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Best Ways to Book Hawaii on Points and Miles

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Editorial disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

Hawaii is one of our favorite places, but it can be an expensive vacation. Using miles and points to help with plane tickets and hotels can help significantly. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the best ways to book flights to Hawaii on points and miles.

Here’s the interesting thing: most options on this list involve flying on one of the 3 major US carriers-United, Delta, and American Airlines- but none of these options involve actually booking through these carriers.  

Na Pali experience boat cave tour kauai, hawaii on points and miles, how to book Hawaii with Chase ultimate rewards points
The beautiful Na Pali Coast in Kauai

My favorite credit cards are cards that earn transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.  You will see that having either of these credit card points will give you several options for flights to Hawaii.  I will go over which airline partners work best with each of the 2 currencies.

Earn your first 60,000 points so you can fly to Hawaii for free!

If you do not already have a transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is the first card I suggest for almost anyone. No matter what your travel goals are, the welcome bonus is worth at least $750. If you use transfer partners as I’ve outlined in this post, the bonus could be worth even more! Click here for a list of other valuable ways to spend 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred 2019

If you already have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards, or if you want a premium travel card, consider the Platinum Card from American Express.  The welcome bonus is currently 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines.  The annual fee on this card is higher, but the benefits are great, especially if you travel often.

Book flights to Hawaii with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards partners

I made a table for quick reference, but keep reading because I will explain.

 British Airways AviosSingapore Airlines KrisFlyerKLM/AirFrance FlyingBlueEtihad GuestSouthwest Rapid Rewards
Book these flights from the continental US to HawaiiAmerican Airlines and Alaska AirlinesUnited and Alaska AirlinesDeltaAmerican AirlinesSouthwest
Cost in economy12,500 each way (from the west coast) 17,500 each way on United; 12,000-12,500 each way on Alaska Airlines (from select cities only)As low as 17,500 each way17,500 or 22,500 each wayDepends on the current fare; I've seen it as low as 9,000 Rapid Rewards points one way
Cost in business/first37,500 each way (from the west coast)30,000 each way on United; Alaska is LOL. Not even worth considering for biz/firstUncertain as I could not find availability and there is no chart37,500 each wayN/A
Transfer fromChase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership RewardsAmex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards
Roundtrip required?NoNoNoNoNo
Can I put an award ticket on hold?NoYesYesNo official policy, but I have been allowed to. No, but you can cancel an award ticket for free AND get your points back!
How to book plane tickets to Hawaii with miles and points, American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points

If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, these are the best partners to book plane tickets to Hawaii:

You can use all four options listed below to book tickets from the continental US to Hawaii if you have American Express Membership Rewards points.

You will need to register for a frequent flyer account if you do not already have one to search for availability with some of these programs.  It’s free.  No credit card required.

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points you can use these partners to book plane tickets to Hawaii:

These partners usually have the lowest redemption costs:

Best ways to book Hawaii on points, Napali coast Kauai, Hawaii, Mauna Loa private helicopter tour, jurassic park
Napali Coast

Best Ways to Book Flights to Hawaii on Miles and Points

Remember, never transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards before confirming availability for your dates.  Transfers are permanent.  I will explain how to search for availability in each section.

Click here for a list of nonstop routes between mainland US and Hawaii.

1. British Airways Avios to book American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights

Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards

Since BA has a distance-based award chart, tickets to Hawaii from the US west coast are a great value.  British Airways partners with Alaska Airlines and American Airlines.  One-way tickets are allowed.  British Airways does not allow holds on award tickets, but if you’re transferring from Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards, you should have the points immediately.

British Airways requires 13,000 Avios each way or 26,000 round-trip for flights to Hawaii in economy on nonstop flights operated by American Airlines or Alaska Airlines from these cities:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Bellingham, WA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Portland, OR
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Seattle, WA

To compare, flights booked with American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles cost 35,000-45,000 miles roundtrip from the continental US to Hawaii.

If you live on the east coast, it could be worth booking a “positioning” flight to the west coast to take advantage of this British Airways sweet spot.  Here is a quick example:

  • You live on the east coast and have 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points and want to book 2 tickets to Hawaii.
  • You find saver availability on a nonstop roundtrip American Airlines flight from LAX to Honolulu.  This would be 26,000 British Airways Avios per person or 52,000 total.
  • You find a cheap flight from your east coast city to LAX on Southwest.  Since you still have 48,000 Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer the amount required to Southwest Rapid Rewards to book those tickets on points.  Although, I would consider paying cash for the positioning flights and saving those extra Ultimate Rewards points to book hotels instead.
How to book American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios

I wrote a whole post on this!

How to book Alaska airlines flights with British Airways Avios

British Airways does not show Alaska Airlines on their website.  The easiest way to search for availability is on AA.com.   American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are non-alliance partners.  Any award space that is bookable by partners of Alaska Airlines will show up on aa.com.  Once you find the Alaska flights you want on aa.com, write down the dates and flight numbers.  You will need to call British Airways to book.

grand hyatt kauai, hawaii on points, ultimate rewards Hawaii flights
Saltwater Lagoon pool at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

2. Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles to book United or Alaska Airlines

Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards

United

Singapore Airlines and United are both in the Star Alliance, so you can book United flights with Singapore Airlines miles.

