I knew that this past week was the time when flights became available for next Christmas. (You can book most flights 331 days out). I took advantage of this and swept in and booked flights to Morocco for my family of five. We are flying (BTW-in coach and not direct) into Marrakech and home from Casablanca on Iberia Airlines, FOR FREE. Maybe if I waited prices/redemptions would have come down, but maybe not! Rob and I had the points in our accounts and the redemptions were somewhat reasonable, so I acted.
Specifically, I used three different accounts to book our five tickets. I booked two tickets using my American Express Membership Rewards points and another two tickets using Rob’s Membership Rewards (you cannot transfer Membership Rewards between accounts). In both cases, I used the American Express Membership Rewards Pay With Points feature. I booked a 5th ticket using my American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
How did Rob and I have so many Amex Membership Rewards points? Well, Rob uses his American Express Business Gold Rewards card on advertising for his business which yields him 3X points per $1. Also, in anticipation of a big trip in December, 2018, I have been using our American Express Blue Business Plus cards for quite some time ON EVERYTHING! to accumulate a big balance of Membership Rewards points. With the Blue Business Plus card, you earn 2X Amex points on all your purchases (up to 50K).
Despite all of that spending, neither one of us had enough points for a fifth ticket. However, I was able to use my American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the fifth ticket on Iberia, as Iberia is a partner with American in the oneworld alliance. You can redeem AAdvantage miles on aa.com for award travel on a member airline.
How many points and miles did we use? How much would our flights have cost if we paid for them?
The two tickets that I booked via my Amex account would have cost $935.71 each for a total of $1,871.42. I needed to redeem 187,142 Membership Rewards points for these two tickets. (MR points are redeemed at .01 cents per point). A mere 5 minutes later, the price of the tickets went up to 946.70 per ticket for a total of $1893.40. I used 189,340 of Rob’s points for these two tickets.
The last ticket I booked using 80,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $246.71 in taxes and fees. (Let’s assume this ticket would have cost about 940 if booked on AA-I forgot to look at the time).
So in my mind, I saved $4,458.11 (1871.42+1893.4+940-246.71). However, let’s talk about whether I lost value using my points. I did, but like I often say, there is a subjective component to value, and at times I am willing to lose a little (or kind of a lot) value for free travel.
Recent valuations of AA miles come in at 1.4 cents per AAdvantage mile. So i used $1,120 worth of miles for a flight that cost just $940. I lost even more value with my Amex points. Recent valuations come in at 1.9 cents per Amex point. I used $7,153 of value with my Amex points for flights that would have cost $3,765. I almost wish I hadn’t done this calculation :-). But for me, I had no intention of laying out close to $5K on flights. The loss of value is worth it TO ME! As I indicated above, we accumulate Amex points quite easily and that definitely plays a part in my decision. At times, you may need to come to terms with how much value you are willing to lose to travel for “free”.
Something else worth mentioning, since the four tickets that I purchased with my Amex points are designated as “paid fare”, we will earn miles on those flights. The one ticket booked with the AA miles, will not earn any additional miles.
I am very excited about this trip and just an FYI, according to the State Department, Morocco is designated a Level 1 which means it is one of the safest countries to travel to. Now I have to plan our itinerary. Luckily, I just published a great guest blog post about Morocco. I will be sure to take tips from that!