Step-by-Step Guide: See Which Miles to Collect Based on Your Home Airport

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Understanding miles & points can be tricky at first.  But once you decide where you want to go and which type of miles or points you want to earn, it gets a little easier!

So I’ll show you how to determine which kind of miles or points you should collect based on your home airport.  And which airlines fly to the most destinations from your hometown.

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Miles & Points Can Be Overwhelming! So I Made a Guide to Show You How to Decide Which Miles & Points to Collect Based on Your Home Airport

Let’s take a look!

Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Airline Tickets?

When you’re deciding which type of points or miles to collect for an award ticket, it’s helpful to start with your home airport’s Wikipedia page.  Because there, you’ll be able to find information like which airline flies to the most destinations, where each airline flies, the top destinations from your particular airport, and more!

Step 1.   Search for Your Airport Using Wikipedia

From the Wikipedia homepage, enter the name of your home airport to search for the airport’s details.

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Start Your Search from the Wikipedia Homepage

For this example I’m going to use my (and Emily’s!) home airport in Austin, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Step 2.   Go to “Airlines and Destinations”

From there, go to the “Airlines and destinations” section of the airport’s Wiki page.

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Go to the “Airlines and Destinations” Section of the Wiki Page to Find the Details You Need

That’s where you’ll find the info you need!

This section of the page will show you all of the non-stop flights flown by each airline from that particular airport.

In this example, it shows Southwest flies non-stop to 30+ destinations out of Austin.  That’s much more than any other airline on the list.

So it’s easy to see why Emily and I especially love Southwest!  Because we can use our Companion Passes to get lots of Big Travel.

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Southwest Flies Non-Stop to a LOT of Destinations From Austin!

Step 3.   Go to “Statistics”

The “Statistics” section of the airport’s Wiki page will also show you information like the airport’s busiest routes, and which airline flies the most passengers each year.

All of this is useful in helping you decide which points and miles you’ll want to collect.

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The Top 3 Most-Flown Non-Stop Destinations From Austin Are Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver!

And while Wikipedia is a great resource, I’d also suggest checking the information you find there against the airlines’ websites to be safe. 😉

Step 4.   Find the Airline’s Alliances and Partnerships

Plus, if you want to go to a certain destination that is NOT listed in the “Airlines and destinations” section of your home airport’s Wiki page, you’ll need to check the airline alliances and partnerships for the airlines that DO fly out of your hometown airport.

An easy way to do that is to Google the airline’s name and the word “alliance” or “partners.”

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Use Google to Easily Find an Airlines’ Partners and Alliances

From there, you’ll be able to find more information about that particular alliance and which airlines are a part of it.  Or, you can head to the airline’s website and search for alliance and partnership information from there.

And finally, don’t forget to check out my handy chart that shows you which points transfer to which airlines.  To help you decide which type of flexible points would make the most sense for you!

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We Usually Recommend Paying Cash for Inexpensive Flights, and Saving Your Hard Earned Miles & Points for the Expensive Tickets!

At Million Mile Secrets, we usually focus on whichever airlines we can quickly earn miles with from credit card bonuses.  And we normally suggest paying cash for any inexpensive flights.

That way you can save the miles & points you earn for flight experiences you wouldn’t or couldn’t pay for otherwise.  Like an international First Class ticket that costs thousands of dollars!

Award Ticket Examples

Let’s take a look at 2 examples of flights out of Austin to Lisbon, Portugal, and Warsaw, Poland.

From the “Airlines and destinations” section of Austin’s airport page you can see that there aren’t many airlines that fly non-stop to Europe (or anywhere abroad for that matter).  So you’ll likely have to make a connection.

When you’re headed across the pond, it’s not uncommon to stop through one of the larger airline hubs like New York (JFK), Newark, or Chicago.  And lots of the major airlines that fly out of Austin, like American Airlines and United Airlines, have non-stop flights between Austin and these larger airports.

For these examples we’ll use United Airlines miles, because they’re a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, making them relatively easy to earn. 😉

1.   Austin to Lisbon on United Airlines

I found a decent number of award seats between Austin and Lisbon in May 2017, on United Airlines.

