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TPG reader Sharon sent me a message on Facebook to ask about booking award flights:
“Newbie here … I have 19,000 Amex points, 28,000 SPG points, 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points and no airline miles. What’s the best way to redeem for a flight from Portland to Kona, Hawaii?”
Hawaii is a popular destination for award travelers, and while getting there will generally cost you more miles than flights within the continental US, there are several options that offer good value. Sharon doesn’t have any airline miles to work with, but her situation illustrates the power of transferable points, since the rewards she does have can be used together strategically.
When you’re flying to Hawaii from the West Coast, it’s hard to beat British Airways’ distance-based awards, which cost just 12,500 Avios each way in economy for flights that cover up to 3,000 miles. While BA doesn’t serve the Hawaiian Islands on its own metal, you can use Avios to book flights on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines so long as there’s award space available. Alaska is your best bet out of Portland, since the airline offers nonstop service to Kona (and several other Hawaiian airports).
Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ultimate Rewards all transfer to British Airways, though Amex recently decreased its transfer rate by 20%, so you’ll get better value out of the other programs. SPG offers a standard 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points to airline partners, so you could use Starpoints alone to get enough Avios for a single award. If you need multiple awards, I’d transfer from Chase next.
If British Airways doesn’t suit your needs, there are plenty of other options. Hawaiian Airlines charges 20,000 miles each way for economy flights between Hawaii and the US mainland, including New York (JFK). You can transfer points to the HawaiianMiles program from both Amex and SPG, but it’s certainly the more costly option if you’re flying from the West Coast. You’d also have to stop in Honolulu, so it’s less efficient time-wise as well.
If you’re trying to reach Hawaii from other parts of the country, several more SPG partners offer good value, as you can get round-trip flights on Delta for 30,000 miles by transferring to Alitalia, GOL or Flying Blue. If you have AAdvantage miles at your disposal, American Airlines off-peak awards are a pretty good deal at 35,000 miles round-trip.
Keep in mind that last-minute awards to Hawaii can be hard to find at the saver level. If you’re planning a trip for the near future, you may end up paying a bit more. For more on using points and miles to reach the Hawaiian Islands, check out these posts:
- Credit Card Combinations for a Hawaiian Vacation
- A Trip to Maui and the Big Island on Points and Miles
- Planning a Hawaiian Vacation with Hilton HHonors Points
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.