My beloved Tigers are in Omaha for the College World Series! Miles and points can be a great way to save on a last minute trip since airfare is normally more expensive if you’re booking close to the departure date. This post was originally going to be about close-in booking fees* (more on that below), but as I was researching prices for the example, I realized it’s a great time to demonstrate how miles and points can save lots on a last minute trip.
*Basically, a close-in booking fee is an extra fee charged by an airline when you book a last-minute award ticket. Usually if you book within 21 days, the fee is charged. Of the 3 major US carriers, Delta is the only one without a fee. For United and American Airlines, you will be charged $75. I will go into greater detail about close-in booking fees in a future post.
Let’s say LSU makes it far and we want to book a last minute trip to see them play. I will walk you through how I would go about booking it.
Read to the end because I will show you how to get plane tickets and a hotel for 2 people for a total of $22.40!
1. Check for direct flights
For convenience, I always for check direct flights first. Also, if I want to use British Airways to book an American Airlines flight, it will cost less if I can find a nonstop flight. More on that a little later.
First, since our home airport is DFW and DFW is an American Airlines hub, they will likely have direct flights to Omaha. So before checking other airlines, I decide to check out American Airlines flights.
Southwest has one direct flight daily between Omaha and Love Field, the other airport in Dallas, so I will also check Southwest.
American Airlines has 2 tickets available at the MileSAAver level for our dates! Great, right? Not so fast…
A roundtrip domestic AA flight in economy is 25,000 miles. Together our tickets should cost 50,000 AAdvantage miles.
50,000 miles sounds steep, but the cost of the tickets is $530 per ticket. So $1060 for both. If you calculate the value, you’re actually getting over 2 cents per point/mile, so normally I would consider that a pretty good use of points. BUT, since departure is less than 21 days, that $75 close-in fee is charged per ticket. That’s why you see a grand total of 50,000 points plus $172.40. Thats $11.20 per ticket in taxes and fees plus the $75 fee per ticket. The cents per point value drops once you factor in that fee.
If you have points in a transferable currency program such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Starwood Preferred Guest, you’re in luck!! I’ll explain more about how to get around the close-in fee and how to save points, but first let’s check Southwest, the other direct flight.
For the departing flight, there are no more ‘Wanna Get Away’ flights available so its going to cost over 35,000 points per person. On the way back there is one for ~9700 points but that still is 45,000 points per person roundtrip. Southwest does not have a close-in booking fee, so you would only be charged $5.60, but 45,000 points per person roundtrip is way too much. I’m going to go ahead and take Southwest off my list.
FYI, the cash price of these tickets is over $500 each, roundtrip.
2. Check Delta and United for saver level award tickets
Delta does not have any saver level tickets for our dates, but if they did, I could either use Delta to book the ticket or I could use KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue to book the Delta flight.
Neither Delta nor KLM/AirFrance charge a close-in fee.
If Delta did have a saver ticket available and you do not already have Delta Skymiles, you could transfer SPG or Amex MR to Delta. Ultimate Rewards is not a partner of Delta, but you could transfer the points to KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue and then book the Delta ticket through FlyingBlue for 25,000 miles roundtrip per person and no close-in fee.
Since Delta has no saver availability on these dates, we will cross that off the list.
United has saver availability and it’s 20,000 miles per ticket. The problem? Same as American Airlines. You will pay an extra $75 per ticket for the close-in booking fee. BUT since there is saver space available on United, you can use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to book the tickets with no close-in fees! Singapore Airlines charges 25,000 miles roundtrip per person for this ticket (same as American Airlines).
Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to United if you want to pay 20,000 miles plus $75 per ticket. If you want to use Singapore Airlines to book for 25,000 miles per person roundtrip and no extra fee, you can transfer points from SPG, Amex MR, or Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer all at a 1:1 ratio to book that ticket.
Since I’ve found a non-stop flight on American Airlines at the saver level, I’m going to take United off my list. With that said, if you’re in Baton Rouge or New Orleans or another city that does not have direct flights to Omaha, booking the United flight with either United or Singapore Airlines might be a better option.
