BOOKED! 20,000 miles to Hawaii round trip

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I had previously written in an old post that I needed to get to Hawaii for a wedding this October.  Well, there are actually 5 of us (6 if one of my buddies can find a +1 by October.)  I had booked the bride and groom first class already here.  Now there were 3 of us left.  These were my options:

  1. 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles roundtrip
  2. 40,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles roundtrip
  3. 25,000 British Airways Avios roundtrip on Alaska metal
  4. 20,000 Virgin America miles on Hawaiian metal
  5. Pay ~$500 cash cost and ‘writing it off’ with Barclays Arrival
  6. Use Alaska Air $99 companion fare

Option #1 – 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles

At this option, I have to ask myself what the value is I’m getting from my Alaska miles.  $500 / 40,000 = $0.0125.  I’m getting less than 2c of value per point, which is horrible.  If the Alaska Visa card earns you 1 mile per $1 spent, you would have to charge $40,000 to earn 40,000 points to get the $500 of value.  If I factor in the churn-ability of the BoA Alaska Visa card (25K on signup), and I only apply for 1 of them, then I’ll just have to manufacture $15,000 of spend. Granted I could apply for the business version too and call it a day, but let’s just assume 1 card for 25K and $15K of spend.

Option #2 – 40,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles

Same as #1, but since I don’t live in Hawaii, so why rack up Hawaiian miles?  I’m better off with Alaska miles.  This is probably the worst option.

Option #3 – 25,000 British Airways points

Since Alaska is a partner of British Airways, you can redeem BA points for use on Alaska metal.  And since BA has a distance-based award chart, from Seattle to Hawaii would only cost us 25,000 BA points.  This one was the best option for a while, but you can only redeem BA on the “low level 20K” awards.  So on the chart below, you could only redeem it on the 3rd flight.  This was difficult for us since we didn’t see the 20K awards on the days we wanted.

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Option #4 – 20,000 Virgin America points

This is the same as #2, but since Hawaiian Airlines is a partner with Virgin America, you can redeem VA points to fly on Hawaiian Airlines.  How do you get VA points?  Well, the easiest way would be to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points, but they have a horrible redemption rate of 2 MR to 1 VA point.  Maybe when they have a 50% bonus again, you’d get 2 MR : 1.5 VA, but even then, you should only transfer when you have a redemption in mind instead of a speculative transfer.  There is also a VA credit card that gets you 1 pt per purchase.  They also partner with Singapore Airlines, so I’m going to consider getting this card in the future.  Lastly, just like BA points on Alaska, you have to make sure you see the low level points on Hawaiian Airlines web site (20K mile level):

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Option #5 – $500 cash cost and ‘writing it off’ with Barclays Arrival

I wrote about this option here already.

Option #6 – Use Alaska Air $99 companion fare

If you have the Bank of America Alaska Air visa card, they give you an annual companion fare where you pay only $99 + fees.  Travel with Grant has an awesome writeup about this already, so no need to recreate the wheel.

What I wound up doing

I wound up using the Alaska companion fare for my wife and I.  Instead of paying 2 x $550 = $1100 for 2 people, I paid $550 + $99 + $46 (taxes and fees) = $700 for the both of us.  I used $600 of Alaska Air gift cards that I had bought from 3 AMEX Platinum cards (really no discount there).  The remaining $150 was put on my Arrival card, which I redeemed 15K Arrival points to receive a $150 credit on my statement.  A buddy also gave me 2 one-way upgrade vouchers that means we’ll be flying first class on the way there.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to combine the companion fare with an ‘upgradeable fair’ to use the upgrade vouchers, but it seems the upgradeable fare was the same price as the cheapest fare, and so I didn’t have to pay a premium to upgrade my flights.

As for my single friend, I booked 20K VA points for a roundtrip on Hawaiian Air.  The flight was about $550, so I got 2.75c per point, which is pretty good for a domestic ticket.  Now if he finds a date by the wedding though, he’s on his own.  =)