You’ve decided Travel Hacking is for you. You’ve signed up for a credit card or two (or more). Now you’ve earned a large sign up bonus. You also earned those points and miles with the minimum spending requirements. The time has come to go about redeeming credit card travel points. This is what’s going to save you money on your travels.
One Step At a Time
People often feel intimidated about how to go about redeeming credit card travel points. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You may remember when I suggested starting with a Destination in Mind. This makes it easier because you’ll likely have a flight or other transportation as well as a hotel, or other accommodation to work with.
Fixed Value Points
Let’s start with Fixed Value Points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards Points and Citi ThankYou Rewards Points. With all of these types of points, you can go to the website for each credit card and log in to your account to redeem points. Chase, CitiBank and American Express all have special travel rewards portals where you can redeem those points and miles.
You can search for flights, hotels, rental cars and sometimes sightseeing and other experiences “on the ground” at your destination. It’s a fairly straight forward process to use your points to directly “pay” for part or all of your travel in the travel portal.
Depending on the type of points, you will get a value of one to one point five cents per point spent. This is one of the easiest ways to redeem your points. Note that you may not always get the best value per point redeemed. It is perfectly acceptable to get a value of at least one penny per point. I’ll talk more about that in a little bit.
Capital One Venture Miles
Capital One Venture Miles work like Fixed Value points but the method for redemption is different. In this case, you must use your Capital One Venture Miles earning credit card to pay for travel related expense(s) first.
Then, any time within 90 days after the purchase, you can log in to your Capital One account and use miles to “cover” the travel expense. In effect, that particular charge up to the amount you have in Capital One Miles will be dedcuted from the balance owed on your credit card account. You’ll get a value of one cent per mile used. Remeber that with Capital One cards, you’re always earning miles at a rate of two miles per dollar spend.
The beauty of this type of mile or point is that you can use it for anything that codes as travel. Some examples are Airbnb, train and bus tickets, Uber, Lyft and Taxis. In addition, charges to your hotel room are generally covered as well.
This means that you can eat at a restaurant on the hotel property, charge it to your room and use miles to cover the charge. Again, as long as the particular purchase codes as travel, you can cover it with Capital One Venture Miles.
A Better Points/Miles Value
With all of the above Fixed Value Points/Miles, there are ways to transfer your points/miles to Airline and or Hotel Partners where you can often get more value than one to one point five cents per point/mile redeemed. This is where it gets exciting. When I went to Norway, I got incredible value of 10.48 cents per point out of my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points on my business class flight to Oslo.
Here’s how I did it. In order to achieve that value, I utilized one of Chase’s many airline transfer partners, United Airlines. I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase online portal, to my United Airlines Miles account.
Prior to making any transfer, you must open a loyalty account with the transfer partner airline or hotel (unless you already have one). Then, link it in the online portal to your points/miles account prior to making the transfer of points.
To book my business class flight, I checked the United Airlines website first to look for availability of a business class flight to Oslo. I chose to book one way at a time as I wanted to use my American Airlines Miles for my return flight.
I found that United Airlines had business class availability for the date I wanted to travel. The cost if paid out of pocket would have been over $7,375 including taxes! Yikes!
If I were to book that United flight in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal at 1.25 cents per point, it would have cost me over 600,000 points! By transferring Chase Points to United it only cost me 70,000 points plus about $42 in taxes.
The points transfer usually takes a minute or two to go through from the Chase portal. Once the points showed up in my United account, I booked the flight on the United Airlines website. Business and First Class flights are a sweet spot in points redemption for sure. Generally, I’m happy with one to two cents per point/mile redemption value,
Another advantage of transfer partners is that you don’t have to have a single point/mile in the transfer partner’s loyalty program. You may never have flown on that airline before. Just transfer a fixed value point/mile from the points you’ve earned with your credit card.
Airline Alliances are Great
I didn’t actually fly on United but rather on Lufthansa. Lufthansa is a partner airline of United in the Star Alliance. Airline alliances allow you to fly on partner airlines. I booked on the United website and it showed as a Lufthansa flight. The Lufthansa business class seat converts to a luxurious lie flat bed. This really enhanced my experience!
Southwest Airlines Redemption
Here’s a another example that is more typical for me when it comes to redemption. I like to fly on Southwest Airlines for many reasons. One is that they don’t charge a fee if I cancel a flight that I’ve booked. I love the flexibility in case of last minute changes. However, I typically don’t have any Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles in my Southwest Airlines account.
Generally, I don’t earn any miles in actually flying since I like to save money by using points/miles. Flying on a reward ticket does not earn me or you any miles or points on that airline.
Here again, redeeming credit card travel points is pretty straightforward. I usually transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest and then book the flight on the Southwest app or website. I typically get a value of 1.6 cents per point on these bookings.
I recently got a Southwest Rapids Rewards Credit Card as the sign up bonus was high. Given that I travel so often with Southwest, it was time to get a Southwest credit card. This allows me to save my Chase points for other uses.
Capital One recently added transfer partner airlines but beware that the Capital One Venture Miles often don’t transfer on a one to one basis. Check carefully before transferring to one of their partners to make sure you get the value you’re after.
You can also transfer Fixed Value Points to hotel transfer partners. The process is the same as with Airline partners. Again, make sure you join the particular hotel chain’s loyalty program and linkit in your account online portal. I always recommend checking the cash price on the Hotel website/app and in the redemption portal for whatever Fixed Value Point you intend to use. Compare the value per point before deciding whether or not to transfer points.
One important thing to note is that once you transfer points to a travel partner, you will not be able transfer those points back if you change your mind.
If redeeming credit card travel points makes your head spin, please reach out to me via the contact form. I’ll be happy to help you plan and execute your points and mile redemption strategy so you can travel for pennies on the dollar just like I do.
Have you redeemed any of your points and miles? Tell us how you did it and how much money you saved by scrolling down and leaving a comment below.