3. Figure out which partners do not have a close-in fee
Since I want to book an American Airlines flight, I’m going to look at British Airways. Remember that British Airways is a distance-based chart and prices are calculated by segments. In other words, if you have to fly from Baton Rouge to DFW then DFW to Omaha, you will be charged for the BTR-DFW segment PLUS the DFW-OMA segment. That is why I would suggest looking into using United or Singapore Airlines to book United if you’re not in a city that has a direct American Airlines flight.
In North America, British Airways charges 7,500 Avios (their version of ‘miles’) each way for any flight under 1150 miles. Since DFW is under 1150 miles, the cost for a roundtrip ticket in economy is 15,000 Avios. In addition to costing less, British Airways also does not charge a close-in fee.
Since the American Airlines tickets are available at the saver level, you should be able to book them on British Airways. So now, I go to British Airways, plug in our dates, and here we are.
Total for 2 tickets: 30,000 miles and only $22.40. By using British Airways to book the American Airlines flight, I’m saving points and money!
All three of my favorite transferable programs are partners with British Airways. I can transfer Ultimate Rewards, SPG, or Amex Membership Rewards to my British Airways account. Note that Amex MR’s ratio is 250:200 but the others are 1:1. So if you have points with SPG or UR, I would consider using those first. But if you only have Amex MR, this is still a better deal than what American Airlines charges in their AAdvantage program.
4. Weigh my options considering points and fees
To keep it simple, I will list the prices per ticket, not for both tickets.
My options are:
- American Airlines AAdvantage-25,000 miles plus $86.20
- United Mileage Plus-20,000 miles plus $86.20
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer for United flights-25,000 miles plus $5.60
- British Airways Executive Club for American Airlines flights- 15,000 Avios plus $5.60
The winner for me: British Airways!
5. Transfer your points and book the ticket!
Since I do not generally collect British Airways Avios, I will need to transfer points from either Amex MR or Ultimate Rewards to my British Airways Executive Club account. Once the points are in my BA account, I can book the ticket!
So, for 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $22.40 in taxes and fees, I can score two plane tickets that would have cost a total of over $1,000!
But what about a hotel for the College World Series?
Fortunately, transferable points also give you the option to transfer your points to hotel programs to book! Omaha has several choices for different hotel programs such as SPG, Marriott, and Hyatt. I have lots of SPG and Ultimate Rewards points, but I am trying to save my SPG points for another trip. So instead of checking SPG hotels, I am going to try Hyatt since I can transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
I’m in luck because there is a room available at the Hyatt Place in downtown Omaha just down the road from the College World Series! For only 8,000 points per night, I can save at least $359 per night! That’s 4.5 cents per point! I would definitely transfer Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt account. Once the points are in my Hyatt account, I can book this room.
What if I need to cancel?
All airlines and hotels have their own cancellation policy so always check before booking. In this case, this Hyatt hotel allows cancellations within 24 hours. So if I change my mind about going, I will be refunded the Hyatt points. To be clear, the points are refunded to my Hyatt account, not Chase Ultimate Rewards. Remember that transfers to airlines and hotels are permanent.
For British Airways, the cancellation policy is the forfeiture of taxes and fees or 55$, whichever is less. So in this case we would lose only $22.40 to get the points back. Again, the points will be returned to the British Airways account, not Chase Ultimate Rewards or whichever program you transferred from. Also, British Airways does not allow changes or cancellations within 24 hours of departure.
The bottom line is that if you need to cancel this flight and/or hotel, you can do so and only lose $22.40, as long as it’s within 24 hours of departure/hotel check in.
Not sure I would actually pay the value of these flights and the hotel stay for this trip, but it’s certainly a good use of points! 70,000 points for $2855 worth of travel is a cents per point value of 4.1!
Total Value: $2855
- 5 nights at the hotel=$1795
- 2 roundtrip tickets from DFW-OMA=$1060
Total Spent: 70,000 Ultimate Rewards and $22.40