American Airlines

Avios Search Trick / Last Minute Booking

FTU Seattle

For those of you going to FTU Seattle next weekend, I’m happy to announce that I will be there pitching my new startup during the Launchpoint competition (more on that next week). So if you see me around at FTU, feel free to say hi!

Since my cousin lives in Seattle, I was originally planning on going out there tomorrow with the idea that we would rent a car this weekend and go down to Portland since both of us have never been.

Change Of Plans

Unfortunately that Portland plan ended up falling through so I was trying to see if there was anything else I could do this weekend.

Coincidentally earlier this week, my girlfriend decided she was going to NYC this weekend. I haven’t been to the Big Apple in a while and it is my Niece’s birthday on Saturday so I decided to tag along.

Due to some procrastination on my end, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I finally tried to book a ticket to NYC…

Normally this isn’t a huge issue because there are 3 airports in NYC and 2 in Chicago (3 if you count MKE) so there are a ton of flights back and forth. However searching with Avios, this upcoming Saturday only had First availability for 22,500 points one way…

"No Economy!

“No Economy!

I next checked Southwest but from my experiences, the cheap “wanna get away” fares typically either sell out or are sky high if your departure is less than 10 days out. In this case, the cheapest flight was 19,274 points!

"A Little Too Expensive"

“A Little Too Expensive”

I was willing to shell out the $75 close-in ticketing fee on AA or United if they got me to NYC on Saturday, so I went and checked and lo and behold there were Economy saver flights to NYC!



I didn’t understand why Avios wasn’t showing these Economy flights and then realized that it was perhaps because they weren’t non-stop flights.? I’m not sure though because Avios definitely does show connections on longer flights that are cross country…

Since there weren’t any non-stop flights on AA, I figured if I could book the same AA 1-connection flights with Avios I might as well try and save $75 in close-in ticketing fees.

Avios Search Trick

So while Avios was showing no Economy flights from ORD-NYC, when I simply searched for the above AA flights like ORD-CMH and then CMH-LGA, I was able to book the flights with Avios for 4,500 points each leg.

While ORD-NYC direct would be 7,500 points, in this case I am happy to pay the extra 1,500 points to get to NYC.

"Would You Look At That!"

“Would You Look At That!”



New York – Baltimore

To get to Baltimore, we ended up just buying a MegaBus ticket for $30 one way.

While I’d certainly rather fly, these buses are nice in that they leave from downtown (so no need to trek out to the airport) and you have to get there only 30 minutes before departure since there isn’t any security.

If you factor it all together, taking the bus is probably easier and quicker than flying.

Baltimore – Seattle

To get from Baltimore to Seattle next week, I ran another Avios search.

One thing that really annoys me is that British Airways thinks Baltimore falls under Washington D.C…

There is no way to specifically search for BWI, instead it automatically defaults to WAS and shows you all Washington D.C airports!

That isn’t really useful since DCA & IAD are over 1 hour away from downtown Baltimore and BWI is 16 mins…

Regardless Avios wasn’t showing any available flights out of BWI (Washington D.C).

"See How It Says Washington D.C"

“See How It Says Washington D.C”

I quickly cross-checked just to be sure and to my surprise, there were tons of flights out of DCA.

"AA To The Rescue!"

“AA To The Rescue!”

Out of curiosity, I ran DCA – SEA search on Avios again (not BWI or WAS) and now those AA flights came up for 14,500 Avios…



Basically, it seems that even if British Airways is defaulting to the citysearch (like Washington D.C or New York) instead of a specific airport (BWI), it won’t always show you all the results for the city.

In this case, although British Airways thinks BWI is in Washington D.C, it didn’t show all the Washington D.C flights. However when I explicitly searched for DCA, it showed all the flights I found on AA. Same thing when I explicitly searched for IAD.

Bottom line is to always cross check the Avios engine with AA (or Qantas or ExpertFlyer) because BA might not be showing you all the results.

