The Earning, Burning & Comfort Trifecta
My main goal in life is to travel far and long for cheap and in comfort. That is obviously easier said than done. Either it is cheap but not comfortable or comfortable but it costs a lot of money and/or points. While there is no real cure for that other than the occasional mindblowing deal I have found something that is working quite well lately.
Last year I covered my AA elite fast track experience. For a brief moment American Airlines opened up a fast track opportunity where you could earn Executive Platinum status by earning 30,000 elite qualifying miles. I did that by flying to Panama on a couple of cheap business class fares and it also gave me the opportunity to tack on a trip to Cuba as well.
Exploring the Trifecta
So fast forward to this year where I have been enjoying my Executive Platinum status. Not only does it give me unlimited domestic upgrades (I have been lucky to clear on every flight), but it gives me a huge benefit. I earn double redeemable miles on all flights. (Platinum earns this as well.) This means I earn a lot when I fly and comfort wise I have a good shot at first class and worst case I get extra legroom seating.
So the status in and of itself isn’t huge news, but for me it is only one piece of a three pronged puzzle. To satisfy my travel trifecta (good earning, cheap burning and comfort) I have another trifecta if you will.
Here are the three parts:
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum Status
- Citi Prestige
- Citi AT&T Access More
So why these three things? Well the elite status gives me a 100% bonus on redeemable miles, the AT&T Access More card earn 3X ThankYou points for online shopping and the Citi Prestige allows me to book American Airlines flights at a value of 1.6 cents per point. It is a beautiful thing.
An Example These Things at Work
To show you how powerful this trifecta is, let’s look at a recent example. A few weeks ago I traveled to/from the Family Travel for Real Life Conference on three separate one-way tickets due to their stupid new pricing structure. The tickets were LAS-MIA, MCO-MIA, MIA-LAS.
- LAS-MIA: $69 or 4,313 ThankYou points.
- MCO-MIA: $49 or 3,063 ThankYou points.
- MIA-LAS: $104.72 or 5,818 ThankYou points.
If we add that up, I spent 13,194 ThankYou points, but I earned the following:
- LAS-MIA: 2,175 miles X 2 = 4,350
- MCO-MIA: 500 mile minimum X 2 = 1,000
- MIA-LAS: 2,175 miles X 2 = 4,350
- Total earned: 9,700 AAdvantage miles.
In other words, I spent 13,194 ThankYou points in exchange for 9,700 AAdvantage miles, took a trip to Florida and oh by the way, all of my upgrades cleared so I flew up front.
Another Great Example
There have actually been flights where I earned more AAdvantage miles back than I spent in ThankYou points. Actually, if you look just at the LAS-MIA flight from the last example, I spent 4,313 ThankYou Points to earn 4,350 miles. Here is another example of a flight I am looking to book right now that is a great deal.
Currently there are some cheap fares to Brazil on American. I am thinking about going down for a working trip/mileage run since the Visa fee is currently being waived and I have never been. For some dates I am seeing $590 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo via New York. That is 14,439 flown miles which would earn 28,878 redeemable miles. The cost to me in ThankYou points would only be 36,875. To address the comfort issue, I can use two systemwide upgrades to fly in lie flat business class there and back.
AT&T Access More
So how does the AT&T card fit into all of this? Since I do a lot of online shopping as part of my reselling and also for personal needs, I earn a lot of ThankYou points. I can then churn those ThankYou points into AAdvantage miles by flying. As part of that process I earn more elite credit and re-qualify so I can do it all again next year. (Well, sort of. See below.)
Think about this? If I spent just $10,000 per month on my AT&T card for online shopping, I would earn 30,000 ThankYou points. That is 360K in a year. Those 360K points are worth $5,760 in American Airlines flights. Lately I have been earning back about 70% of the ThankYou points I spend as AAdvantage miles. That means if I spent those 360K points, not only would I get a ton of great and often comfortable travel, but I could earn back about 250,000 AAdvantage miles. Of course that number would vary based on the price of airfare. This deal is sooooo good and you know what happens to good deals?
The main point of writing this was to show how powerful each of these three things are on their own and how they can be combined to make something special. Unfortunately, this trifecta will be weakened incredibly when American goes revenue based on the earning side sometime this year. As an Executive Platinum I’ll earn 11 miles per dollar spent, but that is significantly less than now. Look at that combined $222 trip to/from Miami. It will only earn about 2,400 miles instead of the 9,700 I earned. Ouch!
For now I am enjoying the earning, travel and relative comfort knowing that the clock is ticking. Still, even as earning rates go revenue based on American, the combo of an AT&T card for earning and a Prestige for burning at 1.6 cents each on American is powerful by itself and is reason enough for me to keep both of these cards around for the long term.