Splitting up my trip saved me 25,000 points — reader success story

Feb 26, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Reed, who found cheaper airfare by booking flight segments individually:

I was recently shopping for flights for a trip to Madrid with friends. I live in Charlotte and have AAdvantage Gold status, so I wanted to book Oneworld flights. Tickets from Charlotte to Madrid (with a connection in Philadelphia or New York) were going for around $1,200. I checked the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to see if paying with points would be cheaper, and found the same tickets for about 75,000 points.

I then changed my search to check the price of each segment — I always try to do this, as flights out of Charlotte seem to be more expensive. I found the exact same American Airlines non-stop flights from JFK to MAD for $500, and found a similar American Airlines flight from CLT to JFK for $280. I ended up booking both flights through Chase for 50,000 points total, so I saved 25,000 points just by booking the legs separately.

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Searching alternate airports is a great way to find cheap airfare, but you can also save by searching for alternate itineraries with the same routing. In Reed’s case, booking a single ticket with multiple flight segments cost 50% more than booking each segment individually, so splitting his trip into two tickets was an easy win. The caveat to this approach is that breaking your trip into parts makes you more vulnerable to delays or other setbacks. An airline’s responsibilities end at your ticketed destination, so if a late arrival on one flight causes you to miss the next, you won’t have the same protections you would when flying on a single ticket.

One facet of Reed’s story that stands out to me is the discrepancy between the cash fares he found initially and the rates he saw through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Portal bookings top out at a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders, so $1,200 of airfare would normally cost 80,000 points, and the combined $780 in airfare from Reed’s two separate flights would normally cost 52,000 points. Reed found lower rates of 75,000 and 50,000 points, respectively, which means those flights were cheaper when booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

I find the Ultimate Rewards portal typically offers rates comparable to or higher than those offered by airlines directly, but Reed’s experience is an example of why it’s important to shop around. If you do spot a lower fare through a travel portal or other third party, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples before you buy, as you may be eyeing a ticket in a lower class of service (like basic economy) or a consolidated fare with added restrictions.

Finally, Reed was smart to scope out alternatives for booking a paid fare, but he may have overlooked superior award options. American Airlines offers non-stop service between Charlotte and Madrid for over half the year, and you can book those flights as awards by transferring points from Ultimate Rewards to Oneworld partners British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Award rates on that route start at 32,500 points round-trip in economy, so Reed could have saved even more if he were able to find saver-level availability that fit his schedule.

Related: Best ways to redeem Chase points on Oneworld airlines

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Reed a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by ManuelVelasco/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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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.