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9 of the cheapest airline awards — fly from 400 miles each way

Oct. 11, 2019
10 min read
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There are many myths in the world of award travel, especially for beginners. "It takes so many frequent flyer miles just to be able to fly anywhere." "You need like a trillion miles to book a route people actually want to take." "Normal people just can't rack up that many miles without doing crazy things."

False, all false.

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If you are a long-term TPG reader, you already know those are all false statements, but I've bet you've at least heard those sentiments from others. Whether you have trouble finding those super-affordable airline awards, or you just want a list to hand to your skeptical friend or partner, here are nine of the cheapest airline awards out there.

American Airlines transcon for 5,000 miles

Thanks to American Airlines economy web specials, some great prices pop up on a variety of routes. We have a rundown of at least 40 low-priced AA awards here, but one current example available for just 5,000 AAdvantage miles takes you from a variety of NYC airports all the way to Seattle for just 5,000 miles each direction — no special credit cards or elite status level required.

To try and find these low-priced American Airlines awards, click on the Economy Web Special box if it displays in your route search to see the very affordable awards.

Related: How to earn American Airlines miles

Fly British Airways economy from 4,000 Avios

British Airways offers award flights in some regions (not the U.S.) from just 4,000 Avios each way for flights of up to 650 flown miles. Within Europe, they even cap the taxes/fees on these awards to just $27.50.

This means you can fly nonstop from London to Milan for just 4,000 Avios and $27.50, each direction. Assuming you can find award availability, you can do the same on nonstop flights to any of the destinations that British Airways operates within Europe that ring in at or below 650 flown miles or less from that same award price on off-peak dates.

Here are more ways to use 5,000 or fewer Avios and how to earn more Avios for future travels.

Lie-flat seat from 7,750 points

This one is a little silly but fun. British Airways operates some routes within the Caribbean that can make for an extremely awesome way to island hop without stepping foot on a small puddle-jumper. From 7,750 Avios + $40 in taxes/fees you can book a lie-flat business class seat to fly the 90 minutes from Nassau in the Bahamas to Grand Cayman. If you wanted to do that flight in economy instead, it starts at the same 4,000 Avios + $27.50 as the above example.

We're betting the 777 operating that route isn't yet retrofitted with the new business class suites, but fingers crossed for one day!

Photo by Nicky Kelvin
Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

If you make the trip here's a look at a points-friendly hotel we are fans of using Hyatt points to stay at Baha Mar in the Bahamas and either Marriott points at the Westin Grand Cayman or IHG points to stay at the Kimpton Seafire on Grand Cayman.

Kimpton Seafire (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy)

Fly international from 2,500 Spirit miles

You can fly up to 1,249 miles on Spirit Airlines from just 2,500 miles and around $13 in taxes and fees each way if you have the co-branded Spirit Airlines credit card. The deal is sometimes even better than that, as recently flights were starting at just 1,250 miles each way for cardholders and 5,000 miles each way for non-cardholders.

Spirit doesn't restrict these low-priced award flights to domestic jaunts — you can head international, too. For example, routes such as Ft. Lauderdale to Cancun or Montego Bay that are 1,249 miles or less can be had for just 2,500 miles plus taxes and fees on off-peak dates for those with the Spirit credit card, otherwise flights normally start at 10,000 miles each way if you don't have the credit card.

Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Jamaica (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)

Here are some tips if you do fly Spirit, including why budgeting money to upgrade to the Big Front Seat is a wise move.

Delta flash sales from 4,500 miles

Delta SkyMiles have some frequent and fantastic flash sales from just 4,500 miles each way. Just this week, we saw flights from New York to Tampa or Los Angeles to New Orleans from just 9,000 Delta SkyMiles round-trip.

Even outside of flash sales, you can sometimes find everyday low-priced awards since Delta uses a variably-priced award chart. For example, today I see Houston to LaGuardia economy round-trips available for 9,000 total SkyMiles. Granted, these awards follow Basic Economy rules, but that's a pretty affordable way to fly. Flying on Delta's nice, new A220 is a fun cherry on top, too.

Here are the best Delta credit card offers to bulk up your SkyMiles balance -- some have bonuses right now as high as 75,000 bonus miles after you meet the spending requirements.

Fly to Europe starting at 10,000 miles

Want to head to Europe and think crossing the Atlantic is going to cost a ton of miles? Still no. Virgin Atlantic charges just 10,000 miles for one-way, economy award flights from the Northeast during standard (non-peak) travel dates. While the carrier is known for some egregious fuel surcharges, these aren't terrible for economy awards — and booking Delta-operated flights could shave even more off the out-of-pocket costs.

This could be especially valuable if you want to beat the jet-lag and take a daytime flight from Boston (BOS) or New York-JFK — which TPG Editor Nick Ewen crowned as his new favorite way to cross the Atlantic.

Aside from this award option, you can also fly to Europe from just 13,000 Avios points each way plus less than $100 in taxes and fees on an airline such as British Airways, Aer Lingus or Iberia. Yes, that'll be in economy and yes that only gets you as far the East Coast to somewhere like Ireland on London, but we've already established that hopping around Europe can be very affordable on miles.

Plus, when there are transfer bonuses to British Airways from Amex Membership Rewards or similar, the deal gets even sweeter. Here are some tips for surviving long-haul flights.

British Airways A380 economy upper deck. (Photo courtesy Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

JetBlue flash sales from 400 points

Like Delta, JetBlue is known for some periodic flash sales that drop the price of flights on both dollars or points. While the flight times are usually very specific on JetBlue flash sales, we see the per-direction price of travel drop down to just 400 points or so a few times per year. The deal is actually better than that if you have the JetBlue credit card that gives you 10% of redeemed points back. Here's a look at all the best airline credit cards out there.

Bookmark the JetBlue flash sale page and/or follow @TPG_Alerts to get notified when deals like this pop-up.

Hawaii island-hopping for 2,000 points

Southwest Airlines started up service between the Hawaiian Islands earlier this year and made it more affordable than ever to hop from island to island. Prices drop during the airline's periodic sales, but even today at quick glance I see Honolulu - Maui available for just over 2,000 Rapid Rewards points each way, which is about the same price we paid over the summer to fly from Kona to Lihue.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, two can fly for that same points price.

Related: The best Southwest Airlines credit cards

Book your own for 1,900 points

Just about every week, we run across a great airfare sale. Frontier Airlines in particular loves to run a good $19 fare sale. If you have a fixed-value credit card in your wallet, you can BYO redemption by jumping on a great airfare sale and using the points from your credit card to offset the charge.

For example, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card lets you redeem miles at 1 cent each against travel charges you put on the card. That means a $19 cheap flight could set you back just 1,900 miles on that card.

Bottom line

You don't have to have millions, or hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of miles to take a virtually free flight. Award redemptions actually start under 1,000 miles and can regularly be had for just a few thousand miles across a number of programs.

If you haven't gotten serious about miles and points before, but are ready now, hop on over to our Beginner's Guide to start the journey to your next (or first) award flight.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases