Pretty simple post concept. Here I list what I find the single best use of the biggest airline and hotel miles/points programs.
Normally I try to get out of “the best” with “it depends”, but I just tried to list my favorite redemptions.
I’ll talk about the best redemption with the following: United, AA, Alaska, British Airways, IHG, Hilton, Hyatt, SPG.
Best United Miles Redemption
US – Europe (stopover) – SE Asia / SE Asia – US = 80,000 miles
United allows a stopover and 2 open-jaws (although an open-jaw can’t be applied to the stopover).
What that means is that you can stay in Europe for as long as you want, then stay in Asia for as long as you want, and then fly home.
So you could do USA – Rome – Bangkok – USA.
But let’s also throw in an open-jaw and say that you want to see Thailand and Malaysia. Maybe you want to take boats down the coast, or maybe you’ll book a couple Air Asia flights to fill in that gap. Either way, the open-jaw is where you are responsible for the transit.
Now you can do USA – Rome – Bangkok. But instead of continuing on from Bangkok, you continue on from Kuala Lumpur.
USA – Rome – Bangkok / Kuala Lumpur – USA
All this on one ticket, bookable online. It’s an incredible deal. And the price to SE Asia in econ/biz/first class would be 80k/160k/260k.
Prices to Japan would be 70k/150k/220k.
Best American Miles Redemption
US to Europe off-peak (Oct 15 – May 15) = 20,000 miles for a oneway
I thought about making two best uses for AA, since there are so many great options, like Cathay First Class for only 67,500 AA miles, but the best deal for me is off-peak to Europe.
It’s particularly a good time to go to Europe in early May. Otherwise, I recommend avoiding the cold, but hey, people often prefer to spend their winter break in Europe.
20,000 miles for a oneway to Europe is pretty cheap. Plus, if you’re coming from the east coast, it’s not a bad flight at all. I wouldn’t even think a 7 hour flight is worth the extra miles for business class (not that I wouldn’t always appreciate the space).
I should note that even when using AA miles, British Airways flight do come with fuel surcharges. Therefore, make sure to fly on AA, Air Berlin, or Iberia to hop the pond.
Best Alaska Miles Redemption
Emirates First Class to Africa with Stopover in Dubai = 100,000 miles for a oneway
Bank of America is quite generous with the Alaska card, and despite me not normally prioritizing luxury over doing more travel, this seems like an incredible way of blowing the Alaska bonuses.
Emirates is an incredibly gaudy and luxurious first class cabin/seats, which includes a bar and a shower.
The cool thing is that Alaska Miles allow stopovers on oneways, so you could stopover in Dubai. And on the way back you could take a different airline and stopover in a different city.
Best British Airways Avios Redemption
Miami to Caribbean = 4,500 Avios
Of course, not all of us live in Miami (or Dallas), but many of us are a direct flight away for a little bit more Avios. Use the Avios Calculator to check out your options.
The ideal redemption is this (via the Avios Map):
Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cancun, and others are a direct 4,500 Avios flight. A ton more are available for 7,500 to 10,000 Avios.
4,500 is really nothing for a flight to Jamaica. Now if you have to connect from basically anywhere on the east coast, it’s going to add another 7,500, which is now 12,000 Avios.
But the price on most airlines is 17,500 each way. So a roundtrip on United would be 35,000 miles, and a roundtrip with Avios would be 9,000 direct, and 24,000 from most of the east coast and the south.
Direct domestic flights are still a really good deal, but if you want to compare max savings, Avios to the Caribbean is a big percentage in savings from other airlines.
Best Marriott Points Redemption
7 nights at a category 5 + 120,000 American Miles = 270,000 Marriott points
Yes, it’s a lot of points, but by far the Hotel & Air is the Best Use of Marriott Points.
This is a special package where you burn a ton of Marriott points to get a week of hotel plus enough miles for the flights. That’s the idea, but obviously you can use the miles however you want, they just simply transfer them into your account.