Anyways, I ran a BWI-SEA search on Southwest since BWI use to be a hub for Airtran before they merged with Southwest.

To my surprise, there was a BWI-MKE-SEA flight for 10,028 points!

"Talk About A Deal"

“Talk About A Deal”

People love to hate on Southwest but I’m not aware of any other airline that lets you book a fully cancelable ticket 5 days out with no close-in ticketing fees for 10,028 points and you can check 2 bags for free if you want…

Oh and if my girlfriend was coming with me to Seattle, because I  have a companion pass, we could both fly to Seattle for 10,028 points total (5,014 points each)!

Seattle – Chicago

I had my original Southwest ticket but since it was fully cancelable, I decided to quickly check and see if there were any better options.

On Avios, there was a much better SEA-ORD flight for 10,000 Avios so I went ahead and booked that too!


All in all, with only 2 days notice I was able to cancel all my other previous Southwest tickets, re-book ORD-NYC, BWI-SEA, SEA-ORD all in for 29,028 points! Because I used Southwest and Avios points, I was also able to avoid paying any close-in ticketing fees or cancellation fees!

The 3 main points I hope everyone takes away from this are:

1. Miles & points can save you serious money!

If I had to book this ticket out of pocket, the cheapest I could find on Kayak was $743 which isn’t terrible. However thanks to 30,000 miles & points, I only had to spend around $10 in taxes.

"Actually Not Terrible"

“Actually Not Terrible”

2. If you don’t have set plans, book with either Avios or Southwest because they are cancelable (for the most part).

Thanks to booking with BA and Southwest, I avoided all change and cancellation fees. If these flights were originally booked with United, US Airways, Delta, or American, it would have cost me $150 to make the changes / cancellations and another $75 for close in ticketing. No thanks!

2. The British Airways Avios engine isn’t 100% accurate so always double check with AA

As I showed, the British Airways award engine is goofy and doesn’t always show everything that is available. I suggest either using Expert Flyer, Qantas, or if you are lazy just use AA. At a minimum, you will see all the connecting flights that BA might not be showing you.


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A Real Example Of How To Earn 115,000 Miles

How To Earn 115,000 Miles

This past month, my Parents told me they needed some new credit cards because they have some large purchases coming up.

Since I’ve been doing this credit card game for a while now and I manage all the miles for my family, over the years I’ve basically signed them up for almost all the “big offers”. This means that there is a smaller pool of cards to pick from for every new round of credit card applications .

One thing that has been really helpful in managing this process is that last year I finally started tracking all the open / closed cards my family has via this spreadsheet. So instead of guessing when my Mom last had the Hyatt card, I can simply now just check the spreadsheet.

Normally I wouldn’t share “mundane” posts like how I signed my Parents up for some basic credit cards but the reason I am writing about this is because I forgot how easy it is to earn miles…

Not Rocket Science

Whenever I meet new people, they always ask what I do for a living, so of course I tell them about FFU and how to earn miles etc. From those experiences and the reader questions I get, I think there is a general sense that earning miles via credit cards is extremely difficult and takes some sort of rocket science.

So I am sharing my “mundane” experience about how I signed my Parents up for a couple credit cards and earned them 115,000 miles, so when random people stumble across this blog, they realize that anyone can do this and there isn’t any rocket science involved.

3 Cards = 115,000 Miles

As I stated earlier, my Parents have already had most of the “big” cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, etc.

Their upcoming large purchases total around $4,000, so I didn’t want to sign them up for any cards with a large minimum spend requirement that would require them to do any manufactured spend (ie. more work for me).

After taking a look at my spreadsheet, I opted to sign them both up for the following cards.

  • Citi American Airlines – 50,000 AA miles after $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months
  • US Airways Mastercard – 40,000 miles after 1st purchase
  • Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after $1,000 in 3 months. Plus $100 statement credit.

The total haul for each person will be 115,000 miles after completing $4,000 in minimum spend!