For a flight from the continental US to Hawaii operated by United, Singapore Airlines requires 35,000 miles roundtrip. It is unclear what United will require since the program is switching to dynamic pricing in November. But for flights before November, United requires 45,000 miles for the exact same flight.  

Although you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United to book United flights, you save points by booking the exact same flight with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program.  One way tickets are allowed and the cost is 17,500 KrisFlyer miles each way.

The official policy is that Singapore Airlines will not hold award tickets, but I have personal experience of putting tickets on hold by calling Singapore Airlines.  The tickets were held for 2 days.  Since Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards transfers to Singapore Airlines are usually immediate, this probably is not necessary.

How to book United flights with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles

You can search using Singapore’s website, but I think it is easier to check availability for United flights by using United’s own website.

  • Make sure you are logged out of your United Mileage Plus account when searching because United sometimes makes more saver space available to its own members that may not be available to partners.
  • Once you find an award at the saver level, you should be able to book on the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer website.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is a non-alliance partner of Singapore Airlines.  Instead of the Star Alliance award chart, Singapore has a separate award chart for redemptions on flights operated by Alaska Airlines.

Depending on your departure city, the cost is only 12,000-12,500 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles each way.  At first glance, this award chart seems great.  Zone 3 (Texas) to Zone 5 (Hawaii) prices at 12,500 miles.  But the catch is that this works like British Airways in that you’re charged per segment.  If nonstop flights from DFW to Hawaii were available on Alaska Airlines, that would be great!  But the reality is that from DFW, you’re looking at 2 or 3 segments each way.

using Krisflyer miles to book Hawaii flights

If you live in a city with nonstop flights to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines, this is one of the cheapest redemption options available!  These cities include Los Angelos, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and San Diego.  If you do not live in a city with nonstop flights, it could be worth booking a positioning flight to an airport that does have direct Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii.

How to book Alaska Airlines Flights with Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles

You will have to call Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book award flights operated by Alaska Airlines.

Singapore Airlines does not show Alaska Airlines award availability on their website.  The easiest way to search for availability is on AA.com.   Any award space that is bookable by Singapore Airlines and other partners of Alaska Airlines will show up on aa.com.  Remember, you are looking for Alaska Airlines flights.  If the flight is operated by American Airlines, you cannot use Singapore Airlines to book.  

Once you find the Alaska Airlines flights you want on aa.com, write down the dates and flight numbers.  Then you will need to call Krisflyer to book.

Hawaii on points, redeem miles for Hawaii,using ultimate rewards points to book Hawaii
Helicopter view of the open ceiling cave on the Na Pali coast

3. KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue for Delta flights

Transfer from Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards

Since AirFrance/KLM are SkyTeam alliance partners with Delta, you can use FlyingBlue miles to book Delta flights.  Last year, I booked 7 tickets for our entire family for a Hawaii vacation.

Like Delta, AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue does not publish an award chart, but the lowest cost between the US and Hawaii seems to be 17,500 each way.  The amount of miles required by KLM does not seem to change if you have multiple segments. In other words, the redemption price from DFW-KOA, which has a connection, is the same as the redemption cost from LAX-KOA, which is a nonstop flight.

How to use Airfrance/KLM FlyingBlue miles to book Delta flights

Award flights to Hawaii booked with FlyingBlue miles are tough to search online. It doesn’t hurt to check your dates online, but the website is glitchy when booking Delta flights. Flying Blue actually has a feature that allows you to search for flexible dates, but unfortunately this feature seems to be nonexistent when searching for Delta flights to Hawaii. Most likely, you’re going to have to call Flying Blue to book Delta flights with Flying Blue miles.

In many cases, I suggest going to the airline operating the flight to search for availability. But since Delta has no award chart, searching Delta.com is not very helpful.  The best way to determine Delta partner availability is to just use the partner program to search.  In other words, use FlyingBlue. You could also search another Delta partner, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, to get an idea of which dates are available.

Log into your FlyingBlue account, plug in your departure, destination, and dates, and search. If flights are available, the flight options and amount of miles will show.  If you get an error message stating that no flights are available, it does not necessarily mean there are no flights available. I suggest calling.

Once you have confirmed availability, you can transfer the appropriate amount of Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards and then book.  Or to be extra safe, if end up having to call FlyingBlue, you can ask the agent to place the flights on hold, then transfer.

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Etihad's frequent flyer program to book American Airlines flights

4. Etihad Guest miles for American Airlines flights

Transfer from American Express Membership Rewards

American Airlines

Etihad is not in an airline alliance.  But there are several non-alliance partners.  One of these partners is American Airlines.  You can use Etihad Guest miles to book American Airlines flights to Hawaii.

