Booking award travel—which can involve using miles or points for flights, hotels, car rentals and more —is a great way to make use of the rewards programs associated with many credit cards. Knowing the best time to book can maximize your miles or points and help you book that long-dreamed-of vacation. Read on to learn about award travel and how to make the most of your travel rewards on your credit card.
What is Award Travel?
Award travel programs allow customers to earn rewards by redeeming miles or points earned through certain purchases.
The AAdvantage® program with American Airlines, for example, lets you earn miles for flights with the oneworld® Alliance and other participating airlines. It also lets you engage with AAdvantage® eShopping, AAdvantage® Dining, SimplyMilesTM, and its over 1,000 partners. The program includes offers for car rentals, hotels, and dining. You can also use an AAdvantage® credit card to earn miles for purchases. Additionally, you’ll earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible mile you earn. Loyalty Points enable you to reach AAdvantage® status, which comes with benefits like free checked bags and preferred seats.
How to Book Award Travel
For the AAdvantage® program, you can redeem miles to book award travel (for yourself or others) on American Airlines and partner airlines, upgrade your cabin of service, or redeem for hotel stays, vacation packages and other products.
You can book award travel on aa.com and on the American Airlines app. Partner airline flights are included in award travel search results, and you can filter on the Choose flights page. You can also contact Reservations to book award travel on American Airlines and airline partners and request mileage upgrade awards.
3 Tips to Booking Award Seats
Some airlines allow you to redeem your points or miles using a dynamic model that correlates your points or miles roughly to the dollar worth of the ticket at the given time of booking. However, other airlines or their partners allow you to redeem your points or miles for award seats that cost a fixed amount of reward points or miles.
The details of these award seats can vary depending on the airline offering them, the time of booking, and the travel dates you’re looking for, so make sure to do your research before using your points or miles for award seats. While there's no guaranteed best time to book these award seats, consider using the following 3 strategies when you book award seats using miles or points.
Check For Late Award Seats
When redeeming your miles or points for airline tickets, it makes sense to start looking for award seats as early as possible, but not all award seats are released initially. That means you may still be able to score an award seat closer to a flight’s departure date.
Airlines may also release award seats a few at a time. If there are a lot of open seats on a flight as the departure date approaches, award seats may be released a few weeks or even days from take-off. Last-minute flight bookings can sometimes offer the best availability, as unsold seats are released as award seats.
But if you absolutely must fly at a particular time or with a specific airline, don't risk it—even if it looks like the flight is undersold, there may be no award seats made available on a particular route. Remember that you can always check to see if award seats are available at the time of booking.
Also keep in mind that some airlines charge late booking fees, which can really eat into the value of your miles or points. If you find a last-minute award seat check partner airlines in the same award travel program to make sure you’re getting the most out of your points or miles.
Book at Non-Peak Times
Though it's possible to redeem miles or points to book award seats during popular travel times, such as holidays and peak summer season, it's more difficult to find deals. Much of the advice about finding a lower fare in general is also applicable to award travel: travel on weekdays, at unpopular times and on less-popular routes, if you can. Award seats are more likely to be available on lower-trafficked routes and times.
If you're booking award seats during high season, you're not out of luck. Try to plan ahead. Looking 10 or 11 months in advance is more likely to succeed in finding a deal than hoping for a last-minute booking.
Because deals vary by airline, flight route, flight date, and time of flight, a good strategy for award seats is to check often—daily, if you can.
If you’re a frequent traveler and often redeeming points or miles for flights, consider signing up for flight alerts from a site that specializes in tracking available deals. Some rewards tracker websites check inventory a few times a day and will send an email if something opens up.
Citi Travel Rewards Credit Cards
With the travel rewards credit cards from Citi, you can earn miles or points that can be redeemed for travel and other rewards, and enjoy extra perks. Citi offers several options to choose the best card for you.
Great for travel needs and upgrades, including a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card. You also earn double miles at restaurants and gas stations, as well as double miles on eligible American Airline purchases.
Many benefits for travelers including Admirals Club® membership and a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years for your application for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®.
Great for everyday purchases with double miles earned on grocery stores, including grocery delivery services, and eligible American Airlines purchases.
Great for business owners to turn business expenses into award travel by earning double miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, as well as double miles at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations. The first checked bag is free of charge on domestic American Airlines flights for you and up to four companions listed in the same reservation.
The Citi Premier® Card offers you 3X ThankYou® Points on air travel, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, in addition to 1X ThankYou® Points on all other purchases. You’ll also get access to an annual hotel savings benefit.