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Most of us collect travel rewards to earn free flights or a luxurious award stay at a hotel, but there are plenty of other options out there. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr outlines several strange ways to cash in your account balances.
Flying on an award ticket or staying in a free hotel room is usually the end goal when you set out to collect points and miles. But have you ever wondered what else may be out there in exchange for your hard-earned loyalty program balances? I’m not talking about a free rental car, airport lounge access or a room upgrade. I mean things like a trip to space (potentially), pure gold or a hug from a person dressed in a oversized bear costume. Today, let’s look at 10 of the weirdest ways you can use your travel rewards.
1. Tour a Falcon Hospital
For 10,712 Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can take a four hour tour of the Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Hospital. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH) provides comprehensive veterinary care exclusively for falcons. According to the description, “This tour will allow you to understand the whole process of taking care of those precious birds that you will be able to admire many species along with opportunities to take some pictures.” At 1.25 cents per point, this redemption certainly isn’t the worst way to use your Ultimate Rewards, but it’s far from a steal.
2. Help a Japanese Canoeist Make the Olympics
Competitors are already well into their preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Japan Airlines launched the JAL Next Athlete Miles project to give the next generation of athletes access to training facilities. You can donate in increments of 2,000 Mileage Bank miles, and JAL will match every mile you redeem with one yen donated to the organization responsible for the sport of your choice. Because it’s surely challenging to be an Olympic canoeist, the Japan Canoe Federation would get my donation.
3. Buy a 100-Gram Gold Bar
If you happen to have 926,455 Etihad Guest miles (or Citi ThankYou points or Amex Membership Rewards points) lying around, you can have your very own 100 gram 24k gold ingot engraved with the Roman goddess of fortune. Worth ~$4,400 with the current price of gold, this would be an absolutely terrible way to redeem that many miles or points — that haul of Etihad miles is worth $11,117 based on TPG’s valuations.
4. Fly to Space
Enter the most expensive miles lottery in existence for your chance to fly Virgin Galactic into space. For 2,000,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (all of which must be earned by flying Virgin Atlantic), your name will be entered into a drawing for a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight once commercial operations begin. You won’t be charged when you enter; only if you win.
5. $50AUD to Liquorland
The Aussies have a reputation for enjoying their adult beverages, so perhaps it makes sense Virgin Australia’s Velocity frequent flyer program offers up gift certificates to the Coles Group chain store Liquorland. With a value of 0.55 cents per point, it’s probably worth skipping the temptation and buying a cocktail the old fashioned way, with cash.
6. A Flight Simulator Experience in Taiwan or Thailand
Both EVA Air and Thai Airways offer flight simulator experiences, though they cost a vastly different number of miles. If you happen to be a Gold or Diamond elite member of EVA’s Infinity MileageLands program, you can redeem 100,000 miles for a 1.5-hour simulator experience at the EVA Air training center in Taoyuan City, Taiwan.
Thai Airways also offers a non-pilot simulator experience last reported as costing a much cheaper 9,900 miles for an hour. You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Royal Orchid to take advantage of this next time you’re in Bangkok. (Malaysia Airlines apparently also used to offer this, but I can’t find any mention of it on the Enrich website.)
7. Overcome Your Fear of Flying
You can redeem 40,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to take a one-day flying without fear course. Spend a morning in the classroom with a Virgin Atlantic captain and cabin crew trainer who debunk any myths you may have in your head about flying being unsafe. The day culminates with a narrated afternoon flight explaining “every movement, squeak and wobble.” I assume most attendees earn the required 40,000 miles from the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard rather than through flying.
8. Get Health or Travel Insurance
Use Qantas’ Points Plus Pay feature to cover the cost of your health insurance premium or travel insurance. Qantas offers Qantas Assure health insurance with a choice of providers in Australia, and you can even earn Qantas miles when partaking in healthy activity tracked through a mobile app.
9. Get a Sockscription
7,500 Lufthansa Miles & More miles will get you three pairs of high-quality black socks sent to you “several times per year.” The socks come from the BLACKSOCKS company, which also offers underwear subscriptions available in black, white or petrol blue. Don’t worry if you’re short on Lufthansa miles or undergarments; the Miles & More Premier World MasterCard can boost your account and allow you to be properly dressed.
10. Get a Bear Hug and “Happiness Crew” Visit
To close out today’s list, let’s look at the weirdest way to redeem your points or miles: For residents or guests of Hyderabad, India, you can use 15,036 Jet Airways JetPrivilege miles to hire a huge teddy named Eddie to give your special someone a warm and tight hug and a few signature dance moves. Your loved one will also get a cupcake and lots of “beary cute selfies.” A member of Eddie’s Happiness Crew will come along with the massive bear and deliver a sash that says “I’m Awesome.” You can transfer Starpoints to Jet Airways at a 1:1 ratio if you have an unsuspecting target in India.
I’d love to see the number of times people have actually redeemed miles for a continuing subscription for new socks or for a giant bear hug. I vote we all send TPG to Hyderabad so he can Snapchat his experience getting a giant bear hug. In general, it’s probably worth sticking to award flights and hotel nights to get the most out of your travel rewards — or heading to programs like SPG Moments when you want to redeem for a lifestyle experience.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
What other weird point or miles redemptions have you come across?
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