The Best Miles (and Cards You Need) for Domestic Award Travel

The Best Miles (and Cards You Need) for Domestic Award Travel

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We’re always looking where we can go next that includes a flight over 6 hours, across the ocean (either of them), or over the Artic. But what about good ole’ domestic travel to see mom, dad or grandma and grandpa?

Some points are better than others for domestic travel, while others are excellent for international business and first class adventures.

Standard domestic travel on the major carriers (American, Delta, United and Alaska) will cost you 12,500 each way, per person. There are lots of better things you can do with 12,500 miles than flying from New York to Miami.

Here’s my take on the best points to earn (and where to earn them) for those domestic flights

Mileage Currency: British Airways Avios

The mileage currency for British Airways is Avios points. British Airways mileage program is based off of distance flown. Some frequent flyer programs are based off of distance (U.S. to Asia, U.S. to Europe, etc.); whereas some programs, like British Airways, are based off of distance flown.

But wait, you can’t fly British Airways between New York and Chicago… British Airways and American Airlines are part of the same airline alliance (OneWorld). This allows members with either account to redeem their miles on the partner airline. So in this case, you are using your British Avios on an American Airlines (the partner) flight.

Here’s a breakdown of how many miles it will cost you based on distance, with some examples, all for coach travel:

Zone Distance Flown Avios Required Example
1 1 – 650 4,500 NYC-BOS, NYC-PHL, NYC-DCA
1* 1 – 650 7,500 NYC-BOS, NYC-PHL, NYC-DCA
2 651 – 1,151 7,500 NYC-MIA, NYC-ORD
3 1,152 – 2000 10,000 Chicago – Las Vegas
4 2,001 – 3,000 12,500 NYC – LAX, Seattle – New York

*After Feb. 2, 2016, Zone 1 will merge with Zone 2 and flights between 1 – 1,151 miles will all be 7,500 miles.

So how do does one determine the distance between two airports?

You don’t need to! Wandering Aramean has a wonderful Avios mapper that does it for you:

Just plug in your starting airport and the Avios award mapper does the rest!

Just plug in your starting airport and the Avios award mapper does the rest!

There are several cards that earn Avios points.

The following cards earn and transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 –

  • Chase British Airways
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Ink

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The following cards earn and transfer to British Airways at a 250:200 (so if you need 7,500 Avios you’d need to transfer 9,500):

mr transfer ba

Notice the 250 Membership Rewards to 200 Avios transfer ratio

  • AMEX Everyday cards
  • AMEX Gold, Business and Personal
  • AMEX Platinum, Business and Personal
  • AMEX Platinum Mercedes-Benz

 

The 7,500 and 10,000 points award flights are definitely a sweet spot on the British Airways Avios chart. These flights would normally cost you 12,500 miles on American, United and Delta.

Mileage Currency: Southwest Rapid Rewards

The mileage program for Southwest Airlines is known as Rapid Rewards. Southwest flight redemptions are revenue based. This means that the miles required to fly are based on the price of the ticket. There used to be a fixed value, but Southwest did away with that and there is little official rhyme or reason on the mileage price in tickets. Based on my experience and observations, because the miles required are based off of the price of the ticket:

  • Book early—Southwest has a generous change policy, especially with points; book your flights early for the cheapest rates
  • Book often—You can cancel any Southwest miles flight and you’ll be refunded the miles (you can save the taxes for travel at another time)
Side-by-side comparison Southwest revenue and award tickets

Side-by-side comparison Southwest revenue and award tickets

The following cards earn and transfer to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 –

Pro-tip! All three Southwest credit cards are currently offering 50,000 miles for satisfying the spending requirements. Be sure to apply when the offers are high, not the standard 25,000.

I’ve redeemed thousands of miles on domestic travel, almost always from Southwest Rapid Rewards or British Airways Avios.

-The Miner

Next time on Mining for Miles: “The Best Transferable Points Earning Card for Me”


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