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TPG Reader Leslie asks:
“I would like to travel over to Hawaii to see a friend from high school. I would really like to do it in first or business class since I have a 6-year-old child. What cards can I use to rack up miles and points that will be beneficial to this trip?
I am new to a lot of this, so I am confused as to which points are more beneficial and can be transferred to airline partners. I do not have a spouse, so my father is willing to help open up cards so I can get enough miles for both my son and I.”
I love Kauai and definitely want to go back so your question has gotten the wheels turning thinking about my next trip! The two programs you want to focus on are United and American.
United charges 80,000 miles round trip in business class to go to Hawaii, has low fees and usually has pretty good availability. American also has a lot of flights to Hawaii and they only charge 70,000 miles for business class. American is also partners with Alaska Airlines, which also flies to various destinations in Hawaii from all over the West Coast, so depending on where you live, that sync up could provide better coverage and availability for you.
If you live in Los Angeles, you may want to consider accruing British Airways Avios. British Airways teams is partners with both American and Alaska as well, but because BA’s award mileage requirements are distance-based (meaning the longer your award flight, the more miles you need) BA will only charge you 25,000 Avios for a roundtrip coach ticket and 50,000 for a roundtrip award ticket in business. That’s one of the sweet spots in BA’s award chart and where it will charge you fewer miles than any of the US-based airlines. If you were to sign up for the current offer on the British Airways Visa, you would earn 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 in 3 months with the $95 annual fee waived the first year – enough for one of your roundtrip business class tickets.
The problem with British Airways is that on a two-cabin plane they may charge first class pricing, which would be 75,000 Avios roundtrip from LA. hat price will increase quite a bit if you live on the East Coast (again thanks to BA’s distance-based award formula).
Without knowing where you live exactly, I think your best bet would be to go with United. They have the most lucrative co-branded credit cards right now and if you’re an elite member you could score a 60,000-mile targeted sign-up bonus right there. Not only that, but United is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards have sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gives 40,000 points after $3,000 spent in 3 months, all of which can instantly be transferred to your United MileagePlus account. I have a boatload of rewards points which I rack up through shopping portals, buying vanilla reloads and paying all of my bills so I think that’s a strategy that will work pretty well.
To see what works best for you go to United.com and check the mileage requirements for where you live and check availability to see if anything matches up with the dates that you would like to go to Hawaii. As with most airlines, availability depends on the seasonality so if you have to go over a school vacation your options are going to be much more limited. Once again it really depends where you live, but if you have American miles and would prefer to use them there are a credit cards out there giving 50,000 miles for a sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in 3 months like the Citi Platinum Select/ AAdvantage World MasterCard.
Another route to take is to get the Starwood American Express that is offering 30,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months until September 3, 2013. Those 30,000 Starpoints would transfer to 35,000 American miles thanks to the 5,000-point bonus you get when transferring in increments of 20,000 points. If you can get your SPG points up to 40,000 you could then transfer them and get 50,000 American miles.
Those are the different angles I would consider taking. Play around with each program and see what the best availability is from your city. United and American both allow one way awards so you can book you and your son one way awards on United and then if the availability is better on Alaska or American coming home, you can book your return one one of those airlines. This way you are able to use a mixture of British Airways Avios and American miles.
Hawaii is an amazing place so I hope you can work it out and find a way for you and your son to get there. If you have any further questions feel free to comment below or tweet me @thepointsguy.
For more information to help plan your trip, check out these related posts:
British Airways, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines Award Availability on AA.com
Hotel Review: St. Regis Princeville on Kauai
Travel Tuesday Top 10 Hotels to Stretch Your Points in Hawaii
Destination of the Week: The Big Island
Destination of the Week: Oahu
Destination of the Week: Maui
Destination of the Week: Kauai