Reward Booking Guidance | Yes, there is a Bad Way to Book Airline Rewards

Late last year, an email from Starwood reminded me of a sobering fact.

Many of us don’t have the slightest clue as to the best way to use our miles.

Case and point: In the Starwood year end wrap up email, they highlighted the most expensive award flight redemption.

It was a business class flight for two passengers from Los Angeles to Rome.  The total bill was 870,000 Starwood Starpoints.

Starwood points

— Aside and mini-advertisement —

If that number doesn’t sound astronomically high, then please don’t ever book award flights without hiring me or someone else to help you with your award booking.

Look, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I do want you to realize that I do have an award booking service.  It’s different than the service that a lot of other folks provide.  I charge a flat $50 per hour for my research.  Interestingly, I get emails from people who email to ‘boast’ about the great award they booked, and I could have easily saved them hundreds of dollars in cash or hundreds of dollars worth of points if they’d have just hired me to see if there were better options.  Don’t spend an extra $250 in taxes and fees just so you can save a $50 research fee.  That’s silly.

— End of advertisement and back to story —-

What’s wrong with 870,000 Starpoints for a business class flight from Los Angeles to Rome?

Everything. But, I’ll name a few.

1.  Starwood Starpoints transfer to airlines with a 25% bonus.

Thus, a person with 870,000 Starpoints could transfer them to American (as an example) and end up with 1,087.500 American Airlines AAdvantage.

Those points could be used for 10 roundtrip business class flights from the States to Europe!

Or, with One World Distance based awards, you could fly 20,001 – 25,000 miles in business class for 150,000 AAdvantage miles.  That would be enough to explore Asia and Australia from the States.  This could be done seven times for the same mileage as this person used for a single round trip ticket from the States to Europe.

Those points could have been transferred to US Airways and he/she would have ended up with 1.087,500 US Airways Dividend Miles.  If that same person had a US Airways MasterCard, they could get a roundtrip business ticket to Rome for 55,000 miles off-peak.

Those points could be used just shy of 20 roundtrip off-peak business class flights from the States to Europe!

2.  Starwood Starpoints are crazy valuable for hotel stays.

Granted, a person with 870,000 Starpooints is probably not looking for a way to get more nights in hotels.

This person could stay at the most expensive Starwood property in Hawaii (The Royal Hawaiian) 43 nights for the same number of points as a business class trip to Rome.  That’s not even looking for a great value.  That’s just the first example that came to mind.

Perhaps people who have a spare 870,000 Starpoints don’t care how effectively they use their points.

But, I’m guessing none of you have a bunch of spare miles sitting around.

Moral of the story: Redemption maximization and education is just as valuable as learning how to earn as many miles and points as possible, and sometimes do-it-yourself may not be the way to go.

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