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I’ve talked about this before, but one of the greatest uses of airline miles is to fly yourself or a loved one last minute when airfare prices can be astronomical, but the mileage price of the ticket can seem comparably reasonable. Given the current level of uncertainty at our house thanks to medical appointments and similar, we have had relatives, specifically the grandparents in Kansas, on a stand-by of sorts in case the troops on the ground here need reinforcements.

 

That means thinking through the ways that we can book last minute award tickets without incurring additional fees in case the need arises. Even if you do get hit with a last minute booking fee of $75 or similar for booking within 21 days of departure as is charged by United and American Airlines, it can still be worth it to use miles for last minute tickets depending on the cash price, but no fees are better than fees, so here are seven ways to avoid last minute booking fees on award tickets.

Avoiding Last Minute Booking Fees on Award Tickets:

  • High level airline elites typically are not charged close-in booking fees, so if you or someone else who can book the ticket for you has high level elite status with an airline then this may be the time to book the award from that account.
  • British Airways charges no close-in booking fees, and you can fly on partners such as American Airlines or Alaska, if there is saver award availability on those flights. Transfers to British Airways from Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards are pretty much instant, so this is a big fan favorite for last minute bookings.
  • Alaska Airlines charges no close-in booking fees and you can fly not only Alaska, but American Airlines and Delta operated flights.
  • Aeroplan, Singapore, and ANA all charge no close-in booking fees and you can fly Star Alliance partners like United Airlines if there is saver award availability. However, be aware that if you are transferring points into some of those programs from a credit card points program like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou that the transfers aren’t all instant and that can hinder you booking your last minute award travel by several days, which may not be helpful in all situations. ANA also does not allow for award bookings for flights departing within the next 96 hours. That said, you can make instant transfers from Amex Membership Rewards to Aeroplan, so that may be a solid route for quick last minute bookings.
  • JetBlue and Southwest do not have close-in booking fees, but since the price in points is tied to the selling price of the ticket, it may require more points than you are used to spending for that close-in award ticket.
  • Delta does not charge a close-in booking fee, but they charge more miles for tickets booked within 21 days or departure, so that may not be your best route.
  • There are no close-in booking fees on United if you have the United Club Card. Some have also utilized a date change feature to avoid paying a close-in booking fee on United, but that isn’t a route I can stand behind since it isn’t within the rules and involves some risk of not working.

Have you ever had to book a close-in award ticket? What did you do to avoid or minimize last minute booking fees?

 

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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