The Cards & My Rationale

1. Citi American Airlines – 50,000 miles

Link To Application

This offer is pretty standard at 50,000 miles for $3,000 minimum spend but because AA has now merged with US Airways, these AA miles are becoming increasingly valuable as the OneWorld route network expands.

To make matters even better, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year!

By signing up each of my Parents for this AA card and by completing the $6,000 total minimum spend, they will earn a total  of 100,000 miles!

2. US Airways – 40,000 miles

Link To Application

There certainly have been better US Air offers in the past but it is honestly surprising that this card is still available given the US Air / AA merger is complete.

Not only is there no minimum spend on this card but you can get it more than once…

I’ve signed my Parents up for this card in the past, so I went ahead and got them each another one. Once they spend $1 on the card, they will get 40,000 miles!

While the $89 annual fee is not waived for this card, it is a small price to pay for 40,000 miles.

Also since these miles will eventually be converted into AA miles later this year, it is an easy way to proactively stock up.

3. Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles + $100 statement credit

Link To Application

This isn’t a card that most people even consider because unless you live on the West Coast, you probably would never fly Alaska.

While that is definitely true, since Alaska isn’t part of any alliance, they have crafted one of the best airline partnerships out there.

So even if you never plan to fly Alaska, you could potentially redeem your 25,000 Alaska miles for a free flight on Delta, AA, British Airways, Emirates, etc. Full list of partners is here.

While the $75 annual fee isn’t waived, I was able to find an offer that gives a $100 statement credit. So if you were to get this card, you are actually making $25…

As for the $1,000 minimum spend, since I have Amazon Payment accounts for both my Parents, I am just going to use those to complete the minimum spend for them.


Having to sign my Parents up for normal credit cards and not having to do any of the two-browser tricks or creating an eBay business to get a business credit card, was a refreshing reminder of HOW EASY IT IS TO EARN MILES!

These banks are literally giving miles away or in some cases paying you $25 to take their miles.

3 credit card sign ups each netted my Parents 115,000 miles for around $64 ($89 + $75 – $100 statement credit) and $4,000 in minimum spend each.

If they go to India in the next few years, then those 115,000 miles + the miles from minimum spend is almost enough for a free Business Class ticket! Even if they were to redeem those 115,000 miles for just domestic economy travel, they would get probably 5 free trips worth upwards of $1,500 total!

Not bad for 30 minutes of work on my end!

Basically, if you are new to earning miles or this site, hopefully my Parents experience showcases that it is in fact possible to earn quite a few free miles / free trips with a minimal amount of work.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me!


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Citi AA Card – 3x Miles On Everyday Purchases

This morning I got a nice surprise email from Citibank / AA offering 3x AA Miles on Everyday Purchases through 6/30/13 on my Citi AA Personal Card. (No offer was sent for the AA Business Card)

Apparently the definition of Everyday Purchases is fairly broad and includes Groceries, Gas, Restaurants, Drugstores, and Commuter Expenses!

Unfortunately in the fine print, there is a cap on how many Bonus Miles you can earn, “AAdvantage® miles earned with this offer are subject to a maximum of 2,500 AAdvantage® bonus miles”.

I am assuming that 2,500 Bonus Miles means that you only get credit on the first $1,250 you spend (2x Bonus), but i could be wrong. 

Using that logic, if you were to go to CVS and buy $1,500 in Vanilla Reload Cards on your Citi AA Card, you should earn the following:

  • 1,500 AA Miles in Regular Spend
  • 2,500 AA Miles in Bonus Miles

So by paying $11.85 ($3.95 each) in Vanilla Reload Card fees, you should get 4,000 AA Miles!

Although the cap on the Bonus Miles makes the offer very limiting, for $11.85, I will gladly take 4,000 AA Miles!

If you were to buy 4,000 AA Miles from AA directly, it would cost you $118.00. I honestly can’t even make these prices up…

So be sure to check your Email and Spam folder to see if you got this offer because it is a great deal!

You do have to Enroll in the offer to be eligible to earn the Bonus Miles!


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