Update July 1, 2014:

The current offer on the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® is 20,000 miles after first purchase and payment of $79 annual fee.

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Annual Companion Ticket after first purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

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Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

United has very good award space to all four major Hawaiian islands from the mainland, but I’ll never use United miles to fly between the mainland and Hawaii again.

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The problem is that United charges more miles for its own flights than its partners like Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines charge for the exact same United flights.

All of United’s partners have equal access to the Saver award space you see on united.com before signing in, but the prices differ:

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in United economy and 30,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Lufthansa charges 20,000 miles each way in United economy and 35,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

Recently I booked myself an award in United economy from Honolulu to Chicago to speak at the Chicago Seminars (only 43 tickets left) with Lufthansa miles to take advantage of its discount relative to United miles.

Currently the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. (This offer expires June 30, 2014.) I had gotten in on the same massive offer last year, and I had over 70,000 Lufthansa miles burning a hole in my account, waiting to be used.

  • How good is United award space to/from Hawaii?
  • Which miles should you use to book the space?

I wanted a one way flight from Honolulu to Chicago in mid-October to spend a few days in the city before the Seminars.

I pulled up a simple search on united.com without signing into my United account. If you sign in, and you are a United elite or you have a United credit card, extra Saver award space will be displayed that United partners cannot access. As long as you don’t sign in, you’ll see the Saver award space open to everyone including partners.

I found that award space was wide open.

Yellow days have Saver economy. Blue days have Saver First Class. Green days have Saver economy and First Class. White days have no Saver award space.

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On the bottom right, below the search results, I checked the box to show “Nonstop Flights Only” and hit Search again.

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On the direct flight, there is plenty of Saver economy space, but no First Class space. As a general rule, First Class space is much more available between the west coast and Hawaii than on the longer flights.

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I selected the flight I wanted and was taken to the purchase screen. United charges 22,500 miles and $2.50 each way between the mainland and Hawaii.

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That’s not so bad compared to a cash price of $1,205 for the direct flight.

I decided to use my Lufthansa miles instead of my United miles to book the flight for several reasons:

  1. Lufthansa charges fewer miles (20,000).
  2. Lufthansa collects fuel surcharges on many award flights, but not on United domestic flights, and I wanted to use my Lufthansa miles without fuel surcharges.
  3. United miles are more to Europe, Africa, and Australia than Lufthansa miles, so I wanted to save my United miles for that.

Even though I have 30,000 Singapore miles plus Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 to Singapore miles, I decided not to use Singapore miles to book this award.

I want to save my Singapore miles and Membership Rewards to fly Singapore Suites, and I want to save my Ultimate Rewards to transfer to United, Hyatt, Korean, or British Airways.

Paying 20,000 Lufthansa miles and $2.50 for a direct flight was an excellent deal because the cheapest cash ticket on my travel date was $388 and included a layover.Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.46.38 AMConsidering the extra value I’ll get from the nonstop flight, which means less travel time and less chance to mis-connect, I think I got over 2 cents of value from my Lufthansa miles. If I do that with all my Lufthansa miles, the card’s 50,000 mile sign up bonus will be worth over $1,000.

Booking the Award

The only way to book United flights with Lufthansa miles is to call Miles & More at 800-581.-400 Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM ET.

I gave the agent my date, flight number, and cabin, and he priced the award at 20,000 Lufthansa miles + $2.50. There is no phone fee to book Lufthansa awards.

The agent allowed me to select a seat, which is unusual, when booking one carrier’s flight with another carrier’s miles. He also gave me the Lufthansa confirmation code and United code. The former can be used to modify the reservation and the latter to check in on the day of departure or add the flight to my United account.

Getting the Miles

The easiest way to get 55,000 Lufthansa miles–enough for a roundtrip from the mainland to Hawaii with one direction in first class–is to open The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard and spend $5,000 on the card in the first 90 days.

With the 50,000 mile bonus and $5,000 in spending, you will have exactly 55,000 miles. Full offer details:
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