Milenomics² [No Annual Fee Edition] Episode 71: Ranking Bank Points for Domestic Airfare

0:55 Ranking Bank Points for Domestic Airfare

  • We’re talking about deeply discounted airfare, not FREE airfare. 
  • Every one of these programs has a cash out path–that’s great

1:45 Overview: Highs and Lows of each Program

1:59 Chase UR

  • Talked about the most online, but not as valuable as Amex to us
  • Much more straightforward than Amex
  • 1 Cent per Ultimate Reward point earned (easy cash out on all card)
  • 5x earning on Office Supply has been around for a long time. 
  • Earning at high rates, transferring to a CSR/CSP 

3:00 Earning Chase UR 

  • Easy to use Domestic Partners in United and Southwest
  • Travel Portal booking is not ideal but does have uplift
  • Earning with high multipliers and sign up bonuses works well
  • 5/24 limits the number of cards you can get
  • Can co-mingle points

6:30 Southwest (W/ Chase UR)

  • Points have become less useful as Ticketless Travel Funds (TTF) have become permanent
  • Less transfers from UR->Southwest because TTF are so plentiful
  • If transferring , the best way to earn is still NOT on the Southwest credit cards. 

7:43 Booking with the Chase Travel Portal: 

  • Price inflation is real (American, others) Be sure to check google flights
  • Can see inflated prices on flights, issues when canceling
  • 1.25 cents per point / 1.5 cents per point (20% – 33% discount on travel)
  • Sometimes just taking cash back at 1 cent per point is the way to pay for travel
  • These points are not ‘free’

10:53 Amex MR Overview

  • Amex is so generous that they have changed subscribers’ lives
  • THE most generous bank with respect to SUB, earning bonuses and referrals
  • The default cash back amount for a MR is 0.6 Cents ($.006) per MR with a few exceptions
  • Difficult to get rid of these points. 

12:41 Booking Travel with Amex MR

  • With such easy earning there isn’t a fast enough release valve sometimes
  • Their travel portal is horrible, but is mandatory for the 35% rebate
  • Insider fares are lower fares than anywhere else. 
  • Extremely high annual fee cards needed to release points at high value
  • To get good redemption rates with points you have to graduate to high annual fee cards
  • Either churn the card or pay the high annual fee (carrying costs) to get good value
  • Delta transfers are a great option – 1.1 cents in value per point, transfer 1:1
  • Holding a Delta card gives a 15% discount as well, works out to around 1.25 cents per point. 

16:26 Earning Membership Rewards

  • “They’ve gone crazy with the Sign up Bonuses” 
  • Easier to earn at a moderate level than Chase (or any other bank) 
  • Many high annual Fee cards, which come with many coupons/credits
  • Nonstarter for someone just starting out. 

18:55 Difficulties transacting with AMEX

  • Need High annual Fee Business Platinum for 35% rebate (approx 1.5 cents per point) 
  • Need High Annaul Fee Morgan stanley (1cpp) or Schwab (1.1 cpp) to cash out MR. 
  • Cannot co-mingle points across spouses, which means you need 2 of each of these cards!
  • 35% rebate only on airline of choice or business/first fares. 
  • Extremely tricky to jump through hoops with Amex. 

26:30 Bank of America Premium Rewards

  • Both of us have had positive experiences with these points
  • Earning on the Premium Rewards Elite  card ($550 annual fee)
  • Cannot co-mingle with other point earning cards
  • No Airline transfer partners. 
  • Can pool with anyone easily

27:31 Booking Airfare With Premium Rewards

  • Good Value, affordable flights work well with these points
  • “Earning is not nearly as easy as Chase/Amex”
  • Card is churnable
  • Incidentals can help remove the sting of $550 annual Fee
  • 1 cent per point easy cash out 
  • 20% rebate on airfare, which works out to 1.25 cents per point

29:03 Unique opportunity: 20% discount

  • There is a Travel portal and you can use it for the uplift
  • BUT you also can find any flight, any airline and call in getting credited for the flight
  • And the BofA phone reps are GREAT. 
  • If there’s a higher price in their portal, or the airline doesn’t show they will let you book it directly and credit you back and rebate you 20%. 
  • Industry Leading. All other banks should follow  this lead
  • Great because you can work with the airline directly

33:35 Citi ThankYou Points

  • They’ve done a lot to limit the uplift on their points
  • Premier use to get 1.25 CPP on travel
  • Prestige is dead. 
  • Why would anyone use the Citi travel portal? 
  • Cash out path is so simple, 1 cent per point cash out on cards is easy. 

34:31 Citi Travel portal

  • No Uplift, or maybe negative uplift
  • Now as the engine
  • Pricing does not align from citi travel portal to
  • Inflation causes erosion of value
  • No upside on Airfare. 

35:36 Citi Portfolio issues

  • Strata Premier is their highest annual fee TYP card
  • Complex pooling of points
  • Double Cash is a great ‘all around’ card
  • Thank You points as a brand

38:07 Mention: Citi Transfer Partners

  • Leading Hotels of the World 
  • Wyndham (not as good as earning direct)
  • EVA, Turkish, other random programs
  • Lacks a big name domestic transfer partner, AA Transfer return is needed

40:12 Wells Fargo 

  • Think Fast: What are these points called? A: Wells Fargo Rewards
  • Autograph Journey Card
  • Visa Signature Card unlocks 1.5 cents per point on Autograph points. 
  • Straightforward earning in some bonus categories
  • Travel portal can be inflated
  • Domestic Airfare for 35% off with points earned at a high multiple. 

41:30 Honorable Mention: 

Capital One 

  • Quirky, nice SUB in some case
  • Have done a great job of marketing their points as easier to use.
  • That seems like an antiquated idea that people do really believe is true
  • But now in order to compete Capital One has added transfer partners 
  • This all puts them on par with most other issuers 

44:21 Rank by ease of earning and using 

  • You’ll just have to listen to find out!

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About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.

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