Picking the right redemption with AwardAce

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 22.11.18To the maximum extent possible, I try to build points balances with multiple different frequent flyer programs. Doing so is important for a few different reasons:

  • It helps to get around the age old problem of award availability (i.e. there not being a seat available in the class you want, for the route you want, on the day you want).
  • It diversifies risk in case any given program decides to reduce the value of its points and
  • It lets you, to an extent, pick the redemption that gives you best $ per point.

This article focused on the latter point, and gives you a quick overview of AwardAce.

In short, AwardAce is a simple tool which tells you the number of points required to redeem an award seat for a given route in a given cabin.

As an example, browse to www.awardace.com and start by putting in details of a particular route. I used Sydney to Hong Kong in Business. The result is a chart that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 22.12.48

This tells me that the cheapest redemption is to use 30,000 United MileagePlus miles, and the most expensive to use Flying Blue (Air France / KLM) or MileMiglia (Alitalia). I happen to have a stockpile of MileagePlus, Qantas and BA Executive Club miles and so this is helpful in telling me that using MileagePlus would be the best value.

There are a few things it doesn’t tell you, however:

  • Schedule, airline and aircraft; using the example above, with Qantas I’d get a direct service on a Qantas aircraft with a flat bed, whereas with MileagePlus I either need to go via Shanghai / Beijing (Air China) or via Bangkok (Thai Airways). By-in-large, Thai & Air China have an inferior business class product to Qantas, and with a stop being required, it’s not really a direct comparison.
  • Taxes and charges; continuing the example, Qantas charges just over double the fuel surcharges that are charged if you redeem through MileagePlus.
  • Value of the points; in a Qantas point is worth 1$c and a MileagePlus mile is worth 2$c, then using twice as many Qantas points doesn’t mean you’re paying twice as much. You need to factor in the relative value of a point held in each scheme to get a true comparison between different programs.

Factoring these things in makes a big difference to what on the face of it seemed like a fairly simple equation. If you value a direct service, and on average get half as much value for a Qantas point as a MileagePlus point, then the equation becomes much more competitive than if you valued the points roughly equally and didn’t mind the connection and the longer journey time.

As a result, whilst AwardAce can’t tell you the right answer in terms of which redemption is best, it can at least simplify the admin required to find out how much it costs to redeem on a given route.