The hotel needs award availability, and there are more expensive prices for different tiers of hotels, and cheaper prices for lower transfers to miles. But the money spot is the full 120,000 miles. You can transfer to Alaska as well, or Southwest to get the companion pass, or get 10% more if you transfer to United.
There are a ton of options, but you got my recommendation.
Best IHG Points Redemption
PointBreaks for an actually good InterContinental = 5,000 points a night
It’s no secret that I have stayed in a lot of IHG hotels. And all the promotions feel totally worth it when I can use my points for hotels that would normally cost 35,000 points a night, at a rate of 5,000 points a night.
Seriously, it’s amazing. Often the quarterly promotions allow us to earn 50,000+ points after 3 to 4 nights. Then I redeem the points for 10 nights. Turning 3 paid nights into 13 nights is amazing. And it’s more amazing when the PointBreaks hotel is as luxurious as the InterContinental Kiev or the InterContinental Fiji (both of which we’ve stayed at on PointBreaks).
PointBreaks is simply a promotion of hotels listed at 5,000 points a night. The list comes out every couple of months, and is only bookable on the dates listed, usually the next 2-3 months. Good hotels run out of the promotional rate quickly, so when you see the IC Fiji, you have to make a decision quick.
If you want to learn more, read: An Introduction to IHG PointBreaks
Best Hilton Points Redemption
Category 1 for 5 nights (/w 5th night free) = 20,000 points
OR… A category two for 5 nights (/w 5th night free) = 40,000 points
A Hilton category 1 is literally 1/19th of the price of a category 10. Getting 19 nights at $100 a night is so much more of a savings to me, than 1 night at a $300 hotel.
There aren’t a ton of category 1 hotels worth staying at. One in the woods of Borneo, one in Oman, and a ton in Egypt. I was a little hard on Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in my last post. But mostly my complaints are with the town, and the Hilton Waterfalls is a good bit outside the main bay. So if you’re wanting to relax and dive on the Red Sea, it’s a great option.
Plus, someone just commented and said the Hilton in Alexandria is great, and it’s also only 5,000 points.
And there are a number of good category two hotels. Some I mention in the Best Use of Hilton Points are:
- Hilton Sibiu, Romania
- Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- DoubleTree Agra (if you have to see the Taj, this is the best way to endure Agra)
- DoubleTree Beijing
- Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi
- Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City – Centro Historico
All only 10,000 points a night.
Best Hyatt Points Redemption
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa = 25,000 Hyatt points
My feelings on Hyatt are the opposite of Hilton. With Hyatt, the top hotels are phenomenal, and the price difference isn’t as drastic.
Most of my Hyatt redemptions end up costing more anyways, given the limited options. So why not go all the way in the places with great Hyatt hotels?
In this case, the Park Hyatt in the Maldives is often over $1,000 a night.
Although maybe the “best use” is getting the Hyatt credit card, which gives two free nights, and using the two free nights wherever. The Park Sydney, is another stellar example. Both are not something you’d want to pay cash for.
And while the cash rate can be 10 times other Hyatts’ prices, like the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, it’s only 10,000 more points.
Best SPG Points Redemption
Transfer to 25,000 AA/Alaska miles = 20,000 SPG points
Some people have more hotel points than miles, and some have more miles than points. While each situation is different, I make the generalization that airline miles are way more valuable than hotel points.
My basis is this: getting a free flight is way harder than getting a free hotel. There are so many options for hotel discounts, free nights, and hotel points. Earning airline miles is harder.
SPG points are flexible and allow you to transfer to nearly every airline mileage program at a 1:1 rate. Plus, SPG gives a bonus for 20,000 point transfers, by giving an extra 5,000 points. This means, you’d get 25,000 miles per 20,000 SPG points transferred. So try to transfer in those increments.
I will admit though, that SPG has the best category 1 & 2 hotels, so that’s also a great option. But if I was picking 1 best use, I’d say earning AA miles.
There is no one size fits all. Some people will agree and some people won’t. Yet, I find these answers pretty safe, as most of the deals mentioned, really are great deals.