I was a Continental fan; and a North West Airlines fan; I forgave Continental for changing its name to United because they kept the same staff and brought the out-of-control United in-line with the Continental machine. And because of that, I am a United fan. [NorthWest btw, ceased to exist as it became part of Delta, an airline I have disliked since day one.]
While looking at cards, I was thinking about a “real-world” example comparing the travel awards of those programs that are directly attached to an airline, and those that are “any airline, any time”.
I looked in my file, and I have an American Airlines reward account; United rewards account; Delta rewards account; Alaska rewards account; CapitalOne rewards account, and a US Bank Flexperks reward account.
Oh boy, this is going to be a LONG thread! And don’t forget there is a second trip test!
I choose to use two hypothetical trips, 6 months in the future. The first trip would be from LAX (major international location) to London in coach. The second trip would be IAH to Bangkok, in Business class. Choosing a date at random in 6 months placed the trip for two weeks, from Jan 13-27.
TRIP NUMBER ONE: LAX TO LONDON HEATHROW
First, I looked at American Airlines. To me, AA rates even lower than Delta in my book, based on the experiences I have had with them in years gone by. I haven’t flown an AA flight in so many years, I can’t even remember the last time. But my reward account was still valid.
I was shocked to see that I could go from LAX to London for a mileage redemption of 40,000 miles. And there were a bunch of flights with available seats. Quite a surprise. Taxes were $198.70USD.
Second was Delta Airlines. Delta gets more complaints on its frequent flier program than any of the other major airlines. Every time I try to book reward flights, I can never find any “Saver” awards; the only thing available is their next level, equal to paying saver plus 50% more miles. It was always frustrating.
I was shocked to see 60,000 mile saver rewards available on Delta and/or partners. Taxes were also $198.70USD.
Third was United Airlines. Of course, I am cheering for United since Delta came back with a saver award! And United didn’t disappoint me — providing a non-stop flight for 60,000 miles, and $198.70USD also in fees. I was still in shock that American’s reward was better than United for this sample flight.
Fourth was Alaska Airlines. Alaska partners with Emirates for international travel, and if you ever have flown business or first with Emirates, you would know why they are so well respected! However, the flights weren’t feasible because the travel time was almost TWICE as long.
Fifth was Capital One No Hassle Rewards. I was curious how a non-airline program would stack up against the airline’s own programs. The cost to London was 109,760 miles (but NO cash required for taxes and such).
I considered why it might be so high and here is my thought. Venture gives double miles for every purchase, while most airline cards only give ONE mile. In effect, Capital One doubled the number of miles required to redeem this award because its miles are worth half of those earned on airline cards.
Again, “in effect”, diving the miles required in half to put them on par with the airline accounts would be 55,880 miles required with no out-of-pocket cash due for taxes.
In my mind, it also shows that you don’t want to use NON-airline rewards for international travel. Use these rewards for domestic (within the USA); and save your international travel for airline cards. Plus, charging your hotel on the Capital One Card also lets your “erase” the charge by redeeming points to pay for hotel charge — a benefit NO OTHER PROGRAM offers.
Sixth and final program was FlexPerks by USBANK. [Quick history — Northwest Airlines frequent flier was called “World Perks” and credit cards were issued by USBank. When NW and Delta merged, US Bank lost the card contract to American Express. USBank created a new program, hence “FlexPerks”.]
Back to the juicy details! LAX to London award was available for 70,000 points. Slightly more than the airline programs. FlexPerks is earned at 1 point per dollar spend, so this ticket was really 70,000 points.
Flexperks allows for redemption of 20,000 points for a $400USD domestic ticket. Which means that you are better off using an airline program.
FINAL RESULTS?? American Airlines won Round One with a 40,000 mile reward for trips to London and numerous flights showing with availability.
Be sure to check out PART II.