For example, here’s a flight with 1 stop in Newark departing May 3, 2017, and returning from Lisbon May 16, 2017, for 130,000 United Airlines miles and ~$56 in taxes and fees.

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A Regular Coach Award Ticket Between the US and Europe Costs 65,000 United Airlines Miles Each-Way

There are other saver award seats available that cost fewer miles, but in this example, if you want a 1-stop flight operated solely by United Airlines, you’ll have to pay the regular coach award ticket price.

2.   Austin to Warsaw on LOT Polish Airlines (United Airlines Partner)

Now let’s say you want to fly from Austin to Warsaw, Poland, on United Airlines.

Because United Airlines flies non-stop from Austin to Chicago, you can connect through there and then to Warsaw with LOT Polish Airlines.  They’re a United Airlines partner and member of the Star Alliance.

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A Saver Coach Award Ticket on LOT Polish Airlines to Europe Will Only Cost You 60,000 United Airlines Miles!

I found a saver award ticket leaving Austin April 1, 2017, and returning from Warsaw April 8, 2017, for only 60,000 United Airlines miles.

These are both relatively simple examples, and once you gain confidence searching for award tickets, take a look at our Award Booking Guides to learn how to get nearly anywhere in the world using miles and points!

Can’t Find an Award Flight?

1.   Fly on an Airline That Doesn’t Have Blackout Dates

Sometimes it’s difficult to find award seats if your travel dates aren’t very flexible.  But you still have options based on the airlines that fly out of your home airport!

For example, there are NO blackout dates on Southwest and JetBlue award flights.  So if either of these airlines fly from your home airport and there’s a seat for sale, you can use points or miles to buy it!

You can earn Southwest points with their credit cards, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.  Or earn JetBlue points with their cards, like the JetBlue Plus card.

2.   Use Flexible Points

Citi ThankYou Points

If you want to fly with American Airlines and can’t find an award ticket, consider using Citi ThankYou points from a card like the Citi Prestige Card.  Because you can use Prestige’s Citi ThankYou points to purchase tickets at a rate of 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines (through July 23, 2017) through the Citi ThankYou Portal.

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You Can Use Citi ThankYou Points to Book Tickets on American Airlines With NO Blackout Dates
AMEX Pay With Points

Or use AMEX Membership Rewards points to Pay With Points for flights through the AMEX Membership Rewards portal, without having to worry about blackout dates.

This is an especially good deal with the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN.  Because you’ll get 50% of your points back on coach tickets if American Airlines is your selected airline.  And on any airline if you book a Business or First Class flight.

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You Get 50% of Your Points Back for Business or First Class Flights With ANY Airline Using AMEX Pay With Points
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

You could also use the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to book tickets without blackout dates through the Chase Travel Portal.

With the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 1.5 cents per Chase Ultimate Rewards point on bookings through Chase’s travel portal.  And you’ll get 1.25 cents per Chase Ultimate Rewards point through the Chase Travel Portal with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and Ink Plus and Ink Bold (no longer available).

Delta Pay With Miles

And if you have Delta miles, you can use Delta’s Pay With Miles and redeem Delta miles at a rate of 1 cent per mile to pay for (or discount) the cost of Delta flights.

Here’s my post about using flexible points for Big Travel!

Consider Transportation to a Nearby Airport

Depending on where you live, it might make sense to drive or take public transportation to a nearby airport that offers more flights.

Folks may sometimes prematurely write-off an airport because it’s “too far” away.  But it’s worth checking to see if you’ll save miles or points by going there.  Because in some spots using Uber can even be cheap enough to make it worth it!

For example, you can take a train from Oakland to the San Francisco International Airport for ~$9.  Or take Uber between San Jose and the San Francisco International Airport for ~$54.  And flying out of San Francisco’s airport might be cheaper than leaving from one of the smaller airports in Oakland or San Jose!

Bottom Line

Having a hard time deciding which miles and points to collect for your next award flight?

Take a look at my step-by-step guide to help you decide based on your home airport.

For example, if you live in Austin like Emily and I do, Southwest is the airline with the most flights!  So collecting Southwest points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points is likely your best bet, because Ultimate Rewards transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.  Plus, they transfer to other larger airlines like United Airlines too!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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