Etihad Guest award chart for American Airlines domestic flights, how to book flights to Hawaii with American Express Membership Rewards points

The redemption cost is the same or better than if you were to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book a milesAAver flight.  Etihad is ideal for those on the east coast and/or in cities that do not have nonstop AA flights to Hawaii.  Etihad’s program does not require you to redeem more miles for extra segments.  On the other hand, British Airways, another AA partner, requires you to redeem Avios (miles) for each segment of the flight.   Click here for more info about the advantages of using Etihad.

For economy, the redemption cost is 17,500 or 22,500 Etihad Guest miles each way depending on dates.  Off peak dates usually change every year, but this year, the dates are January 12 – March 8, August 22, and December 15.

For first class, the cost is 37,500 miles each way.  To compare, the AAdvantage cost is 40,000 miles each way.

How to book American Airlines flights with Etihad miles

Etihad’s website does not have the capability to book American Airlines award tickets at this time.  You will have to call to book.  The process is relatively painless as agents are well-trained. I’ve never had to wait on hold for very long, either.

The best way to find availability is on AA.com.  Remember, you are looking for milesAAver seats.  Once you find the flights you want, you can call to complete the booking. Click here for step-by-step instructions for booking American Airlines flights with Etihad miles.

mauna loa private helicopter tour kauai, hawaii on points and miles
This is in Kauai. We hiked the Awaawapuhi trail then went through the Awaawapuhi valley by helicopter

5. Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book Southwest flights

Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards

The advantage of using Southwest is that you don’t have to deal with availability like you do with the other options in this list. As long as a seat is available on a Southwest flight-as in, available to book with cash-you can use Rapid Rewards points to book that ticket. The potential problem with Southwest is the way that award tickets are priced. Unlike the other options in this post, Southwest prices award tickets based on the fare of the flight.

If you find a cheap ticket to Hawaii, that means the amount of Rapid Rewards points required will be on the lower end. If tickets for your dates are expensive, you’re going to have to redeem more points.

Without having exact dates and destinations, it’s tough for me to say exactly how many Southwest Rapid Rewards points will be required for an award ticket to Hawaii.

Southwest points are generally thought to be worth about 1.5 cents each. To give an example, I checked Southwest.com for flights from San Jose, California (SJC) to Honolulu. In November, I found tickets for $199 for the SJC-HNL flight and then $143 for HNL to SJC. The outbound flight ($199) was around 13,600 points. The return flight ($143) was just under 9,000 points. That makes the roundtrip flight ~22,600 Rapid Rewards points.

Remember, Southwest Rapid Rewards points become twice as valuable if you have the Southwest Companion Pass.

How to book Southwest flights with Southwest Rapid Rewards points

You can search and book Southwest award tickets online by logging in to your Rapid Rewards account. Another great thing about Southwest is that if you need to cancel an award ticket, you can get your points back and there are no fees.

A few final notes:

  • Check Southwest if you live in a city served by Southwest, then compare the redemption cost to that of the other options
  • If you live in a city with nonstop Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii, British Airways or Singapore Airlines are likely going to have your lowest redemption costs.
  • If you live on the west coast with nonstop American Airlines flights to Hawaii, British Airways is probably going to be your best bet.
  • For those who live on the east coat or in a city requiring a connection, KLM/AirFrance to book Delta, Etihad to book American Airlines, or Singapore to book United is probably going to be the best value for a Hawaii ticket.

One credit card welcome bonus is more than enough for a plane ticket to Hawaii!

The current bonus offer for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card can be redeemed for at least one ticket to Hawaii, and possibly two if you use the right partners!

Current offer: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. 

Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that. 

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to 9 different airline frequent flyer programs or 3 different hotel loyalty programs.  You can also redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.

This premium card has a welcome bonus of 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points
Platinum Card from American Express

Terms apply. Click here for more information.

Current offer: Earn 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Those points can be transferred to several different airline and hotel programs.

This card has one of the highest earn rates on flight purchases. Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines or through amextravel.com.  Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.  

The annual fee is $550, but if you’re able to utilize the benefits and statement credits that are available, it’s easy to justify paying the annual fee.  The current welcome offer of 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points also helps offset that annual fee.  If you are an active duty military service member, American Express waives annual fees on any card you open, including this card!

Additional benefits and details:  Receive up to $200 of reimbursement on airline incidentals per calendar year (click here for more info), receive $200 total in Uber credits annually, receive $100 reimbursement for TSA precheck or Global Entry enrollment, and 100$ total in statement credit for purchases at Saks Fifth avenue annually.

My favorite benefit: The Platinum Card from American Express gives you access to their amazing Centurion lounges (where available). These lounges have complimentary food and drinks. Some locations even have spa services such as massage and manicures! You will also get lounge access to airport lounges around the world with a Priority Pass membership. Terms apply, learn more here.

molokini crater snorkeling, hawaii on miles and points
Cooling off on the way to snorkel at Molokini
road to hana maui hawaii waterfall, hawaii on points
Waterfall off the Road to Hana drive

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. The comments have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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