My sister, Michelle, came over last weekend and the family got to talking. She and my bro-in-law, Pat, are going to the Philippines for their friend’s wedding next summer. I was telling them how I just recently booked our Dad a trip to the Philippines in Cathay Pacific Business class for 100k British Airways miles. She doesn’t fly often so she didn’t know how I accrued that many miles. I told her about my strategy that got our BA Household Account over 300k miles to use. I know that, at her job at a high profile NYC law firm, she is in charge of a lot of event planning and has a Corporate American Express. I did NOT know, however, that all these Membership Rewards points go into her personal MR account. My eyes lit up…
We decided to log into her MR account and see what was up. Lo and behold, she had about 150k MR points with almost 50k pending from last statement! That might not seem like a lot of some of you, but they had also been redeeming retail gift cards for a while now, in $100 and $250 increments. Those cost 10k and 25k MR points respectively so you are only getting a 1% return on your points. After refraining from jump kicking her (lol) and regaining my composure, I told her that I can get them upwards of 2-7% on their Amex MR points. Well, no need to cry over spilled milk. There was still plenty to work with on this cash cow account.
Back to their Philippines trip plan, we have to get this done before November 15, 2011 when BA changes their program so first thing’s first – we signed them both up for British Airways Executive Club accounts.
I then added both of their accounts to our Household Account here. All you need to link is their Executive Club member number and last name.
The next step is to log into her Amex MR account and link up my sister’s BA account.
Now that we’re linked up, we can transfer all 150k of my sister’s MR points to her BA account. There is no fee to transfer MR to BA; I assume this is because BA’s program is foreign-based and the fee Amex charges is Excise Tax.
Now, those 150k miles that we transferred are now added to the pool in our Household Account. The problem is that they are still about 50k miles short of 2 round trip tickets to Asia (100k per person).
Since I manage all my family’s account via AwardWallet (an awesome free service, by the way), I see that my parents have 50k points in their Chase Ultimate Rewards account. Chase UR points are even easier to transfer because there is no linking; you just supply the frequent flyer number and the person’s name and the points transfer instantly!
Now, we are set with mileage. This is the fun part – finding flights. For a how-to on booking BA awards on BA.com, check out my Vancouver post here. We found the availability they wanted in Business Class and went through the booking process.
200,000 miles and $729 in fees later, my sister and bro-in-law are booked! These 2 Business Class tickets would normally cost $19,000 on Cathay Pacific so, after some math, they are redeeming awards at 9.1 CPM!
The point of all this is to show you that there are so many better options than redeeming your miles/points for gift cards at 1% return. You don’t even have to travel often to reap these rewards; my sister flies outside of North America at most once a year. And don’t think that you have to redeem awards in a premium cabin to make your money spent (or miles earned) worthwhile. You can get amazing redemption values in Economy class too!
Best of all, this last booking puts our British Airways Household Account at about 650 miles. With the changes to the program looming and no indication of how they’ll change, I’m glad we’re finally out of the BA program. It was great and we fully took advantage of it!