Why Flexible Rewards (Like Chase Ultimate Rewards Points) Are Essential If You Want to Take Advantage of Award Sales and Mistake Fares

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One of the most common questions I get from friends and family is regarding how to get in on many of the fantastic award sales and mistake fares we write about here.

If they’re new to the miles & points hobby, I usually start with a spiel about how important it is to have a strategy while considering your own travel goals and spending habits.

Next, I’ll recommend one of the best credit cards for travel and explain the importance of earning flexible travel rewards.  Why?  Because flexible rewards are key to making the most of many of the best travel deals.

Oftentimes, for example, award sales and mistake fares are only good for limited dates.  But what’s most limiting is the fact that the vast majority of award sales and mistake fares are only available from major US airports, like Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and New York.

That’s exactly where flexible rewards come into play.  I’ll explain.

Not to Sound Too Dramatic, but Miles & Points Really Do Make Dreams Come True!

I recently took a trip to Thailand thanks to a mistake fare from Hong Kong Airlines.  I was able to snag a round-trip lie-flat Business Class ticket for ~$635, which was incredible.  But I did face a bit of a predicament when deciding whether to buy the tickets – I don’t live in Los Angeles.  In fact, I live over 1,000 miles from Los Angeles in Missoula, Montana.

So what did I do?

Before booking the tickets from Los Angeles to Bangkok, I did a quick search on Google Flights to get an idea of the cash price of a ticket between my hometown of Missoula and Los Angeles.  I found the average price of a ticket, at that point in time, was $200 to $250.  That’s a decent price, especially out of Missoula.  But even better, I knew I’d be able to use some of my flexible travel rewards to cover the cost of those positioning flights.

Earning flexible rewards points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Capital One miles, can give you peace of mind.  Flexible rewards can afford you the chance to take advantage of travel opportunities (like this one!) you might otherwise not be able to act on.

In this particular instance, I ended up using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights on Alaska Airlines.  I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and with it, get 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through Chase’s travel portal.  So I used 15,667 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per round-trip ticket between Missoula and Los Angeles.

Memories Like These Are Worth All the Miles & Points In the World!

I’d say even though I had to use points to get to Los Angeles, taking advantage of the mistake fare was still an excellent deal!  The same Business Class tickets to Bangkok easily run $3,000+.

Moral of the story?

You’ll find it a lot easier to take advantage of award sales and mistake fares with a stash of flexible travel rewards points on hand.  Especially if you don’t live in or near a big city.

Here are my top 5 card picks for earning flexible travel rewards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Best card for beginners)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Best premium travel card)
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (Easiest rewards to redeem)
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Best Chase card for small business owners)
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Best American Express card for small business owners)

Meghan Hunter is an editor for Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in The Points Guy.

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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