5 least expensive airline award redemptions

Summer Hull
Personal Finance Writer
Summer Hull writes the weekly "Get to the Points" column for CreditCards.com

Get to the Points

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You’re probably aware of the 25,000-mile domestic airline economy round trip award as being the entry-level price for domestic airline award flights. However, if you know where to look, airline awards can sometimes ring in at prices much, much lower than the ‘standard’ 12,500 miles each way.

Here are five of the least expensive airline awards and how to find them.

British Airways awards from 4,000 points

British Airways uses a distance-based award chart and flights of up to 650 miles can cost as few as 4,000 Avios points each direction on off-peak dates. BA’s award chart for travel around the United States starts at 7,500 Avios points per flight, but if you want to hop around Europe, Australia or some other international regions, you can book nonstop award flights on British Airways and its partners from just 4,000-4,500 Avios plus about $28 in taxes and fees.

This means you could fly from Dublin to London or even on some very cool Caribbean routes such as Nassau to Grand Cayman or Antigua to St. Kitts for as few as 4,000 Avios plus $27.50 in taxes. If you wanted to up your Instagram game, you can book these short flights in a lie-flat business-class seat from just 7,000 Avios plus about $40 in taxes and fees!

Be aware that your taxes and fees are lower on these Reward Flight Saver Fares if you have collected at least one Avios in the past 12 months and may be higher if you are brand new to the British Airways program. 

British Airways Avios can be transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Membership Rewards cards such as the Amex EveryDay Card.

Island hopping from 7,000 United miles

If you fly to Hawaii, you may want to check out more than one island with a little island-hopping. Hawaiian Airlines requires at least 7,500 miles to fly between islands, but you can book the exact same flight on Hawaiian Airlines using just 7,000 United miles. United can fly you the few hundred miles from Hilo on the volcanic Big Island to Lihue on the green island of Kauai, with a connection in Honolulu along the way.

While on the topic of United miles, note that you can book award flights of 800 miles or less wholly within Japan from just 5,000 United miles each direction.

Spirit Airlines for 2,500 miles

Spirit Airlines may not have the best reputation, but my family absolutely loves this airline for an inexpensive way to get away. If you have the Spirit Airlines credit card, you can book Spirit award flights of up to 1,249 miles in length on off-peak dates from just 2,500 miles plus taxes and fees starting at about $5-$20 each direction, depending on how far in advance you book. My parents have used this low-priced award to fly round trip from Houston to Las Vegas more times than I can count!

Best of all, these 2,500-mile awards aren’t just valid domestically, but to international destinations such as Cancun, Aruba, St. Thomas, Punta Cana and more based on the same distance-based award chart.

Southwest international flights from 2,000 Rapid Reward points

Southwest Airlines is different than the other award programs as its award prices are not based on an award chart, but instead are tied to the cash price of the tickets. This means it isn’t usually the best option when fares are pricey, but when fares are low, you can book Southwest Rapid Rewards flights for as little as 2,000 points plus $5.60 in taxes.

Now that Southwest operates international flights, you can even leave the country starting at just over 2,000 points each way on the lowest price dates. I see awards currently available from Houston to Cancun and Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Cayman for 2,000 to 3,000 Rapid Reward points each way plus taxes and fees. Best of all, if you have a Southwest Companion Pass, two people can fly for that award price and each just pay their own taxes and fees.

JetBlue Flights from 300 Points

I have saved the best for last as the absolutely cheapest airline award flights I have ever seen are on JetBlue. JetBlue periodically has "Flash Fares" that are specific discounted flights available for purchase with dollars or JetBlue TrueBlue points. Many of these JetBlue Flash Fares are available for less than 1,000 JetBlue points, including a really cool deal to fly all the way from JFK to Liberia, Costa Rica, for just 300 TrueBlue points plus $23 in taxes and fees!

To make an insane deal even better, those with a JetBlue Plus credit card actually get 10 percent of their redeemed points back, dropping your award cost even further.

These are just five of the least expensive airline awards out there, but there are dozens of others available for just a few thousand miles each way. The only limit to what airline miles can do to help you travel more for less is your imagination and desire to learn about various airline award chart sweet spots.

See related: Why you should book winter holiday trips now using miles, points


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Updated: 08-19-2018