
- Throughout last month you could transfer points from SPG, Membership Rewards, or ThankYou Points and receive a 20% bonus of Etihad miles.
- Last May through mid June, right after Membership Rewards added Etihad Guest as a transfer partner, there was a 30% transfer bonus between the two programs
- And there was 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest for the last couple months of 2015.
Transferring your points during one of these types of promotions, stacked with taking advantage of Etihad’s Miles + Cash Option, represents an exceptional value.
The previously given example for the Abu Dhabi to New York award, when maxing out the miles you can buy via Miles + Cash, costs 88,170 miles + $443.70 including taxes/fees. During a hypothetical 25% transfer bonus between ThankYou Points and Etihad Guest, you would only need 71,000 ThankYou Points to book that same award, since transferring 71,000 ThankYou points with a 25% bonus garners 88,750 Etihad miles.
Generally Etihad’s award prices for flying their own planes are expensive. While you do have to have at least 75% of the miles required, being able to buy the rest of the miles needed for .9 cents can be a great deal. Stack that with a transfer bonus from one of Etihad Guest’s 1:1 transfer partners and you’ve got yourself a steal for one of the nicest products in the sky.