Redeeming travel rewards

Ah…retirement. COVID’s pretty much behind us. Let’s cash in those points/miles we’ve been saving. It’s GO time!

Not so fast.

Is it just me, or have the airlines added so many restrictions into the mix that it’s almost impossible to redeem the travel awards that you’ve accumulated? Or the points required to redeem for a “free” hotel room have increased by 30%?

One of our credit cards offers a free companion ticket for anywhere you want to go in the lower 48 states each year at renewal. Your choose the level of service – first class, comfort plus or main cabin. It’s been a really nice perk.

Due to COVID, the airline extended the expiration date on the companion certificates. Sadly, we were only able to redeem ONE prior to the expiration date. Why, you ask? Increased demand for air travel and airlines trying maximize the revenue per available seat mile (RASM). How are they doing this?

  1. Changes in award redemption program meaning fewer flights are now eligible for the companion certificate.
  2. Changes in award redemption program meaning fewer seats/classes of service are available for redemption.
  3. Upcharge on single ticket price in order to use the companion certificate.

When took our two trips out west last fall, we discovered it was more economical to buy two main cabin tickets and request an upgrade (credit card/airline loyalty program perk) than it was to try to buy a first class ticket on one of the few flights available to redeem the companion certificate.

We couldn’t use a companion certificate to book our upcoming trip to Alaska as it is limited to travel in the contiguous 48 states only.

One of the good things about retirement is you’re able to travel at off peak times and save significantly on the amount of points required for the first class ticket you want for your bucket list trip. We saved 100,000 points per ticket by flying out at 2:00 p.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. We still arrive the same day and return on the flight we originally wanted.

And if you can believe this: it costs the same amount of points for a Hampton Inn in Pigeon Forge, TN as it does Fairbanks, AK. I’m traveling during “shoulder season” in both places. I thought Pigeon Forge would be less than Fairbanks. Not so.

Any other travel hacks you can share? We double dip reward points where possible, use AAA and other affinity discounts, travel off peak, etc. Trying to maximize the value of my travel dollars as I do my quilty dollars.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

One thought on “Redeeming travel rewards

  1. We’ve used most of our airline miles booking hotels over the last 18 months so not much left for air travel…but I completely agree with all you’ve said. And now that I have to book airfare directly I cannot believe how expensive it’s gotten. It’s completely outrageous! There’s no good reason for the exhorbitant prices…other than greed.

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