I’m boxed in – I literally HAVE to travel, or I lose money.

Okay, maybe that’s being dramatic.  I don’t have to do anything, and I won’t lose “money.”  But I might lose frequent flier miles.

Some of you know that I’ve been into the frequent flier mile hobby for two years now, and I never pay full price for airfare now, whether flying do Dallas or Deutscheland.

I use AwardWallet.com for a bird’s-eye view of how many miles, points, and awards I have thanks to my credit card chicanery.  Here are screenshots from AwardWallet showing my balances as they stand today.  Note that Southwest and United don’t support AwardWallet, so I updated those balances manually as of today’s numbers:

Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 12.48.21 PMScreen Shot 2017-12-16 at 12.48.33 PMScreen Shot 2017-12-16 at 12.48.54 PM

 

Some takeaways from this …

Right at the top, I have 3.4 months to do something with my Alaska Airlines miles, or I lose them.  They expire, and I earned them for nothing.  I got them with a 25k point bonus on my new Alaska Airlines Visa a year and 9 months ago, but haven’t had a pressing use for them – other redemptions have usually been a better deal.  Note the low United and Southwest balances, due to the fact that those have been my go-to.

Not that I don’t have to spend all the miles, or even ANY of the miles, to keep from losing those Alaska miles.  There just needs to be activity in my miles account and the expiration clock will reset to two years.  The easiest way to do this would be to use my Alaska Airways Visa to make a purchase, no matter how small, and a few miles will credit to the account, resetting the activity.  There’s a problem, though – I just did a 0% balance transfer on that card, and now spending will be subject to interest charges, which I don’t want :/

Alaska Air has good award rates to Providence, RI – competitive with the Southwest rates, which is rare for domestic flights.  I might use some Alaska miles to go to Providence for Brown commencement in May (it’s been too long since I’ve been) … but my friend and I were also talking about a trip to Australia around that time, which I could use to make a dent in that big old Delta balance.  Those Delta miles don’t expire … but that could change once I cancel all my Delta credit cards, which I never use and can’t justify the annual fee on.  (I can always transfer AMEX points int Delta points if I need more.)

I could also buy a few miles (usually a bad deal), or transfer a few miles from a transfer partner.  Such activity counts to reset the expiration clock as well … but the only transfer partner is Starwood Preferred Guest.  That might be worth doing, but that’s a separate blog subject.  I might also use my SPG account to refresh the clocks on my British Airways and American Airlines point balances, which is also another blog.

Also, I have 14 days to take advantage of my $200 airline credit from my AMEX Business Platinum.  It has a high annual fee, and I don’t want to miss out on that benefit … but I already don’t spend much cash on airfare because of all the points.  Last year I made do with a $200 American Airlines gift certificate … but I haven’t spent that one yet.  AA is my preferred airline, which you have to specify with the Platinum card, so I may just get another $200 in gift cards and give them as gifts.  Next year I may also change my preferred airline to Iberia Airlines … which is also another blog!

I also have a free night through IHG Hotels, an account-anniversary gift I get every year for having the $50/year IHG Mastercard (whether I spend on it or not!)   I get a new one in July, but if I don’t use the first one by then, it expires.  This free night, pending availability, can be used at any IHG hotel room of any level, including $300+ suits at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin in downtown Austin;  the InterContinental-Prague or InterContinental-Berlin; Crowne Plaza-Coogee Beach in Sydney.

After using my Chase Ultimate Rewards balance to replenish my United account to travel to Europe, I want to start trying out some different international awards, especially since I need to preserve my Chase balance to keep replenishing my Southwest account.  I want to start using my bigass AMEX point balance to start flying to Europe on KLM/Air France, which has slightly better point redemptions but slightly higher cash fees.

I also need to figure out some way to use my British Airways miles.  It’s REALLY HARD to find a good redemption on the BA website … but it turns out that BA miles can be transferred to an Iberia or Aer Lingus miles account that has been open at least 90 days.

Iberia Airlines, British Airways, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines …… decisions, decisions …

UPDATE: Carson Brown fixed my Alaska Airlines expiration problem by reminding me that I could just sign up for the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining program with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa.  Now that I’m signed up, if I make a purchase at one of the affiliated restaurants, I’ll get a few Alaska Airlines miles even if I use the Sapphire.  I checked the list and one of the restaurants I go to every week for tango.  Glass of wine for the win.  Thank you, Carson.

Where would you go if you had to travel?

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