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That’s It, I’m Done With Airline Miles and All-In on Flexible Rewards (Think Chase Ultimate Rewards Points)

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That’s It, I’m Done With Airline Miles and All-In on Flexible Rewards (Think Chase Ultimate Rewards Points)

Meghan HunterThat’s It, I’m Done With Airline Miles and All-In on Flexible Rewards (Think Chase Ultimate Rewards Points)Million Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you have the option to transfer your points to Ultimate Rewards points transfer partners including United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt, and more. That gives you far more options than earning miles from a single loyalty program.

My travel rewards strategy is primarily driven by my spending habits and travel goals, but it’s always evolving. After United Airlines announced it is ditching its award chart, I’ve come to the conclusion that earning airlines miles is just too limiting.

Sure, there are always devaluations, but this was the last straw for me. The fact is, a majority of the best credit cards for travel earn flexible rewards, not airline- or hotel-specific rewards. While focusing on earning just one type of miles or points might make sense for some, I’d be willing to bet that flexible rewards points are the way to go for most.

I’m over award chart devaluations and plan on shifting my strategy to earning (mostly) flexible rewards, like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. (Image via ViDi Studio/Shutterstock)

Here’s a quick example.

I fly between Missoula and Santa Barabara a handful of times each year to visit my sister, and I’ve never had much of an issue finding award seats for 12,500 United Airlines miles. But recently, I’ve seen an increase in award prices and fewer saver awards available, even as a United℠ Explorer Business Card cardholder who has access to more award seats.

As you can see below, there’s one flight pricing out at 12,500 miles and the rest range anywhere from 22,000 miles up to 32,500 miles.

That’s not even accounting for the fact that United Airlines charges a close-in booking fee for award tickets. So if you don’t book 21+ days in advance, you’ll pay an extra $75 fee for booking a ticket with miles.

Booking a last minute flight with miles? Don’t be surprised if you have to fork over an extra $75 in addition to the taxes and fees you’d regularly pay for an award ticket.

So what are the alternatives?

My defense against more airlines (and hotels, too) doing away with award charts and moving to dynamic pricing is earning flexible rewards points.

Flexibility is key, and the best way to maintain flexibility in your credit card strategy is to earn transferable rewards. My favorites are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex Membership Rewards points and Capital One Venture miles.

For example, there are over a dozen AMEX airline partners to which you can transfer your AMEX Membership Rewards points, including Delta and British Airways.

These are my favorite cards for earning Amex Membership Rewards points:

I especially value the Amex Business Platinum card because you get 35% of your points back for all flights, including coach tickets, booked with your selected airline through the AMEX travel portal.

In comparison, with Chase Ultimate Rewards, you have the option to transfer your points to Ultimate Rewards points transfer partners including United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt and more.

Here are my favorite cards for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards:

Going back to the example above, I found many of the exact same flights bookable with Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for far fewer points.

The flight departing at 8am on July 12 cost just 13,266 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but you’d pay 23,000 miles if you booked it through United Airlines. That’s a savings of 9,734 points one-way.

Multiply that across multiple bookings and you can see how the savings you get booking with flexible rewards versus airline miles could really add up.

Finally, you could consider earning flexible rewards like Capital One Venture miles because they’re so incredibly easy to use. The best card for earning Venture miles is:

Just make a qualified travel purchase with your card then use your rewards to “erase” it from your bill. There’s no searching for award seats or worrying about blackout dates.

Bottom Line

Nothing lasts forever in the world of miles and points. Airlines can adjust award charts or even do away with them altogether, so it’s best to figure out a travel rewards strategy that works for you.

I’ve personally moved away from earning miles and points on any one particular airline and started focusing my efforts on flexible rewards including:

In doing so I’ve been able to save tens of thousands of miles on award tickets and avoid numerous close-in booking fees. It’s no wonder a majority of the best credit cards for travel earn flexible rewards.

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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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I totally agree with you! I tried to book flights on EVA Airlines through United and it wasn’t even an option but I was able to get them through Chase Travel

I love Ultimate Rewards points, but how do you possibly churn those cards? And the minimum spend is trending higher and higher — $4,000 and above is a real stretch for me, even putting all my expenses on my cards. Any suggestions?

The minimum spending requirement is challenging to meet sometimes, but here are a few ideas:

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-meet-credit-card-minimum-spend/

While I agree that flexible points such as Chase UR and Amex MR are better, it is easier to accumulate airline miles. Citi and Barclay both offer AA cards at 60-75K points and you can get these cards every 24 months. There are also alternative ways of earning AA miles. I’ve accumulated a few million AA miles in just 6 years.

With Amex limiting bonuses to once per lifetime I find it much harder to accumulate MR points. Chase UR is my favorite and I do what I can to earn them, but I can’t accumulate these nearly as fast as AA miles.

Thanks for sharing Scott 🙂

Definitely do what works best for your travel preferences. I know plenty of people who swear by just 1 or 2 airline currencies and it works great for them!

I personally diversify, so although I do have some airline miles, most of my stash of points are in flexible currencies like Amex and Chase.

I have applied for Citi AAdvantage card with 60K bonus recently hoping to fly to Europe next winter for 45,000 points plus ~70$ round trip. They had plenty of availability a few weeks ago but now it’s just British Airways with their insane $600 fees or Iberia with it’s $200 fees left. Most likely I will use my bonus (plus leftover from Barclays Avaitor earning) to fly to Israel for 80k + $70 round trip but after that, when it gets closer to annual fee, I will close my Citi AAdvantage card. It just does not make sense to keep the card of the program that devaluates it’s points and removes the best redemption options without any advance notice.

Exactly what I am going to do. I see no value in having AA miles. I have about 110,000 left and will consume it in any which way I can just to use up the miles and cancel. I think their awards are ridiculous.

I always worry about getting good availability, so if I find some good seats or prices, you can bet I’ll be booking it within a few days at most.

Sorry to hear you lost out on those seats/price availability 🙁 but a lot can happen over the course of a few weeks.

I’ll still sign up for the occasional branded card to get the bonus, but non-bonus-earning spend is always going on sapphire/venture/arrival+/ThankYou. First, it is a better yield, 2nd redemption options are flexible. This should be part of your 101.

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