How to increase your chances of successful award bookings with miles and points

I used to think earning miles and points would be difficult. I was wrong! There are so many opportunities to earn miles and points with credit card sign-up bonuses with everyday spending. However, I’ve discovered that it’s much more challenging to spend those miles and points on saver-level awards to get the maximum value out of your miles and points stash.

Recently, I’ve been asked by a few readers to help them earn miles to travel for free. I give the best advice I can. But in some cases, we’re not likely to find business class award availability for a family during peak times. It’s easy to get discouraged with this miles and points hobby when you can’t book the flights that you see the bloggers booking.

Please don’t give up! There are things you can do to increase your chances of finding that award space at decent miles/points prices.

Start early!

I can’t emphasize this enough. The earlier you start looking for mileage awards, the better your chances are of finding them. Most airlines open their schedules 11 months in advance, and they only release a small amount of saver-level awards for each flight. Sometimes, award space is available at the time flight schedules are released. But other times, award space appears over time. Regardless, having your miles stash early and starting your search early is always a good idea.

On social media, I see people planning their spring break trips for 2023 right now. If you hope to maximize miles and points redemptions, you really need to start thinking about your 2024 spring break ideas now.

Diversify your miles and points stash

Just like investing, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s great to have a ton miles in one airline, but what happens if the only award space is on another airline?

Prioritize earning transferrable points

I love credit cards from the major banks with points that transfer to multiple airlines and hotels. These give you the most flexibility when it comes to booking.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways Guest Program
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue True Blue (1:0.8)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton Honors (1:2)
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Citi ThankYou points transfer to:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Choice Privileges
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Eva Air Infinity MileageLands
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Wyndham Rewards

Capital One miles transfer to:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1 ratio)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (1:1 ratio)
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue (1:1 ratio)
  • ALL – Accor Live Limitless (2:1 ratio)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (1:1 ratio)
  • British Airways Executive Club (1:1 ratio)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1:1 ratio)
  • Choice Privileges (1:1 ratio)
  • Emirates Skywards (1:1 ratio)
  • Etihad Guest (1:1 ratio)
  • EVA Infinity MileageLands (2:1.5 ratio)
  • Finnair Plus (1:1 ratio)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1 ratio)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer (1:1 ratio)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (1:1 ratio)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (1:1 ratio)
  • Virgin Red (1:1 ratio)
  • Wyndham Rewards (1:1 ratio)

Be flexible

If you must travel on a certain date, your options will be limited. Consider a range of dates for your trip. Likewise, be flexible about the airports you fly into and out of. You may be able to find a great flight in business class from Chicago if you’re willing to pay for a shorter positioning flight from your city to Chicago. Also, flights within Europe can be very inexpensive. Look for award availability to other cities in Europe, and then take a train or cheap flight to your final destination.

Read and learn

Subscribe to a few miles and points blogs (especially this one!) to keep on top of this hobby. Read and learn from other travelers to see what has worked for them. I’m still learning from other bloggers and blog readers! Edited to add: Check out this airline partner tool from the comments section: https://coda.io/@alchen/airlines-miles-transfer-partners-credit-cards

Now, let’s go book some award travel! Go get ’em!

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.

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