Why I Recently Burned My Asia Miles on a Low-value Award Redemption

As a rule, humans tend to talk about their successes rather than failings. And that’s certainly true for miles and points blogging. Let’s face it, it’s so much more fun to write about a huge value redemption that’s normally super hard to find.

But I think it’s important to share fails, because they do happen on occasion. And this is one of those posts. In 2019, my husband and I were approved for Synchrony bank cards  that offered 50k Asia Miles as a bonus. I didn’t know much about the currency, but I did have plans to go to Japan via Hawaii. A quick check revealed that I would be able to redeem 25k miles per person for Honolulu-Tokyo flight on JAL, with only $40 fuel surcharge. Naturally, in economy. I could live with that, plus, at the time I didn’t have a lot of Avios or AA miles.

Fast forward to 2022. I’ve now planned (and canceled) a trip to Japan not once, but three times. Last year, I had to pay a penalty of 12k Asia miles (per person) to cancel a flight from Seattle to Tokyo. Unfortunately, they would not wave the penalty despite the country being closed to tourists.

As a result, I had 30k miles left in mine, as well as my husband’s accounts. And no plans to use them anytime soon. Oh, and they are set to expire next April. While Asia Miles program has changed the rules letting you extend the validity if you have activity every 18 months, it doesn’t apply to miles earned in 2019. Although, one of our readers has mentioned last year that he was offered to reinstate his expired Asia Miles after earning 3k miles from two different partners. I’m not sure if it was related to Covid pandemic, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Regardless, I’m not counting on this option still being available next April.

I hate losing miles, but I also hate being forced to schedule unnecessary trips just to burn them. I want to do this hobby on my own terms, always. Plus, I have a husband who is a homebody. So, I started to look for ways to somehow incorporate them into my existing plans.

A trip to DC to view cherry blossoms

Longtime readers probably remember me talking over the years about planning to go to DC to view cherry blossoms. In fact, I’ve even booked and cancelled a trip there a few times (see post about epic rant my husband did on the topic).

But a good idea keeps on knocking, so I kept  circling back to it. In fact, I’ve already booked a trip to DC for next March using Jet Blue points. I paid 22k points roundtrip per person, not cheap, but the schedule was good. Plus, I really like Jet Blue.

But then I thought that I probably need to utilize my expiring Asia Miles by redeeming them on AA flight. I remember checking MCO-DCA route last year, and it cost 10k miles one-way. Lo and behold, it now runs at 15k Asia Miles. Inflation, y’all.

That was an unpleasant surprise, because now instead of six one-way tickets, we would get four. But it is what it is. Keep in mind that you can potentially fly from San Francisco to Maui for the same amount of miles. It’s certainly a more valuable redemption compared to short MCO-DCA route that everyone and their brother flies.

But as much as it pains me to say, it doesn’t look like we will be going to Hawaii in the next year or two. Plus, in order to pay 15k miles per person, you need to first find saver availability on AA or Alaska Air. And good luck with that during spring break, summer or holidays. It’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy.

I’m also tentatively thinking about booking a trip to St. Kitts next fall for just me and my husband. But that’s very much up in the air. Oh, and naturally, I plan to rebook the trip to Japan (again), but SEA-NRT route that costs 27k Asia Miles now comes with $300 fuel surcharge per person. No thanks.

So, I’ve decided that a bird in the hand would be better than chasing after one in the bush. DC it is.

Booking AA flight via Chat 

Unlike with Alaska Air, you can’t redeem  Asia Miles on AA flights online. They want you to fill out and submit a form, which I did. After one week, crickets. Of course, first I checked whether AA saver flights to DC are available for my dates. The easiest way to do that is to see whether they are bookable on BA.com

I dreaded calling Asia Miles service center because I didn’t have a great experience last time. So, I’ve decided to try booking my award flight via Chat. It worked. You can find the Chat button in the right bottom corner of Asia Miles website, after logging into your account.

The rep verified my personal information and then proceeded to reserve the flight. I was then emailed a link to pay taxes on the tickets with my credit card. The whole process was relatively easy, though I did get disconnected once and had to restart the whole thing. Still, I prefer it to calling, for sure.

So, our combined 60k miles got us four one-way tickets from Orlando to DC. In turn, that saved me 44k Jet Blue points. So, one can say that it’s my haul from those two Synchrony credit cards we’ve applied for back in 2019. Oh, and we also had to pay $178 in annual fees. Plus, with Asia Miles, my tickets are not flexible, as canceling them would involve a penalty.

Is it a great ROI on two credit card applications? Not really. It’s pathetic. For those keeping track, I applied for these cards with the idea of getting four tickets from Hawaii to Japan, and ended up with four tickets from Orlando to DC.

But it sure beats holding out and potentially losing 60k Asia Miles altogether. It’s true that guessing a peak of cherry blossom viewing in DC is pretty tough. I went by historic averages, hoping for the best.

If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. The truth is, we can’t really switch travel dates on a short notice anyway, as my husband has to  plan it in advance with his boss and schedule projects around them.

There is actually one positive in this. I will be far less likely to cancel my DC trip now!

So, what’s the lesson in all of this? Well, be careful when transferring your points to airline programs with hard expiration rules. Ask yourself if you will be ok holding a certain currency in case your travel plans don’t materialize. Also, have reasonable expectations. You win some and you lose some in this hobby. It’s important to focus on the big picture.

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