There Are Only Two Things You Should Do With Your Airline Miles. Here’s One of Them.

Back in April I wrote about the only two things you should do with miles.

You want to use a travel provider’s points for travel. You’ll always get the best value that way (although you still need to look for bargains and not overpay, key here is the saver award and international premium cabin travel for the most part — unless you’re using British Airways points).

This is because a travel provider can get you access to their distressed inventory sold at a discount. Thus your points have leverage.

On the other hand, if they have to buy you products and merchandise, they aren’t getting a much better deal than you can get yourself. They have to spend real cash, expensive for them, without the leverage of buying their own products at a deep discount.

One of the only times it can make sense to deviate from this is experience rewards. That’s because the leverage you’re using is the travel provider (or credit card company)’s relationships, their ability to get you thinks you couldn’t regularly get for yourself.

Miles for experiences can be a good deal, something for which there’s not a ready market price. When you’re leveraging the connections, the sponsorship, or other clout that a multibillion-dollar business has to open doors you can’t open on your own there tends to be much greater value.

That’s the idea of Citi PrivatePass or American Express which has long offered cardholder events.

Hyatt has Hyatt RSVP. I have a change detection set so I get emails whenever they update the offerings.

Starwood has some great and extensive opportunities under the brand SPG Moments — some are fixed-price, and some are auctions.

There are real deals to be had because it seems like not enough people know about them, there’s not a critical mass of bidders so these auctions don’t suffer from the “winner’s curse” (where anyone winning necessarily overpays because all other bidders don’t go that high for a reason).

These redemptions aren’t always cheap, but they can be for things you couldn’t buy yourself.

Starwood has redesigned their SPG Moments site.

[Y]ou’ll be able to search and filter by passion point, geographic location, Starpoints required, key word and much more. Get access to private concerts, athlete meet & greets, chef’s tables, backstage tours, and more – with events starting at just 1,000 Starpoints.

Some of the options are pretty random, you have to be in (or find it worth going to) a given city on a given date and be interested in the specific item they’re offering. For instance, will you be in Abu Dhabi on November 7?

Sometimes events come with accommodations (and even upgraded accommodations) bundled in and you can wind up getting the event for a small or no premium over what you’d normally pay for the room redemption itself.

All the site redesign really means is the site is more navigable and searchable. Maybe that will mean more members know about and use it, in which case the ease of getting fixed-price offerings could cease, and winning high value auctions at a low price could come to an end.

But for now at least it’s worth checking out.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The sweet spot for Avios (British Airways) points are short flights. For example: LAX-SFO is 25K AA miles and 20K UA miles but only 9K Avios miles.

  2. I can’t say enough good things about Starwood Moments. I was able to take my dad to Wrigley and sit in the Starwood Luxury Box. An incredible value for the points, in my book!

  3. @ Gary – thanks for heads up on Hyatt RSVP – knew about Citi & SPG programs (and I think BA now has something similar) but never heard of Hyatt’s.

  4. I have the same question as Chris. The Hyatt RSVP website shows past events, but it doesn’t give any indication about upcoming events.

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