Hello PointsNerd readers! First off, I want to give a HUGE congratulations to Jayce for landing his dream job and major props to what he has accomplished thus far with PointsNerd.
In the past couple of years, I cannot think of another person who has dedicated more hours to enrich the Canadian points and miles community than Jayce. It is rare to find someone willing to do research at a level that includes combing through the fine print of credit card insurance benefits and compile a handy chart for us to bookmark for our travels. And let’s not forget his persistence and commitment to the game like how he spammed Marriott until he got his 5-Night Package.
Actually, I was the first one to laugh in his face when he said he was calling Marriott to redeem for 5-Night Packages without fulfilling the vacation owner requirement. He then proceeded to prove me wrong with a screenshot of his successful redemption. It took him only three calls but was willing to dial up to 20 times … personally I’d rather talk to my goldfish than call Marriott 20 consecutive times.
So that’s the Jayce we’ve grown to know. He embodies a true travel hacker dedicated to the craft of maximizing points. No matter how advanced you are in travel hacking, we have all learned something valuable from Jayce – the Original PointsNerd. His posts will be sorely missed.
When Jayce approached me with the opportunity to continue the content on PointsNerd I thought to myself, “I have never blogged before but I’ve got the points knowledge. This cant be too hard right?”
While writing this first post, the reality has started to sink in. Jayce has set the bar pretty darn high and I need to deliver the quality posts that PointsNerd readers have been accustomed to.
DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a great writer and I much prefer to explain by speaking rather than writing. If at any time you find my post confusing, it probably is, so please let me know and I can clarify.
I am sure I will provide valuable content to PointsNerd and hopefully, my delivery does not dissuade you away from reading. Not that I need another high expectation Asian father breathing down my neck, but this is how I will collectively envision you readers for motivation.
Anyways, I am honored and pumped to carry the baton from Jayce as we build out this community of PointsNerds.
One topic I get excited talking about is sweet spots. I would define a sweet spot as a redemption that costs significantly less miles and/or fees than what other programs would charge. For example, flying Economy class from Vancouver to Tokyo costs 50,000 miles with British Airways Avios and 75,000 miles with Aeroplan. This is a sweet spot for BA Avios.
Every program has their sweet spots and also their not-so sweet spots. Another sweet spot for BA Avios is flying economy class from the West Coast to Hawaii. A not-so sweet spot for BA Avios is flying any long haul flight in business or first class. The Avios required to fly Hong Kong to New York is 210,000 roundtrip in Business Class and 280,000 in First. Meanwhile Alaska MileagePlan charges around half the miles for the same flight.
In order to be efficient with points you need be able to access the sweet spots from different programs depending on your needs. This is why it is crucial to diversify your points programs with flexible points currencies like AMEX Membership Rewards and SPG.
If you collected AMEX MR points and want to fly from the West Coast to Hawaii, you can transfer points to Avios and access their sweet spot to book a roundtrip for as low as 25,000 miles. Alternatively, if you want to fly Business Class from Canada to Europe, you have the flexibility to transfer AMEX points to Aeroplan and access their sweet spot to book a roundtrip for as low as 110,000 miles.
Finding a Sweet Spot – Canada to Europe
Although a business class award to Europe on Aeroplan is considered a sweet spot, booking it efficiently without much taxes and fees is not an easy task, especially from the West Coast where routing is relatively limited. The majority of direct flights and efficient routes from Canada to Europe are serviced by Air Canada, Lufthansa, and British Airways, all of whom are notorious for inflating the fees associated with award tickets. Unfortunately, it’s hardly a surprise when Aeroplan quotes you $800-$1100 in fees for a simple roundtrip award ticket to Europe.
Jayce has covered ways to avoid the fuel surcharge to Europe by flying certain airlines but sometimes the extra flight, the extra half a day of travel, and perhaps an overnight hotel required is not worth the savings in fees. For the sake of convenience, who is guilty of booking an award ticket with these inflated fees?
If you are guilty but the ticket was in Business/First class … I get it … I’ll allow it.
But I do want to introduce you to a sweet spot from another program that has the potential to save you a lot of miles.
Miles & More – Mileage Bargains
Miles & More (M&M) is the loyalty program for Star Alliance carriers Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, SWISS, and LOT. Mileage Bargains is their year-round promotion where a good chunk of award flights is discounted by ~50% on the miles required. The majority of the discounted award flights available are on Lufthansa operated flights with lesser options on Austrian Airlines, SWISS and LOT. If you are familiar with FlyingBlue’s Promo Awards, the concept is the same but the discount on Mileage Bargains is better overall. Before I continue, I will note Miles & More is a transfer partner of SPG at a 1:1 ratio so we can definitely access this potential sweet spot with SPG points.
