7 Holiday Flights Worth ~$3,000 (Including in Business Class) for Just ~$18 Out-of-Pocket Thanks to Flexible AMEX and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points!
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I know a lot of folks dread booking flights around the holidays. Most airlines jack up fare prices while also removing award seats. The combination makes it difficult to find good deals.
The #1 trick I share with friends and family is: collect what we call “flexible” points such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®. I have both of these fantastic credit cards! American Express has their own system of flexible points and that’s how I save money when booking with The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.
Here’s the flexible part: you can transfer points to airline partners for amazing Business Class flights or book flights (with no blackout dates!) through their easy-to-use travel websites. This is much more powerful than collecting just ONE kind of airline mile.
I’m responsible for booking award travel for my mom, my wife, and me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy booking flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. Below is a summary of the 7 flights I have booked. Keep in mind, there are usually multiple ways to use flexible points to book travel. So my way isn’t necessarily the best or cheapest way to use points. But it worked for me!
1. Orlando to Newark on Southwest Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
My mom is traveling to the New York area around Thanksgiving. She’s taking a 10-night Royal Caribbean cruise, which departs from Bayonne, New Jersey. To fly from Orlando to Newark, I booked her a Southwest flight through the Chase travel portal. Keep in mind, you can NOT book Southwest flights online through the portal. You must call Chase Ultimate Rewards travel at 866-951-6592 to book. It’s really easy to do and only takes a couple of minutes.
My mom has the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which means her Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each for travel through the portal. So I was able to redeem 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover her $150 flight (including all taxes & fees).
2. Newark to Orlando in United Airlines Business Class Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
After my mom gets back from her cruise, she’s flying back to Orlando. Southwest flight departure times weren’t convenient, so I booked her a Business Class ticket on United Airlines through the Chase travel portal.
Because the cash cost of the fare was relatively inexpensive (~$294), it was cheaper to use points linked to her Chase Sapphire Reserve to book her ticket through the travel portal instead of transferring points to United Airlines and booking an award flight.
I used ~20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book the flight, which is cheaper than the 25,000 United Airlines miles it would have cost if I booked a Saver level Business Class award ticket through United Airlines. Plus, United Airlines didn’t show any available Saver award seats anyway. I could have used even fewer points by booking her a coach ticket the same way. But with the Business Class ticket, she’ll get 2 free checked bags (worth $60), priority boarding, and will earn extra miles for her flight. And she’s my mom, so I do what I can to make sure she can fly comfortably! 🙂
3. Los Angeles to New York (JFK) in JetBlue Mint Business Class Using AMEX Membership Rewards Points
JetBlue Mint Business Class is my favorite way to fly between New York and Los Angeles, especially if you can snag one of the extra spacious suite seats in Rows 2 or 4. Due to work commitments this year, my wife and I are traveling on separate days back to the East Coast this year around Christmas time.
I was able to find a phenomenal price ($559) for a one-way Mint Business Class ticket in mid-December from Los Angeles to New York (JFK). Instead of paying cash, I used one of my favorite perks of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. AMEX Business Platinum cardholders can use AMEX Pay With Points to get 35% of your points back for ALL First Class or Business Class flights booked through the AMEX travel portal.
So I redeemed ~56,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points through the AMEX travel portal to cover the fare (including taxes & fees). But I’ll get ~20,000 points back because of the 35% rebate exclusively available to AMEX Business Platinum cardholders. So in the end, I’ll only be using ~36,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points, which I think is an awesome deal. I would have to use 60,000 United Airlines miles or 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles if I wanted to book a Business Class award flight around the same time.
4. Los Angeles to New York (JFK) in Delta Business Class Using AMEX Membership Rewards Points
I used the same AMEX Business Platinum 35% points rebate perk to book my wife a Business Class ticket on Delta from Los Angeles to New York (JFK). But my wife’s ticket was more expensive because she’s departing on a busier travel day.
I redeemed ~76,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points through the AMEX travel portal to cover the fare. But I’ll get ~27,000 points back because of the 35% rebate available to AMEX Business Platinum cardholders. So in the end, the ticket cost ~49,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points, which is much better than if you book directly through Delta, which is an AMEX transfer partner. The same award ticket through Delta would cost 92,500 Delta miles, which is outrageous!
5. Orlando to Newark on Southwest Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
My mom is flying back to New Jersey at Christmas time. I transferred ~11,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to her Southwest account to book a flight from Orlando to Newark. She just had to pay ~$6 in taxes & fees for her award flight. Paying cash for the same ticket would have cost ~$162.
Remember, Southwest has no blackout dates. As long as a seat is available for sale, you can book it using points!
6. New York (LGA) to Nashville on Southwest Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and the Companion Pass
After Christmas, my wife and I are traveling to Nashville for a few nights. We have the Southwest Companion Pass and always try to utilize it for shorter domestic flights. This is our 4th year with the Companion Pass, which has helped us save at least $5,000 on airfare!
So I used ~13,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points linked to my Sapphire Reserve to book my Southwest ticket to Nashville through the Chase travel portal (~$185 fare, including taxes & fees). Then, I paid just ~$6 to add my wife as a companion. So our only out-of-pocket was ~$6, but using Chase Ultimate Rewards points and the Companion Pass got us $370 worth of airfare ($185 ticket X 2).
7. Nashville to Los Angeles on Southwest Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and the Companion Pass
We followed the same steps as above to book our flight home from Nashville. The only difference is the fare was much more expensive. I used 22,600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points linked to my Sapphire Reserve to cover the $339 ticket. Then, I paid the ~$6 in award flight taxes & fees to add my wife as a companion.
Here Are the 7 Cards I Use to Earn AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
I have more than a dozen rewards credit cards in my wallet. But my AMEX and Chase cards get the most use because earning flexible points gives me the ability to easily save on travel, as you can see from the examples above!
1. Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards in My Wallet
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2. AMEX Membership Rewards Cards in My Wallet
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And take a peek at our list of top rewards credit card offers to learn all of the ways you can earn miles & points to save money on travel!
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