You often save money using points to book cash flights instead of trying to figure out how to redeem them for award seats. Here is a simple primer for the different options out there and the value you can get.
American Express Bank of America Chase Citi Miles and Points US Bank

Using bank points to book cash flights and travel: a primer

The miles and points game has definitely changed over the past few years. These days, you may get more value using points to book cash flights instead of stressing searching for award space. Bob Dwyer detailed the rise of bank points in this great post on Saverocity. Then he went ahead and ranked the major flexible currencies over at Milenomics.

The other day, I found out some people I knew spent $500 farming out a reservation to an award booker. Said award booker merely used their points to book cash flights through Chase travel and booked one extra leg using Avios and called it a day. If you plan to earn hundreds of thousands of points, please at least know how to cash them out for cash flights.

This post aims to assist you with that. Up front let me say it won’t be completely comprehensive, I’m no DoC. But I’ll hit some of the main currencies you can use for cash flights and give a quick primer on how to go about doing that. Hope it helps you get the most out of your points.

Shortcuts:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards
  2. American Express Membership Rewards
  3. Citi ThankYou Points
  4. US Bank Flexperks
  5. Bank of America Travel Rewards and Preferred Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Max cash value for travel: 1.5 cents per point (with Chase Sapphire Reserve)

Ultimate Rewards Earning Cards: Sapphire family, Ink family, Freedom family

How to use points to book cash flights and travel

The simplest way to book travel with cash using Ultimate Rewards is to use the Chase travel portal online. Your Ultimate Rewards earning cards should display the balance, if not, click “see balance”, then “redeem”. Then go to “Use Points” in the menu and “Explore and Book Travel”. From that point, the interface looks exactly like Orbitz or any other OTA.

If you want to do something fancier like book a cruise or buy Disney tickets, you’ll need to call in. You can find the number at the bottom of the “Explore and Book Travel” page. I’ve also included the numbers for the cards I have here:

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1-855-234-2542

Chase Ink or Freedom: 1-866-951-6592

With the Reserve you’ll get 1.5 cents per point, Ink or Sapphire preferred 1.25 cents per point, and 1 cent per point with the Freedom.

You often save money using points to book cash flights instead of trying to figure out how to redeem them for award seats. Here is a simple primer for the different options out there and the value you can get.
This type of interface should be accessible even if you’re not a travel hacker

American Express Membership Rewards

Max cash value for travel: ~1.5 cents per point (with Business Platinum Rebate)

Membership Rewards Earning Cards: Platinum cards, Gold cards, Green cards, Everyday cards, Blue business cards

How to use points to book cash flights and travel

Membership Rewards points can be used to book cash flights online. Click the top left menu and navigate to “Travel”. Click on “Book a Trip” and again you’ll be at an Orbitz type search engine. One nice thing about American Express is the ability to search for cruises online. Not all cruise lines are represented (notably Disney), but that is a nice touch.

If you’d like to book over the phone, just call the number on the back of your card and indicate you’d like to book travel. That will connect you with a travel agent.

Membership Rewards get a standard value of 1 cent per point. The one exception is if you use your Business Platinum card you get a 35% rebate on your points, giving you approximately 1.5 cents per point.

Citi ThankYou Points

Max cash value for travel: 1.25 cents per point (Premier and Prestige, though there are differences)

ThankYou Points Earning Cards: ThankYou cards, ATT Access More (no longer available)

How to use points to book cash flights and travel

Again, booking online is the easiest. Scroll down to “Rewards” at the bottom of the screen after you log in. Click on “view rewards and redeem” on the account of your choosing. You’ll have to select the ThankYou account you are using again (if you have multiple), and then at the top menu navigate to “Travel” => “Flights” (drop down menu). Or hotels or cars, as you like it.

You can book on the phone via the number on the back of your card, indicate you’d like to book travel. Remember with Chase, Amex, and Citi, you can use your points to book Disney hotel packages. If you want to book a cruise, this is the only way to do it. Ask specifically for the cruises and tours department.

If you have the Citi ThankYou Preferred, you get an even 1 cent per point on everything. The Citi Prestige gives you 1.25 cents per point on flights only, Citi Premier gets you 1.25 cents per point on all travel, including cruises.

You often save money using points to book cash flights instead of trying to figure out how to redeem them for award seats. Here is a simple primer for the different options out there and the value you can get.
Great stuff from US Bank

US Bank Flexperks

Max cash value for travel: 1.5 cents per point

Flexperks Earning Cards: Flexperks, Altitude

How to use points to book cash flights and travel

So, of course, you can do the whole online portal thing, but US Bank has introduced a much better way to redeem your points as of last week (unless you have the Amex). Frequent Miler broke the news that you can redeem via Real Time Mobile Rewards. You’ll want to login to US Bank, then go “My Rewards” => “Redeem Rewards & Access Card benefits” => “Card Benefits” => “Real Time Mobile Rewards” => “Activate”.

Then, whenever you make a travel purchase, you’ll get a text asking if you want to redeem points for it. It automatically calculates at a value of 1.5 cents per point. Brilliant. That means if you buy direct from the airline/hotel/car rental, from Orbitz, wherever, you can redeem your points for it. You aren’t a slave to US Bank’s travel portal and their prices.

Of course, if you’d like to book over the phone, call the number on the back of your card. The math is simple for Flexperks, you get 1.5 cents per point redeemed.

Bank of America Travel Rewards, Premium Rewards

Max cash value for travel: 1 cent per point

Rewards Earning Cards: Bank of America Travel Rewards, Bank of America Premium Rewards

How to use points to book cash flights and travel

Bank of America Travel Rewards

While you only get 1 cent per point when redeeming, people love Bank of America Travel Rewards because you can earn up to 2.625% on every dollar spent (if you have over $100K in Bank of America accounts). Online, just click on your credit card account => “view my rewards” => “redeem points”. Travel Rewards is a “zapping” kind of system. After you’ve made a travel purchase, you can choose to redeem points against that purchase in the form of a statement credit. The minimum you can redeem for is 2500 points ($25).

You often save money using points to book cash flights instead of trying to figure out how to redeem them for award seats. Here is a simple primer for the different options out there and the value you can get.
“Zap” your purchase

Bank of America Premium Rewards

Bank of America Premium Rewards works like an online travel portal. Click on your card => “view my rewards” => “redeem points” => “redeem (Travel)”. You’ll be brought to an online booking portal where you can search for flights, hotels, and cars for 1 cent per point.

Hopefully you can combine points between these two products in the future

Final Thoughts

I didn’t include the Capital One and Barclays Arrival cards because I no longer carry them, but they both work in a “zap” your purchase fashion. So basically you can redeem against a travel purchase with points for a statement credit.

Hopefully, you already knew all this and only use this post for reference. Or better yet, you’ve got all this memorized. If not, please remember you can use your points to book cash flights! Use points first, as Freequent Flyer says, and cash last.

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You often save money using points to book cash flights instead of trying to figure out how to redeem them for award seats. Here is a simple primer for the different options out there and the value you can get.
Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

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