This post is pertinent for you frequent Alaska or Jetblue flyers. A while back I wrote that I had gotten my wife a BOA Merrill + card that has a 50K signon bonus. I finally got around to banking the 50K points and decided to redeem the points. The quick and easy way is to cash out the 50K points as $500, but you know I like to max out things. If you cash it out as travel, you can redeem 25K points for a flight up to $500. The reason why this is pertinent for Alaska or Jetblue flyers is because those programs let you cancel flights to a “bank” which you can then use for other cheaper flights. Since I’m based out of Seattle and fly Alaska quite often, I’ll show you that example.
Step 1 – Find a $500 flight
Go to http://flights.google.com and filter on just Alaska flights. Play around with the destination and dates until you get as close to $500 as possible. If you are doing this with Alaska, MAKE SURE YOU PICK A DATE 60 DAYS OUT; else you’ll get hit with a change fee! In the screenshot below, I found a SEA-TPA in June for $499. Perfect!
I was able to confirm the flight on the Alaska site:
Step #2 – Feed it into the Merrill travel site
Feed the itinerary into the Merrill site. Notice how there’s an even better United flight, but that won’t work since they charge a cancellation fee and will just refund the points back to your Merrill account. Book the Alaska flight as you normally would.
Step #3 – Wait 24 hours and then cancel
The next step is to give it 24 hours. Then you should be able to pull up the itinerary on Alaskaair.com. Don’t do it before 24 hours or else it’ll just be cancelled and you’ll get the 25K points back into your Merrill account. Once it’s on alaskaair.com, cancel the flight and choose to credit the airfare back to your “Travel Wallet.” You will then have 365 days from the date of the booking or it’ll expire so don’t go nuts. Now I can just spend down my balance as I see fit.
Note my cancellation was for a different flight and not the example above.
While the Merrill site says “Air Rewards start at 25,000 Merrill Points for flights on the following carriers: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines and British Airways…” it does work for Alaska as well as Jetblue. I’m not too familiar with the Jetblue program; I believer there is a slight cancellation fee with them, but it may still be worth it to do this trick.
This does NOT WORK FOR SOUTHWEST since the ML travel site can’t book SW flights! If you live in an Alaska or Jetblue area, the Merrill + Visa card is a must get for the sign-on bonus (about $1,000 in flights.) Add it to your next BoA AoR.