Although no First Class options are ever released on Mileage Bargains, there are always plenty of Business Class and Economy flights available for both short-haul and long-haul routes. For each route on discount, there is a permitted time period to book and a permitted time period to travel, the delta between these two periods is anywhere from 0 to 4 months but generally it is between 2 to 3 months.
|Region (and vice versa)||Class||Regular Cost (Roundtrip)||Discount Cost (Roundtrip)||Discount %|
|Europe – N. America||Econ||60,000||30,000||50%|
|Europe – N. America||Busn||105,000||55,000||48%|
|Europe – Europe||Econ||35,000||6,000||83%|
|Europe – Europe||Econ||35,000||15,000||57%|
|Europe – Europe||Busn||50,000||25,000||50%|
|Europe – Asia||Econ||80,000||40,000||50%|
|Europe – Asia||Busn||130,000||70,000||46%|
What to look for
Whenever I pull up the Mileage Bargains link I filter the search by Country to see which routes from Canada and USA are available. The only Canadian cities I have seen on discount are from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal given they have direct flights to Europe operated by M&M participating airlines.
If any of the Canadian cities have routes on sale my first priority is to look for routes operated by LOT or SWISS because both airlines do not charge inflated fuel surcharges, though I have yet to see SWISS long-haul flights available on bargains.
Next, I would check if Lufthansa business class routes are available. For those that have purchased or considered purchasing a Lufthansa Business Class ticket on Aeroplan for 110,000 miles and $1,000 CAD in fees, it’s time to bookmark the Mileage Bargain page and perhaps score a similar booking on M&M for the same fees but only 55,000 miles.
Current Mileage Bargains from Canada
Toronto has an Economy Class option on LOT to Poland. Montreal has a Business Class option on Lufthansa to Europe. Nothing in store for Vancouver right now but there is a Business Class option on LOT from Los Angeles to Warsaw worth posting.
LOT Economy Class – Toronto to Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Katowice, Poznan, Rzeszow, Szczecin, Szczytno, Wroclaw, Zielona Gora)
Roundtrip miles: 30,000 miles (25,000 SPG)
Approx taxes: 230 CAD to 300 CAD
Booking dates: January 2 – March 31, 2018
Travel dates: January 2 – April 1, 2018
Available travel dates (4 passengers)
Toronto to Warsaw: March 13-14, 18-21, 23, 25-31, April 1
Warsaw to Toronto: March 13-14, 26-31, April 1
Lufthansa Business Class – Montreal to Europe (Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona. Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Stockholm, Munich, Moscow, Milan, Rome, St Petersburg, +62 more)
Roundtrip miles: 55,000 miles (45,000 SPG)
Approx taxes: 1000 CAD to 1075 CAD
Booking dates: March 1 – April 2, 2018
Travel dates: July 1 – August 15, 2018
Available travel dates (2 passengers)
Montreal to Europe via Munich– Jul 1-5, 7-14, 16-19, 21-26, 28, 30-31, Aug 2, 7-8, 11-13
Montreal to Europe via Frankfurt – Jul 3-5, 7-14, 16-17, 22, 24-25, 30
Europe to Montreal via Munich – Jul 3-6, 10-12, 14, 17-21, 23-26, 30-31, Aug 3, 6, 8-10, 14-16
Europe to Montreal via Frankfurt – Aug 7, 14
LOT Business Class Los Angeles to Warsaw
Roundtrip miles: 55,000 miles (45,000 SPG)
Approx taxes: 254 CAD
Booking dates: March 1 – March 31, 2018
Travel dates: April 1 – May 31, 2018
Available travel dates (2 passengers)
Los Angeles to Warsaw: Apr 4-5, 11-12, 14, 17, 24-25, 30; May 1, 14
Warsaw to Los Angeles: Apr 2, 4, 10-12, 18; May 2-3, 5, 10-11, 15, 23-24
Miles & More Tips
The fastest way for Canadians to earn Miles & More points is by transfer from SPG points in increments of 20,000 to get the bonus 5000 miles. To reach 55,000 M&M for a roundtrip Business Class flight to Europe, you will need to transfer 45,000 SPG points which is quite achievable. If you are short some SPG points or don’t have any at all, you can earn a total of 40,000 SPG bonus points from the American Express SPG Personal and Business card. Sprinkle in your everyday spend and you’ll be at 45,000 SPG points within 3-4 months.
Keep in mind M&M has a not-so friendly three year expiration policy starting from the date you earned each batch of miles. The expiration date does not extend with account activity so I would not transfer any SPG points until you sure you want to redeem miles for a specific award.
Another annoying Miles & More policy is your account must have a minimum of 7000 miles before you are able to access award flight availability.
I tried to inquire about Mileage bargain flight availability over the phone however the M&M agent said the visibility is only available from the online account. From my experience with these bargain flights, if the route is on promotion, there should be 1-4 seats readily available on most days during the travel period. If you want to confirm availability on specific days before you transfer the full amount of points into your account your options are to transfer 7000 SPG miles over first or borrow a friend’s account who has 7000 miles.
*UPDATE* Read my follow up post on how to search for mileage bargains availability.
It is impossible to know the ins and outs of every frequent flyer program out there but knowing the sweet spots from different programs that align with your travel plans may be worthwhile. Award flights to Europe are a common redemption for Canadians and to be able to achieve a roundtrip Economy flight with only 30,000 M&M points (25,000 SPG) or Business Class flight with 55,000 M&M (45,000 SPG) is encouraging especially for families that struggle to collect enough points to redeem for three or more passengers.
I am super tempted to book LOT Business class from Los Angeles to Warsaw which would require a positioning flight but it still presents a great value. I hope some of you are able to take advantage of the current Mileage Bargains and I look forward to sharing more sweet spots with you in the weeks to come!