Top Awards are the best deals when using your points. However, these great deals usually don’t last more than a year or two before they are devalued.
ANA Round the World– We have an entire page detailing how you can travel around the world in business class with up to eight stopovers for around 125,000 ANA/American Express Membership Rewards Points. We also compare ANA’s round the world award with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific’s distance-based awards on this page.
Alaska Airlines– Alaska Airlines has an amazing award chart especially on Cathay Pacific, which is one of the top airlines in the world. Check out our Alaska page for ways to maximize their points.
Distance-Based Awards– Distance-based awards can be a great way to visit a large number of cities on your trip. For example, with Japan Airlines points you can do seven stopovers and you can do five stopovers Cathay Pacific points. We compare the programs on this chart.
Marriott Flights and Nights– Marriott has a package that you can book that gives you a certain number of nights at a hotel plus airline points. The package was devalued in 2018 with the integration of SPG and Marriott, but it is still a good deal if you want to book a hotel during a “peak” time.
Southwest Companion Pass Via Credit Cards– The Southwest Companion Pass allows a designated person to fly with you free, all you have to do is pay the taxes ($5.60 each way domestically). The Pass was originally designed as a perk for elite members since Southwest cannot offer upgrades to first class (Southwest is all economy seating). However, you can get the Pass by just opening up two credit cards and have it for almost two years if you time it right. When something is too easy to obtain, it usually gets restricted or devalued, so I anticipate Southwest putting restrictions on earning the Pass soon. (potentially only 50,000 points of the 110,000 can come from credit cards)
British Airways– The best way to use British Airways points is short, but very expensive direct flights. For example, Hong Kong to the island of Okinawa is a $922 cash flight, but only costs 15,000 points and $41.
Virgin Atlantic– You can fly roundtrip in ANA first class to Japan for either 110,000 points on west coast or 120,000 points on east coast.You can also use 50,000 Virgin Atlantic points round trip for business class on South African Airways to fly from Washington D.C. to Senegal. However, taxes and fees will be around $580 (cash price of the flight is about $5,000).
Etihad- Etihad has two very good award charts for partners, American Airlines and Royal Air Maroc. For American, you could fly to Asia or Europe for 50,000 points for one-way business class. For Royal Air Maroc, you can fly one-way business class from JFK to Europe, North Africa, or Central Africa for 44,000 points one-way in business.
United’s Excursionist Perk- The Excursionist Perk can be a little complicated, but if you are creative, you can book some great awards using this perk.
Region Definitions– This pertains to most programs with the exception of the revenue based awards systems (Southwest and JetBlue) and programs without award charts (Delta and Air France). A program’s region definitions are a great way to maximize an award if you look closely at which areas are included. For example, Korean Airlines includes Hawaii as a part of the main region of the U.S., when almost every program includes Hawaii as a separate region. This makes it very cheap to fly to Hawaii (if you can find award space) using Korean Airlines’ points on Delta or Alaska.
- Most programs have a large definition of Oceania, which usually includes Australia, New Zealand, and several small islands such as Tahiti or Fiji. For example, you could fly from Perth to Tahiti via Auckland for only 25,000 Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer) points in economy or 56,000 in business class roundtrip. That is about the same distance as flying Los Angeles to Paris.
Airlines with Bars Onboard- Several airlines that operate the A380 have bars on board for business and first-class passengers: Air France, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air, Qantas, and Qatar. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic has a smaller bar on all of their long-haul aircraft.
Airlines with Showers Onboard- Emirates and Etihad have showers for their first-class customers on their A380.