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Learning how to earn points and miles is only one side of the award travel equation. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele offers ten ideas for putting US Airways miles to use.
Airline miles are worthless…until you redeem them for something of value. So since Barclaycard is now offering 50,000 miles as a sign-up bonus for its newly improved US Airways Premier World MasterCard, the way to assess the value of those miles is to understand how they can best be put to use.
Today I’ll explain exactly what you get with this card (since the bonus and benefits have changed several times), and I’ll offer my thoughts on the best ways to redeem those 50,000 miles.
How this offer works
As a new cardholder, you’ll receive 50,000 US Airways Dividend Miles after making your first purchase and paying the $89 annual fee. The card will remain branded as is until later this year when the merger with American Airlines is complete and the US Airways name is retired. At that time, cardholders will be invited to upgrade to the AAdvantage Aviator Red card (with an annual fee of $89) or the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard (with an annual fee of $195), both of which will be billed on the cardholder’s next anniversary date. See TPG’s post from October for more details on those cards.
In the meantime, the US Airways card comes with an array of useful benefits. From the card application:
- Enjoy your first bag checked free on eligible bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic US Airways operated flights.
- Receive one companion certificate for up to two guests to travel with you on US Airways operated flights at $99 each, plus taxes and fees.
- Take advantage of priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights.
- Relax with a complimentary Club day pass.
- NEW! 25% in-flight savings on food, beverages & headset purchases on US Airways and American Airlines
- Benefits Coming in Second Quarter 2015: $100 flight discount on your account anniversary each year when you spend $30,000 on purchases. Also receive 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 annually.
You’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible US Airways and American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile for every dollar spent on other purchases. As for how to use them, read on.
The 10 best ways to use 50,000 US Airways Miles:
1. American Airlines transcontinental business class. American has a new fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft configured specifically for transcontinental flights between New York (JFK) and both Los Angeles and San Francisco. So rather than spend 50,000 miles on a plain old domestic first class seat that’s slightly wider and has just a little bit more legroom than regular economy (and about the same as American’s Main Cabin Extra), you can enjoy what amounts to an international business class seat that lies fully flat during your six hour and thirty-nine minute flight. For more details, check out TPG’s review from last year.
2. Flights to Alaska for 25,000 miles. It’s no secret that you can fly in coach for 25,000 miles round-trip, but many people don’t realize how far you can actually stretch these domestic flights. American includes Alaska as part of its domestic award zone. So if you’re spending a long winter in Alaska and need some sun in the lower 48, or if you want to explore Alaska during the warmer months, this is a great use of your miles. (Personally, I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska in the dead of winter to see the Aurora Borealis.) Once US Airways miles are transferred to the AAdvantage program later this year, you’ll have access to many more award seats on Alaska Airlines as well.
3. Award flights to Central America. These flights are only 35,000 miles round-trip in economy class from the US or Canada. American has an enormous network in Central America with flights from Miami and Dallas.
4. Award flights to Mexico. These flights are also only 35,000 miles round-trip in economy class from the US or Canada. Again, American’s network of flights to Mexico is extensive from both Dallas and Miami.
5. Award flights to Canada. Award flights to Canada are the same as domestic flights: 25,000 miles round-trip in economy, and 50,000 miles in first class. This would be a great option for anyone planning to attend the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June.
6. Award flights within Africa. One of sweet spots in the US Airways partner award chart is flights within Africa, which is considered a single zone. Thankfully, US Airways has retained former Star Alliance partner South African Airways, even though US Airways is now part of Oneworld. How sweet is this sweet spot? Economy class awards within Africa are 35,000 miles, while business class awards are only 50,000 miles. When you consider that the island of Mauritius is part of the Africa zone, you could construct quite a wide ranging itinerary using a single award.
7. Business class flights within South America. Like flights within Africa, the US Airways partner award chart is especially generous for flights within South America. In this case, economy flights are 25,000 miles, but business class flights are a steal at just 30,000 miles. Since two of the largest airlines in South America (LAN and TAM) are both Oneworld members, you could fly many thousands of miles round-trip in premium cabins for a mere 30,000 miles. So consider a side trip to Easter Island, the Galapagos, or some other exotic destination during your next trip to South America.
8. Off-peak ticket to Japan and South Korea. Once US Airways miles can be transferred to American Airlines, you can book an off-peak economy class ticket to Japan or South Korea for 50,000 miles round-trip between October 1st and April 30th. Check out TPG’s post on American and US Airways off-peak awards for more info.
9. Off-peak ticket to Europe. US Airways offers these tickets for 35,000 miles round-trip in economy class from January 15th to February 28th.
10. Business class flights within “North Asia”. US Airways has an expansive award zone it calls “North Asia,” and while you can’t get an award there for just 50,000 miles, you can travel quite extensively once you’re there with just 50,000 miles. Flights within this zone—which includes China, Japan, South Korea, and several other countries—are a mere 25,000 miles round-trip in economy, and only 30,000 miles round-trip in business class. Better yet, US Airways has retained China Airlines as a partner, even though China Airlines is a Sky Team member.
What would you do with 50,000 US Airways miles?