I’m taking my parents to Palm Springs for less than the price of a souvenir thanks to credit card points

by | Mar 9, 2020 | Cards | 1 comment

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  • Instead of a physical present, my holiday gift to my parents is a trip to Palm Springs.
  • Miles and points give me flexible options to fly them out on American or United Airlines through airline partnerships.
  • The Chase and American Express rewards programs feature travel partners that are useful for flights to nearly anywhere in the world.
  • See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards »

Parents are not always the easiest people to shop for during the holidays. This year, I decided to skip a physical gift and instead go for an experience. I’m bringing my parents to Palm Springs and meeting them there for a vacation. I’m treating them to flights and a place to stay. While I’m sure they’re happy to see me too, they’re always excited to see their grandkids.

With my parents living in Denver and my home in California, my kids can’t always see my parents as often as I’d like. But thanks to a big balance of miles and points, I can fly my parents out for a wonderful time. And the whole thing will cost me less than a knickknack that would have wound up at the back of the closet anyway. Here’s how I’m planning to put it together.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

American Express points are great for short flights in the US

Over the years, I’ve used several top American Express cards, including the Business Platinum® Card from American Express and the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express. My current go-to card for all dining and US supermarket purchases is the American Express® Gold Card. It’s not hard to rack up points, since it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points on the first $25,000 spent each year at US supermarkets (then 1x).

The American Express Membership Rewards partner list includes Delta, Avianca, and British Airways, which are all great for getting around the US. Amex points transfer to these three partners at a 1:1 ratio. While Delta is the US carrier, I often find the best deals for my Amex points when looking to its international airline partners.

The first place I often look for short-haul awards in the US is American Airlines. If I can find award availability on American, I can generally book the award through its partner British Airways. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart that makes some flights a bargain.

For flights of up to 650 miles in distance, you’ll pay 4,000 British Airways Avios each way for an off-peak award. For flights up to 1,151 miles, you’ll pay 6,500 Avios each way. For up to 2,000 miles, the cost is 8,500 Avios each way. Denver to Palm Springs is 776 miles, so booking flights for my parents with this method would require 6,500 Avios each way, or 26,000 total.

Avianca LifeMiles are perfect for flights on United

Another route to using my miles and points for a tickets from Denver (DEN) to Palm Springs (PSP) is United. I can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve to cover the trip booking right through United.

However, you can sometimes book United flights with lower fees through the airline’s partner, Avianca. I used this option for a same-day flight from Santa Barbara to Denver recently and saved thousands of dollars compared to two last-minute tickets. I paid 10,000 miles each for a one-way using this method.

Planning ahead makes it easier to use your miles and points

Some people find using their American Express or Chase points challenging, but there are many good redemption options with either rewards program. With a wallet filled with cards for both programs, I have even more flexibility in how I travel, or how I bring my parents out for a California vacation.

Read more: Amex points vs. Chase points 

Planning ahead makes it much easier to use your miles and points. Not only do you have less stress and pressure to get things booked, but award availability is also often best two months or more before flight time. There are sometimes great last-minute deals to be had as well, but you can’t always count on those showing up shortly before your travel dates.

One thing is certain: Without the miles and points this trip might not have been an option at all. I’m looking forward to a fun long weekend in Palm Springs with my family. 

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