Do I Need Miles in My Account to Get an Award Price?

Nov 7, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

Searching for award availability can be an arduous process and can include phone calls, countless searches and clicks on an airline’s website. TPG reader Jatin wants to know if he needs miles in his account to even get an award price…

I called Etihad to book a ticket using Etihad Guest miles. They can’t give me a price in miles until I transfer points from Amex. I don’t want to transfer until I know for sure they have seats available. Have any suggestions?

TPG Reader Jatin

In most cases searching for award availability (and receiving a quoted price) doesn’t require miles in your account. However, you may run into the issue that Jatin did. And in his case, the Etihad agent likely didn’t know what he/she was talking about. In TPG Senior Contributor Richard Kerr’s piece on Etihad’s improved partner booking process, we learned that Etihad gained a new call center that makes booking partner awards on airlines like American and Royal Air Maroc a bit easier. As he says, if you are having trouble with an agent you should try the Hang Up and Call Again (HUCA) tactic.

HUCA is an important acronym in the points and miles community. There are many cases where you’ll find an airline agent that’s unaware of rules or procedures when booking award tickets, especially on partner airlines. This isn’t necessarily a reflection on the agent; redeeming miles can be a pretty convoluted process. That’s why there are plenty of sites like TPG that devote countless hours to provide suggestions on how to best book award tickets. If you know that a seat is open but are getting nowhere with an agent, your best bet may simply be to hang up and call back, hopefully receiving an agent that’s more in-tune with booking procedures.

That being said, there are a few select programs that require you to have miles in your account to search for award availability —  Upgraded Points writes that you need a minimum of 7,000 miles to search for award availability through Lufthansa’s Miles & More program, and the carrier does release additional inventory to its own members. However, if you’re planning on redeeming miles through other Star Alliance programs, you’re better off searching on other sites.

Bear in mind too that many airlines don’t show all of their partner availability on their own website. For instance, if you want to use your American miles on Cathay Pacific, you’ll have to search through British Airways and then call into American to redeem your Advantage miles for that seat. This is also where a paid subscription service like ExpertFlyer can come into play, allowing you to search award inventory for nearly 90 airlines and even set alerts for when new seats open up.

If you’re searching for award tickets within a particular airline alliance, you’ll want to check out the guides below:

Thanks for the question, Jatin, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured image by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.