Sunday Reader Question: Earning Elite Miles and Using Systemwides on Flights Paid With Points

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Premier Card

TPG reader Grainne asks:

“If I book an AA flight with Ultimate Rewards points, do I still get my AAdvantage miles for the trip?  Also, and very important, as I fly to Dublin and London can I still use one of my systemwide upgrades? (I am Executive Platinum with American).”

To answer your question simply – yes and yes. Flights booked with Ultimate Rewards are actually paid tickets that Chase buys on your behalf and then charges you 1 point per cent (or a discounted .8 point per cent if you have the Sapphire Preferred). So a $1,000 flight from Chicago to London will cost you 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Ink Bold or Chase Freedom and only 80,000 if you have Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

To answer your second question, since American’s systemwide upgrades are eligible on every paid fare class, you don’t have to worry about what fare class is being booked. However, if you were trying to buy a Delta flight and use a systemwide on an international flight, you’d want to book into Y, B or M class – so you’d want to book the flight over the phone with a Chase rep so they could confirm the fare class before you purchase since they do not show fare classes through the online booking tool.

Most credit card point programs will let you book “Any flight, any time” using points (see below for a list of each major currency and how much each point is worth towards flights). The great thing about doing this is that the flights purchased are paid flights, so they are eligible for elite mile accumulation as well as potential systemwide upgrades (depends on the type of systemwide). The downside is that the value of your points is capped at a fairly conservative level- you will never got more value out of them than what is set. However, when you can transfer them to airline frequent flyer programs and then book expensive awards, that’s when you can get the most value out of your points. However, you don’t earn elite miles and can’t use systemwides when you redeem awards, so it’s all a give and take.

American Express Membership Rewards: 1 point = 1 cent towards airfare. Platinum Card® from American Express and Business Platinum® Card from American Express cardholders get 1.25 cents per point.
Capital One: 1 cent per point. You purchase the ticket on your own and receive statement credit for the purchase.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1 point = 1 cent towards airfare. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cardholders get 1.25 cents per point.
Citi ThankYou Points: 1 point = 1 cent towards airfare. Citi Thank You Premier Card cardholders get 1.33 cents per point.
US Bankcard FlexPerks: $400 ticket for 20, 000 points, $600 for 30,000 points

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$595
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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