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Four of the most overlooked mileage-redemption deals

Nov. 10, 2019
7 min read
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I've always been a proponent of looking past the most popular programs and routes for booking with points and miles. There is plenty of value hidden in the partner notes or award charts of transfer partner programs of Citi, American Express and Chase. Let's review four sweet spots you may know about, may have forgotten or may have never heard about before today.

Royal Air Maroc with Iberia Avios

We've written several times about booking Royal Air Maroc from New York or Washington, D.C., to Casablanca (CMN) and beyond using Etihad miles. That chart was recently devalued (it's still a good deal), leading many to look elsewhere to get to Africa. Remember, however, that Royal Air Maroc's 787 Dreamliner service can be booked with Oneworld member Iberia.

New York-JFK to Casablanca (CMN) is 3,609 miles, which will cost you a very reasonable 23,000 Avios in economy or 46,000 Avios in business. You can also catch the flight from Washington Dulles (IAD), which operates three times a week and Montreal (YUL) has daily service. All three routes cost the same amount of Avios. Taxes and fees are less than $200 round-trip. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards to Iberia at a 1:1 ratio.

Turkish Miles & Smiles promos

This Citi ThankYou Points transfer partner routinely has promotions that are worth a look. One promotion running right now is a 30% discount on the number of miles required for flights between Istanbul and certain destinations, including Houston, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York and San Francisco. You must book by Nov. 30, 2019. The 30% discount is good for one-way or round-trip tickets for both economy and business class. That is rare for mileage promotions, making this a solid deal.

The savings are shown online when looking for award space via the Miles & Smiles search engine. You need to find "Limited" space for the discount to be applicable. If you only find "Seat Guaranteed" space, that is equivalent to standard space costing more miles and there is no discount.

Houston to Istanbul is 21,000 miles and $76.70 one-way in economy:

San Francisco to Istanbul is a staggering 31,500 miles and $170.20 for business on the nonstop flight:

Book Air France trans-Atlantic with Japan Airlines Miles

Using Japan Airlines Mileage Bank's distance-based award chart for partners, you can book Air France (not a Oneworld member with JAL) round-trip from the East Coast to Paris for a fantastic 47,000 miles in economy or business for 63,000 miles. Taxes and fees are less than $100 for economy and less than $200 for business and you can book it all online through the JAL partner award search engine. Here is Atlanta to Paris round-trip for next February:

You can earn JAL miles through Marriott transfers (3:1 ratio plus 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott transferred) or through holding the JAL Mileage Bank credit card from First National Bank of Omaha. To be honest, business class from the U.S. to Paris can be difficult to find, though easier for the return leg to the U.S. Read TPG's Drew Macomber's guide to all things JAL Mileage Bank. It really is an awesome program.

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Half off British Airways fuel surcharges and stopovers with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Charges of many hundreds of dollars that British Airways imposes for award flights using their own Avios currency are outrageous and only get worse when you use Avios for premium-class redemptions. Enter Asia Miles, which charges less than 50% of what British Airways wants in fuel surcharges for the same flight. Here is Atlanta to London Heathrow (LHR) in business class for 62,500 Avios and a nauseating $628.70 in carrier charges:

Here is the exact same flight on the exact same day using Asia miles, saving you both miles and cash, to the tune of 1,500 miles and $356:

This pattern of huge cash savings continues for any premium-cabin bookings made through Asia Miles compared to booking through British Airways or American programs. In short, if you want to book British Airways-operated long-haul flights, use Asia Miles. This value is compounded with the second reason Asia Miles is awesome: stopovers on one-way award flights.

I am only aware of Asia Miles and Alaska Mileage Plan offering free stopovers on one-way awards. Asia Miles publishes award charts, but the prices the online calculator show don't appear anywhere in the published charts. There has been a recent change in trip pricing, so basically your ticket price is a bit of a wild card.

What we do know is the price is distance-based and as long as your second flight doesn't extend your itinerary into the next mileage band, you can stop over and enjoy your transit city for a few days and continue on to your destination for no additional miles. Here is Atlanta to London in economy for 27,000 Asia Miles on Nov. 28:

Here is a second London-to-Paris leg five days later added to the Atlanta-to-London flight for the same cost of 27,000 Asia Miles:

That's five days in London and then a free flight to Paris, getting you two trips for the price of one. You are then free to return from Paris to Atlanta however you like. Stopovers on one-ways are a great deal. You can earn Asia Miles by transferring American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points at a 1:1 ratio.

Bottom line

Each of the above programs have additional tips, tricks and nuances that make them incredibly useful for certain situations. Iberia cuts fuel surcharges compared to British Airways and prices award tickets based on total trip length, not sectors. Turkish Miles & Smiles is the cheapest way to get to Hawaii. JAL allows multiple stopovers and open-jaws on domestic flights flown with American and Asia Miles can do all kinds of amazing routing options and has just expanded its online booking capabilities.

Don't overlook the programs not often discussed, there is tremendous value lying in wait.

Featured image by Getty Images

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