Credit Card Reward Programs
& Travel Loyalty Programs:

Your Ticket to Free Vacations

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Case Study #2
First Class Plane Ticket to China $99: How I Did It!

Credit card reward programs are your ticket to free, or almost free, vacations. By leveraging money I was already spending on groceries, cell phone service, clothing, business expenses, and much more, credit card reward programs provided me with the opportunity to fly First Class to China for just $99. I did this by using the travel advice I gave you about identifying and participating in a good credit card reward programs .

The best credit card reward programs have several strategic airline alliances, so the first thing I did was identify the airlines that American Express Rewards had the best airline alliances to the country I wanted to travel to but it doesn't stop there. Now, did you know that some airlines charge less reward miles for a reward ticket than other airlines? That is a fact. Southwest Airlines, for example, only charges 24,000 Amex reward points (or airline miles) for a reward ticket while other airlines charge 30,000. Sadly, Southwest's alliance with Amex Rewards ended July 1, 2010.



The second important thing I did was research and identify which airline reward programs charged the least amount of miles for a reward ticket from the U.S. to Asia. I discovered that the best airline frequent flyer program was Aeroplan (for Air Canada which had alliances with China Air) so I set up a frequent flyer account for Aeroplan online. With Aeroplan, a roundtrip coach seat to Asia from the U.S. was only 75,000 miles (or Amex Reward points for me). My research found that most other airlines charged 100,000 points for a coach seat to Asia from the U.S. so this was a good use of my Amex reward miles. When I called Aeroplan to to verify they had a reward ticket available from LAX to Beijing on the dates I wanted to travel to China, the agent suggested that I upgrade to a First Class seat for 120,000 miles (or Amex reward points). Since I had over 345,000 reward points at the time (I hadn't used any points in over five years), this sounded like a very good suggestion. Also, due to my research, I knew that most other airlines require about 150,000 points to fly First Class to Asia.


At that point, I converted 120,000 of my Amex Reward points to my new Aeroplan frequent flyer account and secured my First Class seat on Air China. This made a lot of sense to use my reward points for a First Class ticket since it was only about 20,000 miles more to fly First Class than most airlines require for a coach ticket. Why did the ticket cost $99? I did have to pay taxes and TSA security tax on the airfare which is standard operating procedure when you use your reward miles to secure a seat on a flight. I think it's important to note that if I had paid for an airline ticket to China, the going rate at the time was between $715-$900 for a coach seat and approximately $5000-$6000 for a First Class seat. With this travel advice tip, I saved approximately $5000-6000 on that trip, so you can see how synergizing these strategies is a great way to save money.

The first important action I took to maximize my reward points was researching the information on how to use the least amount of credit card reward program points to convert them into the airline ticket for the trip I wanted to take. It is also just one of many strategies that I use to get the best value for credit card reward programs, as well as my travel dollar. Here's some great travel advice for finding the best travel reward programs. Webflyer has an excellent website for comparing different travel loyalty programs. You'll love it!



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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more