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

Feb 26, 2020

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.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.